FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2020
Austin, Texas – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) along with joint-author Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) file SB 237 to allow the peace officers the discretion to issue a citation for criminal trespassing punishable by a Class B Misdemeanor. SB 237 is identical to SB 961 filed in the 86th Legislative Session, that unanimously passed out of the Texas Senate but received no vote in the Texas House of Representatives.
“SB 237 will give peace officers the discretion to handle criminal trespassing calls more effectively and more efficiently,” said Senator Bettencourt. “It will let responding police officers make the decision on when an arrest is appropriate and when issuing a citation might address the issue and let the police officers get back to work faster to focus on more serious public safety concerns.” he continued.
As Texas law stands, peace officers currently have the discretion to issue citations for certain Class A & B misdemeanors.
"This simple measure will allow police to more effectively use their time and resources, and prevent arrest and incarceration in instances where a simple ticket will suffice," added Senator Johnson.
SB 237 adds criminal trespass to the list of offenses. Other misdemeanors that an officer can cite and release right now include:
- Possession of Marijuana under 4 ounces
- possession of certain drugs without a prescription
- criminal mischief & graffiti
- certain theft offenses (first time, under $750)
- certain contraband in a correctional facility
- driving while license invalid
That being said, SB 237 still gives the officer authority to make an arrest when it is warranted.
“It’s important that we recognize every criminal trespass case is different and Peace officers need to be given the authority to use their own discretion,” concluded Senator Bettencourt.
Senator Bettencourt plans to file additional legislation in the coming days on a wide range of issues.