New criminal laws adopted to increase public safety

Notable Texas criminal laws that took effect September 1:

•SB 656 abolishes the statute of limitations for sexual assault-if DNA was collected and tested during the investigation without identifying a named suspect. It also increases the statute of limitations from five to 10 years for other sexual assaults.

•SB 1380 requires DPS to use a registered sex offender’s driver license photograph for the registered sex offender Web site and post card notification projects. It also requires sex offenders who are subject to registration to submit DNA samples to the DPS DNA database.

•SB 654 requires sex offenders to disclose which professional licenses they currently hold or intend to seek, and directs DPS to forward that information to the appropriate licensing agency.

•SB 199 creates a state offense (Class A misdemeanor) for possession of a firearm for an individual under a protective order or convicted of certain family violence offenses. (This is already a federal offense.)

•SB 139 adds e-mail, fax or pager harassment to the existing prohibition on telephone and written harassment. (Class B misdemeanor). It also increases the penalty for stalking from a Class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony.

•SB 68 adds “dating violence” to the family violence protective order statute. (Minimum Class A misdemeanor.)

•SB 18 prohibits interference with an emergency telephone call by threats or damage to the telephone. (Minimum Class A misdemeanor.)

•HB 587 expands the definition of “hate crimes.” It clarifies that the law applies to race, color, disability, religion, national origin (or ancestry), age, gender or sexual preference-when it is determined to be the reason a victim or their property was targeted in a crime. In those cases, the punishment can be enhanced one level under certain circumstances. The bill also provides for a “hate crimes” protective order.

•HB 195 requires a copy of an investigative report to be sent to DPS for analysis if the investigation involves thefts or frauds targeting the elderly.

•HB 3351 makes it an offense to possess chemicals with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance (i.e. methamphetamine, crack cocaine, ecstasy). Punishments vary.

•HB 776 creates a new database that will be used to record verified threats made against peace officers. It will be part of DPS’ Texas Crime Information Center (TCIC) and will be electronically available through TLETS (Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) to all peace officers in the course of their routine duties.

•SB 795 provides for asset forfeiture for the profits received from the sale of notorious crime memorabilia.

•HB 84 makes it a third degree felony for a convicted felon to possess metal or body armor that is obviously designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of protecting a person against gunfire.

•SB 1074 defines and prohibits racial profiling, setting forth broad guidelines for data collection on law enforcement traffic and pedestrian stops. If a statewide bond issue is approved by voters in November, DPS will administer an $18.5 million grant to provide funding for county and municipal police agencies to purchase audio and video equipment to record traffic and pedestrian stops.

•HB 1925 makes it a third degree felony to possess most weapons, including an illegal knife or club, within 1,000 feet of a place of execution on the day of the scheduled execution.

•SB 214 increases the statute of limitations from three to 10 years for injury to a child, elderly individual or disabled individual. The texts of these bills can be found at Select the enrolled version.