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Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 2.26




Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Brian Foley - Board Certified in Criminal Law.


As technology continues to reshape the legal landscape, the state of Texas has taken significant strides to adapt its legal system to the digital age. One notable development in this regard is the law pertaining to digital signatures and electronic documents, found in Art. 2.26 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. As a criminal defense attorney, it is crucial to comprehend the implications of this law, as it can have a profound impact on the way legal proceedings are conducted and how information is authenticated.


Defining the Digital Signature: The law commences with a precise definition of a "digital signature." According to Art. 2.26(a), a digital signature is an electronic identifier that carries the same weight and effect as a traditional manual signature. This definition sets the groundwork for the acceptance of electronic signatures as valid means of authentication within the state's criminal justice system.


The Validity of Electronically Transmitted Documents: Art. 2.26(b) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure goes on to affirm that an electronically transmitted document issued or received by a court or a court clerk in a criminal matter is considered signed if it bears a digital signature. This provision reinforces the notion that digital signatures hold equal standing as conventional signatures in the eyes of the law.


Additionally, Art. 2.26(b-1) clarifies that electronically transmitted documents are deemed equivalent to written documents for all purposes. This means that such documents are exempt from any additional writing requirements imposed by the state's legal code or any other law. This streamlining of paperwork not only enhances efficiency but also demonstrates Texas's commitment to embracing technological advancements.


Interplay with Other Applicable Laws: While the law on digital signatures and electronic documents in Art. 2.26 sets a clear standard for their use, it is essential to recognize that this section does not invalidate other signature symbols recognized by other applicable laws. Art. 2.26(c) specifically states that other legally accepted symbols as signatures, as defined by Section 1.201(b)(37) of the Business & Commerce Code, remain valid and enforceable.


Legal Consequences of Digital Signature Misuse: As with any innovative development, the law acknowledges that the use of digital signatures must be subject to existing criminal laws regarding fraud and computer crimes. These provisions aim to protect against misuse or malicious intent surrounding the use of digital signatures and ensure the credibility and integrity of electronic documents within the legal system.


The Way Forward: Embracing Technology Responsibly: With the passage of this law in 1999 and subsequent amendments, Texas has demonstrated its commitment to embracing technological advancements while ensuring that they are used responsibly. For criminal defense attorneys, this means understanding the legal implications of digital signatures and electronic documents and ensuring their proper use in the course of legal proceedings.


Embracing technology responsibly not only streamlines processes and increases efficiency but also instills greater trust and confidence in the legal system. As a criminal defense attorney, staying informed about changes in the law and adopting technology judiciously can provide a competitive edge in representing clients effectively.



Art. 2.26. DIGITAL SIGNATURE AND ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS.


(a) In this section, "digital signature" means an electronic identifier intended by the person using it to have the same force and effect as the use of a manual signature.


(b) An electronically transmitted document issued or received by a court or a clerk of the court in a criminal matter is considered signed if a digital signature is transmitted with the document. (b-1) An electronically transmitted document is a written document for all purposes and exempt from any additional writing requirement under this code or any other law of this state.


(c) This section does not preclude any symbol from being valid as a signature under other applicable law, including Section 1.201(b)(37), Business & Commerce Code.


(d) The use of a digital signature under this section is subject to criminal laws pertaining to fraud and computer crimes, including Chapters 32 and 33, Penal Code. Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 701, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 30, 1999. Amended by: Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 312 (S.B. 611), Sec. 1, eff. June 17, 2005. Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 312 (S.B. 611), Sec. 2, eff. June 17, 2005. Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 915 (H.B. 3607), Sec. 4.001, eff. September 1, 2021.


For litigants who do not have counsel: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney client relationship. Call to set up a free consultation.


For the general public: This Blog/Web Site is for educational purposes only and it provides general information and a general understanding of the law, but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship created. Don't just read this as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney.


For attorneys: This Blog is informational and educational in nature and is not a substitute for Westlaw or other research and consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. As you know the law can change day to day based on recent case opinions. And unfortunately you shouldn't cite it in court as binding authority because it is not. Mention it to your friends, just seek real consultation if it’s something important.


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