The George Floyd incident and recent riots are pushing Texas lawmakers to increase criminal penalties against protestors in hopes to protect first responders.
The Texas Senate and House are slowly but surely improving the criminal justice system one bill at a time.
New Bills Increase Penalties
The Texas Senate approves House Bill (HB) 2366, making it a 2-10 year sentence for protestors who use laser pointers against police officers.
If a protestor uses a laser pointer against an officer and it causes serious bodily injury, they will be charged with a 1st degree felony (That's 5-99 years in prison!).
Along with laser pointer penalties, HB 2366 bans protestors from shooting fireworks at officers in attempts to interfere with their duties or help suspects flee. Protestors breaking this law will be charged with a 2nd degree felony and can face anywhere from 2-20 years in prison.
Another bill, SB 2212 passed, requires officers to call immediately for medical help when a suspect is injured.
Texas isn't playing around. They are also in the process of approving Senate Bill (SB) 912, which would increase penalties against any protestor who assaults an on-duty first responder during a riot.
SB 68, still waiting for the okay, would mandate officers to intervene when they see other officers using excessive force.
Protestors Blocking Emergency Vehicles
The Texas Senate and House didn't waste any time passing this bill.
HB 9 will charge a minimum 10-day felony jail sentence for any protestor who knowingly blocks an emergency vehicle using lights and sirens or an emergency access point (like a hospital).
"Peaceful protest doesn't include blocking roadways and preventing emergency vehicle access. That chaos will not be tolerated in Texas."Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Tweet on Twitter)
Blocking a road in any other way, aside from what's listed above, is still considered a Misdemeanor and is not covered under HB 9.
Texas Is On Track
Texas is onto a great start, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to keep first responders and suspects as safe as possible.
Texas legislators will continue to pass bills in hopes to prevent protestors from dangerously blocking emergency vehicles and endangering first responders.