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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Arrests during Hurricanes and natural disasters in Texas, Hurricane Beryl. Can you still be arrested in Texas during a Hurricane?

Arrests during Hurricanes and natural disasters in Texas, Hurricane Beryl. Can you still be arrested in Texas during a Hurricane? by Brian Foley, Houston Criminal Defense Attorney, Board Certified in Criminal Law



Yes, you can absolutely still be arrested in Texas during a hurricane or natural disaster. In fact the punishment for certain offenses is increased if a state of disaster or evacuation has been mandated by a government official.


Overview of Texas Penal Code Sec. 12.50


Texas Penal Code Sec. 12.50 outlines increased penalties for certain offenses committed in areas under a disaster declaration or subject to an emergency evacuation order. Here’s a breakdown of the key components of this law:


Conditions for Increased Penalties


The penalties for specific offenses are heightened if the offense is committed in an area that is, at the time of the offense:

  • Under a state of disaster declared by the President of the United States, the Governor of Texas, or the presiding officer of a local governing body.

  • Subject to an emergency evacuation order issued by the governing body of the state or a political subdivision thereof.


Offenses Covered


The increase in punishment applies to offenses under the following sections of the Texas Penal Code:


Section 20.05: Smuggling of Persons

  • Section 20.06: Continuous Smuggling of Persons

  • Section 20.07: Operation of Stash House

  • Section 22.01: Assault

  • Section 28.02: Arson

  • Section 29.02: Robbery

  • Section 30.02: Burglary

  • Section 30.03: Burglary of Coin-Operated or Coin Collection Machines

  • Section 30.04: Burglary of Vehicles

  • Section 30.05: Criminal Trespass

  • Section 31.03: Theft


Penalty Enhancements


The law stipulates that the punishment for the offenses listed above is increased to the next higher category of offense. For example:

- If the offense is ordinarily a Class A misdemeanor, it is elevated to a state jail felony.

- If it is typically a state jail felony, it is raised to a third-degree felony, and so on.


There are also specific provisions regarding minimum terms of confinement:

- For Class A misdemeanors, the minimum term of confinement is increased to 180 days.

- For first-degree felonies under Sections 20.05, 20.06, and 20.07, the minimum term of imprisonment is 15 years.


Deterrence of Crime


The primary purpose of this law is to deter individuals from exploiting vulnerable situations during disasters and emergencies. By increasing the penalties for such offenses, the law aims to discourage criminal activity when communities are most at risk.


Protection of Vulnerable Communities


During disasters and emergency evacuations, resources are often stretched thin, and the capacity for law enforcement to respond quickly may be diminished. The heightened penalties serve as a protective measure for communities, ensuring that those who commit crimes in these situations face severe consequences.


Legal Clarity and Enforcement


By clearly defining the offenses and conditions under which penalties are increased, the law provides clarity for law enforcement and the judiciary. This ensures that the provisions can be applied consistently and effectively, providing a robust legal framework to address crimes committed during disasters.

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