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An Overview of New Laws In Texas on September 1, 2019

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On September 1, 2019, numerous laws went into effect that were passed during the 86th session of the Texas legislature. Several were expected while others may seem a little off the beaten path. Most may not apply to every individual.

Here is a roundup of just a few of the new or updated laws of the State of Texas.

SB 719 – Child Murder Charges

The penalties for certain murder cases involving children are more stringent now. Capital murder charges may be pursued at the prosecutor’s discretion for the murder of children younger than age 15. 

Prosecutors have the option of seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole in the death of a child ten years old or older but younger than 15.

SB 1259 – Update to the Definition of Sexual Assault

This law broadens the parameters of the definition of sexual assault to include the use by a health service provider of human reproductive material from a donor knowing that the other person had not expressly consented to use of material from that donor.

As it turns out, there have been several cases of fertility doctors using their own sperm for artificial insemination. The law also makes it a sexual assault to use reproductive material from anyone else the recipient did not expressly consent to use.

HB 8 – Sexual Assault Kit Testing

A serious backlog of rape kit testing prompted a law to establish timelines for processing and testing of sexual assault kits. According to the new law, kits must be analyzed within 90 days of receipt. 

If a rape kit is involved in a felony prosecution case, the evidence must be preserved for at least 40 years or until the statute of limitations expires.

SB 1232 – Change in Alcohol Delivery Regulations

Retailers may now deliver beer and wine, along with food to customers over the age of 21. The delivery person must also be 21 or older. However, deliveries are only allowed from businesses with an active beer and wine permit. 

HB 1545 – Breweries to Sell Beer

Texas breweries may now sell packaged beer as well as test-sell products before sending them to wholesalers.

SB 21 – A Change in the Minimum Age for Tobacco Sales

The new law increases the minimum age for purchase, consumption, or possession of tobacco products to 21 years, up from 18. The law includes e-cigarettes and all other tobacco products. Note that the law includes the term “possession.” Individuals who are not yet 21 years old are not allowed to carry around tobacco products as well as being restricted from purchasing and using them.

There is an exception. The law does not extend to those in the military. 

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HB 1518 – Ban on Sale of Dextromethorphan to Minors

To combat yet another way to get high, Texas passed a law restricting the sale of products with dextromethorphan, an over-the-counter cough suppressant, from individuals under the age of 18. It’s been found that taking large doses of dextromethorphan has become a popular method for obtaining a euphoric state.

HB 1325 – Hemp Legalization

It’s finally possible for Texas farmers to grow and process industrial hemp. The law creates a state-regulated program and legalizes hemp-based products such as CBD oil. Hemp was long considered to be marijuana, making it illegal to cultivate and sell. However, since the concentration of THC is nearly non-existent in hemp, the state has decided to open up the market.

HB 3703 – Medical Cannabis for Individuals with Chronic Diseases or Illnesses

Physicians are now allowed to legally prescribe patients with certain disorders medical cannabis with up to 0.5% THC concentrations from a state-licensed dispensary. Examples of disorders include multiple sclerosis, spasticity, terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, autism, and ALS.

HB 1387 – New Cap on School Marshals

The legislature voted to increase the number of school marshals a campus can appoint. According to one analysis of the law, a school can appoint one marshal per 100 students in average daily attendance or, for a private school, one marshal per 100 students enrolled. 

SB 38 – Hazing and Alcohol

Hazing has now been redefined to be more inclusive of specific actions, especially the consumption of alcohol. Also, anyone who voluntarily reports a hazing incident under certain circumstances is now immune from civil and criminal liability.

HB 253 – Guidance on Postpartum Depression Screening and Treatment

HB 253 requires the implementation of a five-year strategy for improving access to postpartum depression screening, referral, treatment, and support services. Included in the law is a section promoting public awareness of postpartum depression and reducing the stigma attached to it.

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HB 446 – The “Brass Knuckle Law”

Texas had outlawed certain types of weapons for self-defense in the past. It is now legal to carry brass knuckles, clubs, and “kitty keychains,” self-defense wild kat keychains.

HB 1631 – Red Light Camera

Red-light cameras, a modern bane of existence, are now being phased out in Texas. Cities and counties must end contracts with red light vendors if possible. If not, they may wait until the contract runs out. For some locations, that could mean waiting 15 to 20 years.

HB 2048 – Fines and Fees Increased for Drivers

This law repeals the Driver Responsibility Program, thus allowing drivers with a suspended license to get it reinstated. 

Also, it increases the fines for traffic and intoxicated driver violations. State traffic fines go up from $30 to $50. Intoxicated driver fines increase according to the number of convictions or the alcohol level.

  • $3,000 for the first conviction within 36 months (3 years), or
  • $4,500 for a subsequent conviction (second or higher conviction) within 36 months, or
  • $6,000 for a conviction if it’s shown the individual’s alcohol concentration was 0.16 or more (double the legal limit of 0.08)

HB 547 – Hunting and Fishing License Changes

In an update to 21st-century practices, you no longer need to worry if you left your paper license at home. You can show proof of your license on your smartphone via the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, or you can take a photo of your license and show that to the park rangers.

A reminder: Texas requires anyone 17 years of age or older to have a license and permit for freshwater or saltwater fishing in public waters.

HB 234 – The “Lemonade Stand Law”

To end the roundup with something sweet – the Lemonade Stand Law allows children under the age of 18 to sell non-alcoholic beverages on private property without the fear of prosecution. Before this law went into effect, cities, local health codes, and neighborhood associations such as HOAs were allowed to block or regulate these entrepreneurial ventures, but no longer.

Let the lemonade flow.

If you have any questions about these changes in the law or require assistance with any other legal issue, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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