New Texas Laws Taking Effect in 2024

New Texas Laws Taking Effect in 2024Texas is set to enact 31 new laws, and new sections of 13 others, starting January 1, 2024. A significant number of them relate to our tax laws, though one creates a new court system for business cases, which we think is a good idea.

But as criminal defense lawyers, our primary concern is for laws that will affect the justice system in some way. Here are some of the new laws slated to take effect in Texas this coming year:

The Texas Youth Diversion and Early Intervention Act

Texas passed the Texas Youth Diversion and Early Intervention Act (HB3186) as an “intervention strategy that redirects a child from formal criminal prosecution and holds the child accountable for the child’s actions.” The law provides diversion options for children accused of certain “fine-only” non-traffic misdemeanor offenses. Children in Texas are eligible for diversion from criminal prosecution just once every 365 days and only if they do not have a previous unsuccessful diversion. Diversion requires the consent of the state attorney, the child, and the child’s parents.

Changes to court notices

In September of 2024, HB1710 goes into effect. This new law requires the Texas Department of Criminal Justice “to provide notice to a judge no later than the 60th day after the date a defendant is received into that custody, of the date on which the defendant will have served 75 days in the facility if requested by the judge for the purposes of placing a defendant on community supervision.” Given the State’s chronic issues with overpopulated prisons (or “technical glitches” which can lead to people remaining incarcerated when they should not be), this new rule should, we hope, alleviate some of these problems.

Changes to the judicial branch

KXAN reports there are multiple changes coming to the judicial branch in October as part of an omnibus bill. The ones we are most interested in include:

  • The creation of an additional criminal law magistrate court;
  • Changes to certain court jurisdictions, solely because it could affect how and where our clients are tried;
  • Revisions to “provisions relating to jurors and jury service,” as well as to court reporters and interpreters, transcription, and depositions – all important parts of any trial, of course;
  • Revisions to the way judges may refer cases to criminal magistrates (in certain counties) “related to criminal proceedings, including expunction and applications for writs of habeas corpus” and;
  • Eliminating the “requirement that the executive director of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission be a licensed attorney.”

This last one bothers us more than others, because in general, we believe that the head of ANY legal organization should be a licensed attorney.

The Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act

On January 1, 2024, it will be a Class B misdemeanor to market, advertise, or sell e-cigarettes (or any substance containing nicotine that is intended for use in an e-cigarette) in containers that depict cartoon-like fictional characters or other trademarks or imagery intended to target minors. Marketing materials are prohibited from including an image of a celebrity, food product, candy, or juice.

Although the new law is aimed at e-cigarette advertising strategies directed toward minors, it will also make vaping merchandise favored by adult consumers illegal, such as packaging that includes imagery of the product’s flavor, e.g., apple, strawberry, or cola. In Texas, 7.1 percent of adults have reported using electronic cigarette products at least once during their lifetime and now vape daily or on some days, and 17.9 percent of teens say they currently vape.

State immigration law

Under SB4, the new Texas immigration law set to take effect in March 2024, police officers will have the authority to stop, arrest, and detain migrants on state-level illegal entry charges. It also enables state judges to issue deportation orders against those suspected of violating the law, although it is not clear how this will be enforced since only the federal government has the facilities, agents, and international agreements necessary to deport migrants to foreign countries, and the Mexican government has stated that it would refuse efforts by Texas to return migrants to its country. As of this writing, the Department of Justice is preparing to sue the State of Texas if the law goes into effect.

While crossing into the U.S. outside of an official port of entry is already a federal crime, most migrants’ violations are treated as civil cases in the immigration court system. However, SB4 would make illegal immigration a state crime with penalties ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony. Under SB4, entering Texas illegally from Mexico will be considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, while illegal reentry into Texas would be charged as a felony punishable by two, 10, or 20 years in jail, depending on whether the migrant in question had been previously deported or was convicted of certain crimes. The law also includes a provision preventing state officials from putting migrants under arrest in certain locations, including schools, places of worship, and health care facilities.

Just because you’re accused of committing a crime in Texas doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guilty. The Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm provides comprehensive legal counsel to criminal defense clients in Killeen, TX, and throughout the surrounding region. We are dedicated to protecting your civil rights and reducing or eliminating any criminal charges you face. Call us or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Killeen today. We maintain an additional office in Copperas Cove, and proudly serve Belton, Harker Heights, Waco, Williamson County, Bell County, Coryell County, and McLennan County.