New Texas Criminal Laws in 2020

A Brief Look at the State’s Newest Laws

The 86th Legislature passed over 1300 new laws that took effect between April 2019 and January 2020. Numerous substantive laws went into effect affecting the Texas criminal justice system and the rights of defendants and victims. Below is a brief review of some of the most important laws to take effect:

HB 918 – Effective January 1, 2020, discharged or released inmates must be provided with documentation for employment. This documentation includes a copy of the inmate’s job training record, the inmate’s work record, resume with any learned trade and their proficiency within that trade, and documentation that the inmate has completed a practice job interview. Additionally, the bill would require that inmates be provided with a copy of the identification card, birth certificate, and Social Security card, making it easier for them to obtain post-release employment.

SB 12 – Requires employees of postsecondary education institutions that witness or receive information within the course and scope of their employment to report any occurrence of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking that is alleged to have been committed by or against an employee or enrolled student. It creates a criminal offense for non-reporting.

Criminal Laws 

HB 8 – Known as the Lavinia Masters Act removes the statute of limitations on a felony indictment for certain sexual assault cases and extends the requirements for collection, analysis, and preservation of evidence in sexual assault cases and other sex offenses.

HB 667 – Enhances the criminal penalty for sexual assault if the victim was “a person with whom the actor was prohibited in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse under Section 25.02” from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony. 

HB 714 – Provides for a Veterans Reemployment Program for veterans placed on community supervision for a misdemeanor offense. The program “provides education and training to veterans with the goal that the veterans obtain workforce skills and become gainfully employed.”

HB 1399 – Expands the list of felony offenses that require the defendant to provide a DNA sample upon arrest and requires law enforcement to immediately destroy the specimen once notified by the court that the case resulted in an acquittal or dismissal.

HB 3582 – Requires that a defendant granted deferred adjudication community supervision install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle owned or operated.  In addition, Section 411.0726 sets forth the procedures for deferred adjudication community supervision on certain driving while intoxicated and boating while intoxicated misdemeanors.

SB 20 – Amends Penal Code Section 3.03(b) regarding the trafficking of persons and the continuous trafficking of persons and allowing community supervision for certain prostitution offenses.

SB 1801 – Expands the ability of trafficking and prostitution victims to seek orders of nondisclosure of their criminal history record.

The 86th Legislature also enacted laws making it a class B misdemeanor to give a false report to a corrections officer or jailer (SB 405) and made it a Class A misdemeanor to create a “deep fake video” with the intent to injure a candidate or influence the result of an election and cause the video to be published or distributed within 30 days of an election (SB 751).

Need Strong Defense in Houston? Contact James Alston Today.

Find out more about the criminal laws affecting the residents of Texas by contacting the Law Offices of James Alston. James Alston is board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a former state and federal prosecutor. He fights hard for his clients, protecting their rights and their future. Call (713) 228-1400 today to schedule a consultation.