Plano Criminal Attorney discusses updated criminal laws


 Plano Criminal Attorney Gene Sera reviews the new laws going into effect this month.

September is the time of year where changes occur.  The summer is ending and the new school year starts.  Fall begins and the new football season begins, but did you know that September is also the month when new legislation usually goes into effect?

 On September 1st, police agencies throughout the state began to recognize a number of new laws.texas dps photo: Texas DPS Highway Patrol TexasDPSHighwayPatrol-1.jpg

 Many of the laws effect traffic regulations, but others create stiffer penalties for offenses. 

The following is a list of notable laws going into effect Sept. 1, (note this is not a complete list)

  • Cell phone use –  If you have wireless device, there will be further limitations of cell phone use in active school zones more specifically school crossing zones. But for those who just have to get their wireless fix, it should be noted that limitations will not apply to vehicles that are stopped, or drivers using a hands-free device or making an emergency call.
  • Don’t try passing a stopped school bus.  The  minimum fine for the misdemeanor offense of passing a stopped school bus loading or unloading children increases from $200 to $500, and the maximum fine for such an offense increases from $1,000 to $1,250. The bill also enhances the penalty for a second or subsequent conviction of that offense committed within five years to a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $2,000.
  • Back to the cell phone – A motor vehicle operator has the option of using a wireless communication device (such as a cell phone) to display motor vehicle financial responsibility (proof of insurance) information as evidence of financial responsibility. The display does not constitute effective consent for a law enforcement officer, or any other person, to access the contents of the wireless communication device except to view the financial responsibility information.
  • Slow down when passing a  State Trooper – the law now requires drivers to move over or slow down (as required depending on the roadway) when approaching a stationary Texas Department of Transportation vehicle with its lights activated and not separated from the roadway by a traffic-control device. This provision expands the state’s Move Over/Slow Down law, which already requires drivers to yield to tow trucks, police, fire and emergency vehicles. Violators would commit a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $200; punishable by a fine of $500 if property damage occurs; or a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in bodily damage.
  • Sheriffs or deputy sheriffs can be certified by DPS to enforce federal commercial motor vehicle regulations in counties where the population is one million (This has bee reduced from 2.2 million). This will open the opportunity to Bexar, Tarrant and Travis counties.
  • Better get your front license plate –  The penalty for operating a vehicle on a public highway without displaying the two license plates assigned to the vehicle is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $200.
  • The law now requires the operator of a vehicle involved in an accident that results or is reasonably likely to result in the injury or death of a person to immediately determine whether a person is involved in the accident, and if so, whether the person requires aid, in addition to other existing statutory requirements.
  • The penalty for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of a person and failing to render aid has increased from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. A second degree felony carries a punishment of two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000, whereas a third degree felony carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000.
  • Don’t make a bomb threat to a school – The penalty for the offense of initiating, communicating or circulating a false report of an emergency (such as a bomb threat) involving an institution of higher education has changed from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony. *This bill is effective immediately.
  • If your a shaman, you can’t use this drug anymore – Salvia divinorum (unless unharvested and growing in its natural state) – including all parts of the plant, seeds and extracts from a part of the plant – to Penalty Group 3 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.
  • IF your a sex offender, don’t lie about your identity – an individual fraudulently using identifying information to avoid registering as a sex offender shall be punished at the next highest degree felony.

If your facing an arrest or prosecution for any of the above laws or other  violations of law please contact Plano criminal attorney Gene Sera.