Breckenridge Texan

Coronavirus-related disaster declaration could increase punishments for crimes

Coronavirus-related disaster declaration could increase punishments for crimes
March 19
12:58 2020

The novel (new) coronavirus situation may have some unexpected consequences for anyone who commits a crime in Texas, according to information from Dee Peavy, the 90th Judicial District Attorney for Stephens and Young counties.

When Gov. Greg Abbott issued the disaster declaration for the entire state last week, Texas Penal Code §12.50 entitled “Penalty if Offense Committed in Disaster Area or Evacuated Area” was activated. That law increases the punishment for a crime to the next higher crime category if it is committed in a disaster area.

Utilization of that section of the law increases the punishment range for the following offenses committed during the time period covered by the declaration:

• Penal Code §22.01 (assault)
• PC §28.02 (arson)
• PC §29.02 (robbery)
• PC §30.02 (burglary)
• PC §30.03 (burglary of coin-operated or coin collection machines)
• PC §30.04 (burglary of vehicles)
• PC §30.05 (criminal trespass)
• PC §31.03 (theft)

According to Penal Code §12.50, the punishment for any of the above referenced offenses is increased by one degree, with exceptions for Class A misdemeanors — for which the minimum punishment is merely increased to 180 days — and first-degree felonies, which are unaffected.

An example of the increase could see a third-degree felony normally carrying a two (2) to 10-year
prison sentence increasing to that of a second-degree felony, which carries a punishment range
from two (2) to 20 years in prison. The increase in punishment is in addition to any other
punishment enhancements related to an individual defendant’s prior criminal records pursuant to
Texas Penal Code §§ 12.42 entitled, “ Penalties for Repeat and Habitual Felony Offenders on
Trial for First, Second, or Third Degree Felony” and § 12.425, entitled, “Penalties for Repeat and
Habitual Felony Offenders on Trial for State Jail Felony,” Peavy stated in a news release.

“Our office along with the County Attorney’s office and local law enforcement agencies will
aggressively pursue these and other enhancements available for all criminal activities during this
period of uncertainty,” she said in the written statement.

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