Almendarez bill passes Legislature unanimously

HARRIS COUNTY – The Texas State House unanimously passed Senate Bill 224 known as the “Deputy Darren Almendarez Act,” authored by State Senator Carol Alvarado. The bill garnered strong bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.

SB 224 was filed in response to rising crime related to catalytic converter theft across Harris County and the State of Texas. The bill is named after Deputy Darren Almendarez, husband of Aldine resident Flor Zarzoza Almendarez, who was killed when he interrupted thieves attempting to steal the catalytic converter from their personal vehicle at a grocery store on FM1960 one year ago.

SB 224 puts in place a comprehensive criminal and regulatory framework by creating a presumption of unauthorized criminal possession, new criminal offenses in the theft and criminal mischief statutes and a penalty enhancement if the thief was in possession of a firearm. The bill also incorporates regulatory provisions to close the business-to-business loophole by clarifying who can buy and sell catalytic converters and requiring record keeping of transactions between businesses.

“Texans should not have to be constantly looking over their shoulder in fear of would-be catalytic converter thieves,” said Senator Alvarado. “Now that the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act is on its way to becoming law it will send the message that if you mess with Texans, you will be held accountable. I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers for their help in its passage.”

“Catalytic converter theft will be comprehensively addressed by this bill and more Texans will be safe because of it,” said Representative Jeff Leach, Chair of the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence. “I am proud to have worked with Senator Alvarado by sponsoring this bill in the House and look forward to it becoming law.”

“Texans can rest assured that anyone who engages in catalytic converter theft will face serious punishment,” said Dean John Whitmire, Chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. “I am honored to have joint-authored this important legislation.”

“I have estimated catalytic converter theft to cost Texans well over $100 million annually, and that’s why legislators of both parties have come together to pass this legislation protecting Texans from this crime,” said Chairman Paul Bettencourt. “I look forward to SB 224 becoming law and appreciate the opportunity to have worked with Senator Alvarado.”

SB 224 now heads to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk, taking immediate effect after its signing.