New Texas Criminal Laws Effective September 1, 2023

Texas Criminal Law

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In this article we take a birdseye view of all of the new Texas criminal laws in 2023 that were passed by the 88th Legislature and imposed on Texans effective September 1, 2023. Some of the new laws are serious, some reflect political blustering, and some are important.

Get to know the new criminal statutes that you’ll be required to abide by in Texas – whether you live here or you’re just passing through. These laws are all new, meaning that a lot of the other bills passed by the legislature affected existing laws and will be discussed in a different post!

The new Boating While Intoxicated with Child Passenger penal code offense closes a gap in the criminalization of intoxication offenses. Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger has been on the books for some time, but there was no similar offense involving boating until just now.

Perhaps pushed along by the Alex Murdaugh case, which in part stemmed from a drunken boating accident with children, the legislature enacted this new felony statute for boating while intoxicated with children.

Among the new Texas criminal laws passed in 2023, the legislature criminalized “Doxxing” – the act of publishing sensitive information (usually someone’s address and other personally-identifying information) online in retaliation for some perceived grievange – in the new Unlawful Disclosure Of Residence Address Or Telephone Number offense.

Doxing, which is on the rise and largely otherwise legal, is used as a tool for harassment.

The Legislature took up artificially-created “deepfake” pornography material is the new Unlawful Production Or Distribution Of Certain Sexually Explicit Videos offense. With the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence, the pornography industry has proven once again to be an early adapter.

Utilizing artificial intelligence to create “deep fake” pornography has become already almost ubiquitous. This has understandably caused some consternation among people who for whatever reason don’t want to appear in porn videos…

After the legislature’s last attempt to prohibit flying drones over sensitive areas failed because it was blatantly unconstitutional, the legislature is giving it another try here in the penal code.

Operation Of Unmanned Aircraft Over Airport Or Military Installation prohibits flying drones over airports and military installations, as well as making contact with anything inside of those areas, and flying drones in a way that interferes with activities there.

The related offense of Operation Of Unmanned Aircraft Over Correctional Facility Or Detention Facility makes it illegal to do to Correctional and Detention Facilities what it’s illegal to do to Airports and Military Installations under the Operation Of Unmanned Aircraft Over Airport Or Military Installation law.

The 2023 Tampering With Electronic Monitoring Device law was passed in response to several highly-publicized instances of people doing criminal things while they were being electronically monitored.

This new law makes it possible for people to be charged with an entirely separate crime in addition to having their probation or bond revoked.

The new Child Grooming offense will likely be short-lived due to its absurdly overbroad applicability.

The ostensible goal of the legislature in passing this law is to crack down on attempts to get children to engage in illegal sexual activity, but the effort ends up criminalizing pretty much anything that some fresh-out-of-school prosecutor feels like. Caregivers beware of the most scarily-overbroad of the Texas criminal laws passed in 2023, until this one gets struck down.

In a win for people who participate in Cockfighting, the Texas legislature exempted them from criminal liability for Possession Of Animal By Person Convicted Of Animal Cruelty.

But for people convicted of Cruelty to Nonlivestock, Dog Fighting, and Attack on Assistance Animal, you now have to wait five years before you can get a pet or even be in the same area as animals.

Another new Texas criminal law is the most ridiculous law of the 88th Legislature. In a politically-charged effort to impress primary voters and make headlines among national media outlets, Austin politicians decided to try to ban drag shows without making it look like they were trying to ban drag shows.

In the process, they criminalized dancing with sexy clothes on. Learn more about the new Certain Sexually Oriented Performances Prohibited law while it lasts.

Under the new Improper Sexual Activity With Committed Person law, it is now illegal to have sex with and even engage in “deviate sexual intercourse” with people who are civilly committed.

After a few bad headlines related to the fragility of the electrical grid in Texas over the last couple of years, the legislature decided to respond with the creation of an offense that would not have prevented any of those problems.

Damaging Critical Infrastructure Facility is now a felony either of the first or second degree.

In response to the draft opinion leaking out in the United States Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Texas legislature made it a misdemeanor to do anything like that in Texas.

Government Code 21.013 now contains the Confidentiality Of Judicial Work Product offense.

In a surprise to yours truly, the Texas legislature actually concluded that “a new consensus has emerged: Pure kratom is not harmful.”

The legislature then decided to regulate Kratom and ban its distribution, sale and exposure to children in the Distribution Or Sale Of Kratom Product To Minor offense.

The new Money Services Offense is the criminal penalty sitting on top of the new money services regulation scheme in Texas. Texas Finance Code Chapter 152 is now devoted to money transmitting and exchange businesses, including a wide array of fintech and crypto businesses.

No doubt aided by big banks and big money interests, the legislature moved quickly here to get rid of the little guys.

The legislature created several different terror-related offenses in 2023. Intending these crimes to target “terrorists” and people who provided material support to the “terrorists” to “terrorist organizations,” the new offenses carries a mandatory penalty level enhancement and a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for felonies and 180 days for misdemeanors. Learn more about the new Terrorism law.

The Aiding in Commission of Terrorism law allows the state to prosecute people who they believe supported people who committed the Terrorism offense.

Hindering Prosecution of Terrorism mirrors the current Hindering Prosecution offense, but the penalty matches the penalty level of the underlying Terrorism offense.

Fentanyl Murder is not actually a brand new statute, but it does create a new subsection of the Murder statute, meaning that there’s a whole new way to commit murder in Texas – and even though it was the drugs that did it, you can still be held liable.

I do find it interesting to think about what would happen if the state took the same approach to gun manufacturers and distributors that they are doing with fentanyl.
The legislature updated the Failure to Identify offense – also not a brand new statute, but a brand new way to violate it – by making it criminal to fail to provide your drivers license and related information if the police lawfully detain you while you’re driving. “Lawfully detain” means any time the police pull you over for any reason whatsoever.

Shark Finning is now illegal. I had no idea that people actually did this in the United States. “Shark finning,” where poachers catch sharks and slice off the top fin, sides, and tail of the shark while the animal is still alive and afterward dispose of the shark back in the water, leaving the shark dies. It’s only a misdemeanor, but we can only hope the legislature will enhance this in future sessions. I’ll wait until then to write an article about it.

In an update to Compelling Prostitution, disabled people are now included in the list of types of people who are prohibited to be caused by any means (even without threat or fraud) to engage in prostitution. Similar changes were made to the Trafficking of Persons offense.

There are a few other new Texas criminal laws that I’m skipping over because they’re technical or apply to few people. There’s an offense related to Timber Harvesting. One new misdemeanor that applies to people who misrepresent information in a notice of commencement for public property. One relating to the required report of criminal offenses committed against individuals receiving certain state agency services. Another relating to criminal history record information checks for applicants for employment and employees of group homes. And one more relating to criminal history record information checks for applicants for employment and employees of group homes.

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