Violation of COVID-19 Emergency Orders is a Criminal Offense

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is causing havoc worldwide! Recently, many Texas counties, including Denton, Collin, Tarrant, and Dallas counties that make up the North Texas metroplex, have instituted “Stay-At-Home” provisions attempting to curb the spread of COVID-19. We found buildings which inherently create clusters of people (schools, restaurants, government offices, and courtrooms) suddenly closed to the public and business as usual in our communities drastically changed overnight.

Court dockets were quickly cleared of all matters that could be temporarily tabled, with judges conducting only emergency hearings as our courts quickly shifted to conducting video and/or phone hearings to limit contact between everyone involved in any given case. Now that the courts have had time to create and implement processes that will allow them to address legal issues throughout the COVID-19 crisis in a fair and safe manner, they have begun to reschedule delayed and new non-urgent matters.

Coker, Robb & Cannon, PC, has also transitioned to having our attorneys, paralegals, and staff work from home offices and we are utilizing technological resources that we’ve been using for years as a convenience to our clients. As a result, we were able to keep our clients’ cases moving forward and adjust to the quickly evolving changes in our court system.

We’ve shared in several blog posts over the last few weeks what this means to our family law clients in regard to child support, possession, and custody. It’s important to note that, while our primary focus is family law, we do handle some criminal law matters.

And, it is important to remember that the criminal courts have also been open and will continue to be open throughout the crisis. Coker, Robb & Cannon has and will continue to work with our criminal law clients as well.

Relating specifically to the emergency orders issued by our County Judges and our Governor, it is important to keep in mind that violating these orders can have criminal ramifications.

Violating Emergency Orders is a Criminal Act

First and foremost, one warning that must be shared is that all emergency orders, those issued by the Governor and those issued by local County Judges, do have criminal consequences for violating the listed provisions.

Local policing departments (police, sheriff deputies, and deputy constables) are all allowed to arrest individuals if the law enforcement officer believes violations are being committed directly related to these emergency orders. The punishment can be up to six (6) months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

Thus, whether you are not adhering possession schedules, skipping child support payments, traveling unnecessarily, or not adhering to any aspect of the emergency order, you may find yourself facing criminal charges.

Certain Criminal Offenses are Punished More Severely

Next, and more importantly, please understand that during a declared state of emergency, the Governor’s declaration has triggered the criminal punishment enhancements found in Texas Penal Code (TPC) section 12.50.

In general, TPC 12.50 states that a certain list of offenses committed during a state of emergency are punished more severely. The criminal penalty can be increased by one punishment level or the minimum time in jail is increased.

For example, assault causing bodily injury, to include family violence, is normally a Class A misdemeanor which has a punishment range of 0 days in jail up to 1 year in jail and up to a $4000 fine. However, during a state of emergency, the minimum amount of jail time increases to 180 days.

Here is a list of crimes that will be affected during this state of emergency, currently scheduled to remain in place through May 8, 2020:

  • Assault Causing Bodily Injury, to include Family Violence (TPC 22.01);
  • Arson (TPC 28.02);
  • Robbery (TPC 29.02);
  • Burglary (TPC 30.02);
  • Burglary of a Coin-Operated or Coin Collection Machine (TPC 30.03);
  • Burglary of a Motor Vehicle (TPC 30.04);
  • Criminal Trespass (TPC 30.05); and
  • Theft (TPC 31.03).

If you have been charged with a crime, it is best that you have someone on your side that not only knows how to defend you, but also knows the special provisions listed throughout the Texas Penal Code.

To Help Resolve Your Legal Issues, Consult Coker, Robb & Cannon

If you have legal questions or concerns regarding your case or any issues before you, you may want to speak with an experienced attorney from Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers. With years of experience practicing in Texas, we can advise you about the appropriate course of action for preserving your legal rights.

Please call Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers at (940) 293-2313, or contact our office online to schedule an video or phone consultation today.