New Texas Laws 2021

Hundreds of new state laws take effect Sept. 1 or sooner. In this article, we take a look at a few that will impact the lives of Texans.

This September, hundreds of new laws passed during the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature will go into effect. They range from the huge — Texas Budget — to the symbolic — a number of bills to rename parts of Texas highways. Here’s a sample of several that will impact Texans’ lives:

Harsher Penalties for Assaulting Process Servers

Effective September 1, 2021

Process servers face risk when performing their duties due to their natural interaction with suspects who may have committed criminal offenses. There have been recent cases in which process servers are attacked for simply carrying out their job. As the role of a process server is vital to the judicial process, it is necessary to safeguard their well-being. H.B. 1306 seeks to deter violence against process servers and ensure that they receive the justice that they deserve by increasing the criminal penalty for assault against process servers.

H.B. 1306 amends the Penal Code to increase the penalty for the following offenses if committed against a person the actor knows is a process server while the person is performing a duty as a process server:

    1. for assault, from a Class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony; and
    2. for aggravated assault, from a second degree felony to a first degree felony.

The bill defines “process server” by reference to the Government Code as a person who is certified by the Judicial Branch Certification Commission under order of the Texas Supreme Court to serve process.

Driver's Privacy Protection Act Phase I

Effective June 18, 2021

Note: This act is currently in effect. Under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, all states are required to set privacy protections for motor vehicle records. Governmental entities are selling, disclosing, and allowing resale of personal information attached to motor vehicle records to private entities. Personal information includes name, address, and driver’s license number of the vehicle owner or lienholder, along with vehicle registration and title. S.B. 15 restricts disclosure of personal information to essential government agencies, and forbids personal information from redisclosure or resale to private entities such as marketing and technology companies.

Deletes existing text authorizing disclosure of personal information obtained by an agency in connection with a motor vehicle record to any requestor if the information will be used for certain purposes by a legitimate business or an authorized agent of the business, an insurer or insurance support organization, or a licensed private investigator agency or licensed security service. Makes conforming and nonsubstantive changes.

This means that Texas Licensed Private Investigation Agencies and Private Investigators will no longer be able to submit requests for registration or license plate information to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). And it will prohibit the TxDOT from selling or disclosing that information to companies that collect that information for the same purpose. There’s more.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act Phase I also prohibits a person from selling personal information obtained by an agency in connection with a motor vehicle record. If that person is a company that possesses such information, even if obtained legally under the old law, they are also prohibited from disclosing or selling that information and must delete it before the end of 1 year’s time after the Act goes into affect. So by June 18, 2022, all companies who have collected your motor vehicle records must delete those records.

Homeowner's Rights to Secure Their Home

Effective June 15, 2021

Property owners’ associations are a desirable and sometimes necessary amenity to homeownership. However, even well-intentioned property owners’ associations can lose sight of the rights of the private property owners they exist to represent. As technology continues to advance and evolve, more and more homeowners are utilizing security devices, oftentimes to protect areas of their property with a poor line of sight. Unfortunately, there are reports of some property owners’ associations preventing property owners from installing security measures such as fences, motion detectors, and security cameras. The bill seeks to ensure that Texans are able to adequately protect their homes by prohibiting a property owners’ association from preventing a property owner from building or installing security measures.

Impersonating a Private Investigator

Effective September 1, 2021

To legally operate as a private investigator in Texas, one must obtain a license from the Department of Public Safety. These private investigators deal with personal and highly sensitive and emotional matters that could drastically affect their clients’ lives. While information acquired by unlicensed investigators can be thrown out in court, there are those who suggest this is not sufficient to safeguard the interests of individuals who fall victim to someone impersonating a private investigator and that penalties are needed to discourage unlicensed investigators from defrauding clients. C.S.H.B. 1400 seeks to prevent the use of the title of private investigator to manipulate vulnerable individuals by creating the offense of impersonating a private investigator.

It’s important to note that it is already illegal to contract or employ a person to perform any duties of a Private Investigator without first obtaining a license from the Department of Public Safety, which is a Class A Misdemeanor. What this new law means is that after September 1, 2021, if you are caught performing duties of a Private Investigator, which include skip tracing, asking neighbors or rental offices to confirm residence of defendants, and running license plate numbers or claiming to be a Private Investigator and you are not employed by a Licensed Investigations Company and hold a Private Investigators License, you may be arrested and charged with a Class A Misdemeanor too. This closes the loop hole that many people and companies have been exploiting for many years. In Texas, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both jail time and a fine.

Carrying and Storing a Handgun by a Hotel Guest

Effective September 1, 2021

The Castle Doctrine in Texas presumes that using force is reasonable and justified when another person:

  • unlawfully and with force enters or attempts to enter your habitation, vehicle, or work place;
  • attempts to remove you, by force, from your habitation, vehicle, or work place; or
  • was committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

In the context of self-defense, “habitation” means any structure or vehicle that is adapted for overnight living by a person. In the state of Texas, habitation can include a hotel room, which means that lawful gun owners should be allowed to store their handguns in their hotel room for protection.

S.B. 20 amends the Occupations Code to make it clear that hotels cannot adopt a policy prohibiting guests from storing a handgun or ammunition in a hotel room. Also, a hotel may adopt a policy requiring guests to conceal carry or to carry their handgun and ammunition in a case or bag when transporting from the parking lot to the hotel room.

Gun owners must follow applicable laws to conceal or open carry their firearm on hotel property. Lastly, S.B. 20 amends the Penal Code to protect hotel guests from being prosecuted for possessing a handgun or ammunition in their vehicle or room on the hotel premises.

S.B. 20 amends current law relating to carrying and storing a handgun or handgun ammunition by a hotel guest.

Carrying or Storage of a Handgun by a School Marshal

Effective September 1, 2021

Under current law, the board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school may appoint one or more school marshals for each campus. School marshals are required to be an employee of the school district or open-enrollment charter school, and must undergo a training program to acquire a school marshal license.

Beginning September 1, 2021, a school marshal will be allowed to carry or possess a handgun on the physical premises of a school, but only in the manner provided by written regulations adopted by the board of trustees or the governing body. Any written regulations adopted by a board or governing body must provide that a school marshal may carry a concealed handgun unless the primary duty of the school marshal involves regular, direct contact with students. If the school marshal’s primary duty does involve regular, direct contact with students, their handgun must be kept in a locked and secured safe on the physical premises of the school. School marshals are only authorized to access a handgun under circumstances that would justify the use of deadly force.

These regulations are applied in the same manner to school marshals of private schools as well as public junior colleges.

The Carrying of a Handgun by Certain First Responders

Effective September 1, 2021

First responders are susceptible to violence while carrying out their responsibilities, particularly in rural areas, as they are often the first ones on the scene of an incident before police can arrive. Currently, first responders are not afforded the opportunity to carry a handgun while on duty to defend themselves in these scenarios. C.S.H.B. 1069 seeks to ensure first responders employed or supervised by counties or municipalities with smaller populations are able to defend themselves by establishing the right of certain first responders who are handgun license holders to carry a handgun while carrying out their duties, contingent on the first responder obtaining liability insurance and completing applicable training.

The Carrying of Holstered Handguns by Handgun License Holders

Effective September 1, 2021

There have been calls to simplify the “shoulder or belt” holster requirement for individuals openly carrying a handgun under the authority of their handgun license. It has been argued that this requirement causes confusion about lawful conduct, undermines self-defense, and does not serve a rational purpose. H.B. 2112 seeks to remove specifications regarding the manner in which a handgun must be holstered so as to allow Texans to make their own choice about the best way to carry their handgun and protect themselves.

Generally, Texas license holders can carry openly or concealed in any place not expressly prohibited by law. License holders may be subject to criminal charges for carrying a handgun in plain view, unless carried in a shoulder or belt holster specifically.

However, there are many different types of holsters:

  • belly bands make it easy to conceal your firearm under your clothing;
  • inside/outside waistbands. Waistband holsters are designed to sit either under your belt or outside of your belt;
  • ankle holsters;
  • shoulder holsters; and
  • pocket holsters.

After conferring with law enforcement agencies, the critical part of carrying a firearm in Texas safely is that one house their firearm in a holster, not really the type of holster.

The bill strikes a belt or shoulder from existing law, allowing one to use any type of holster for properly carrying a gun in Texas.

As proposed, S.B. 550 amends current law relating to the manner of carrying a handgun by a person who holds a license under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.

Constitutional Carry

Effective September 1, 2021

The Second Amendment enshrined the right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution. There are concerns that state law infringes on the free exercise of that right, namely by requiring a license, which takes time and money to obtain, to legally be able to carry a handgun. C.S.H.B. 1927 seeks to reduce barriers to the free exercise of Texans’ constitutional right to bear arms and defend their lives and property by making it legal for individuals who are 21 years of age or older and who can legally possess a firearm to carry a handgun without first obtaining a license. The bill retains the handgun license in statute as optional to allow reciprocity with states that have not yet passed similar legislation.

C.S.H.B. 1927 amends the Penal Code to make it legal for any person who can legally possess a firearm and who is 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun while not on their own premises or a premises under their control and while not inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that they own or that is under their control. The bill also makes it legal for any such person who is not a member of a criminal street gang to carry a handgun in plain view in a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control. The bill expands the offense involving a member of a criminal street gang carrying a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control to apply to any motor vehicle or watercraft. The bill revises certain provisions relating to the holstering of a handgun to remove the specification regarding the type of holster.

Carrying of a Handgun by a License Holder in a Motor Vehicle

Effective September 1, 2021

It has been noted that individuals with a license to carry a handgun are permitted to carry a handgun on their person when in a motor vehicle, but are subject to prosecution if the handgun is visible in the motor vehicle and not on their person. H.B. 1407 seeks to eliminate this discrepancy by allowing license holders to have a handgun visible in their vehicle, regardless of whether the handgun is on their person, as long as the handgun is in a holster.

Carrying of a Handgun by Young Adults Exception

Effective September 1, 2021

Every year, thousands of Texans fall victim to family violence, and in state fiscal year 2020 alone, there were nearly 8,500 protective orders issued. While these protective orders are a great first step in stopping further violence or abuse, victims often find themselves seeking other means of personal protection, including through obtaining a handgun, should the abuser violate the order. Unfortunately, if a victim is under 21 years of age, they cannot legally obtain a license to carry a handgun. H.B. 918 seeks to address this issue by making certain young adults who are protected under certain court orders and who would otherwise be eligible for a handgun license eligible for a handgun license that bears a protective order designation on its face to differentiate it from a regular handgun license.

LTC for Persons at risk of Violence

Effective September 1, 2021

Many Texans acquire a license to carry a handgun in order to protect their families and themselves. People can become at risk of violence overnight given the circumstances. For example, family disputes or other outside traumatic events can change someone’s life in an instant, placing them in danger from people who may wish to cause them undue harm. There have been calls to provide further protections to Texans who feel their lives may be in danger due to external circumstances. C.S.H.B. 2675 seeks to address this issue by creating an at-risk designation for a handgun license and providing for the expedited processing of an application for a license with that designation.

Temporary Secure Storage for Weapons at Certain Public Buildings

Effective September 1, 2021

In Texas, individuals licensed to carry a firearm are prohibited from carrying their firearms on the premises of certain governmental buildings. It has been suggested that these prohibitions can cause a safety hazard for license holders, given that the license holders are unable to defend themselves on the premises of these buildings. There have been calls to provide these individuals with a secure method of storage for their weapons if entry into certain buildings with the weapon is prohibited. H.B. 29 seeks to address this issue by authorizing certain state agencies and political subdivisions to provide storage lockers in any buildings in which the carrying of a licensed weapon is prohibited.

Governor's Power During Disasters

Effective September 1, 2021

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain political subdivisions refused to designate licensed firearms dealers as “essential businesses,” forcing these entities to close their doors. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines deemed workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges as essential workers. There have been calls to prohibit the suspension of or limitations on the sale, transportation, or use of firearms or ammunition during an emergency or disaster. H.B. 1500 seeks to address this issue by protecting these actions under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.

H.B. 1500 amends the Government Code to establish that the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 does not authorize any person to prohibit or restrict the business or operations of a sport shooting range or a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, supplier, or retailer in connection with a disaster. The bill removes the governor’s authority under that act to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms and explosives or combustibles that are components of firearm ammunition during a declared disaster.

H.B. 1500 removes the governor’s authority to provide for control of the sale, transportation, and use of weapons and ammunition or the storage, use, and transportation of explosives or flammable materials that are components of firearm ammunition in a directive issued during a proclaimed state of emergency. The bill prohibits such a directive from prohibiting or restricting the business or operations of a sport shooting range or a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, supplier, or retailer in connection with the state of emergency.

H.B. 1500 amends the Local Government Code to remove a municipality’s authority to regulate the use of firearms, air guns, or knives in the case of an insurrection, riot, or natural disaster.

H.B. 1500 repeals Section 229.001(d), Local Government Code.

So there you have it. A lot of changes coming your way and worthy of your review.

Emerald Shield Academy is a leader in online education for Texas professionals. Follow us for updates and news concerning your industry.

Leave a Reply