• T. Maxwell Smith, PLLC

COVID-19: Penalties and Enhancements for Texas Criminal Offenses during States of Disaster

This blog is not to be considered legal advice. It refers specifically to issues regarding the law of the State of Texas at the time it was written and it is not guaranteed to be an exhaustive update of all Criminal Punishment law.


During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, there have been many temporary changes to our society and to our daily routine. Although most of these changes will, ultimately, be temporary they are things that we must learn how to navigate. The Texas Penal Code provides for certain changes during declared states of disaster. The following article outlines some of these changes below.


As we learned In a previous blog, Penalties and Punishments for Texas Criminal Offenses, Criminal cases there are two phases. In this blog we will be dealing with the punishment phase of a case during a time of disaster or evacuation.


In Texas, the rule that governs enhancements to ranges of punishment during a state of disaster can be found in the Texas Penal Code §12.50.


Texas Penal Code § 12.50 provides that certain specific offenses will be enhanced during a state of disaster. The statute goes on to define a state of disaster as a declaration made by (a) the President of the United States under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. Section 5121 et seq.), (b) a declaration made by the governor under Section 418.014, Government Code, (c) a declaration made by a presiding officer of the governing body of a political subdivision under Section 418.108, Government Code, or (d) subject to an emergency evacuation order.


If one of the above-mentioned criteria are met, then the following crimes will have be enhanced up one class / degree:



The statute goes on to specify that If an offense listed under Texas Penal Code § 12.50 (b)(1), (5), (6), or (7) is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, the minimum term of confinement for the offense is increased to 180 days. If an offense listed under Texas Penal Code § 12.50 (b)(2), (4), or (7) is punishable as a felony of the first degree, the punishment for that offense may not be increased under this section.


The typical ranges of punishment for Texas Criminal Offenses can be seen below (keep in mind that the above-mentioned enhancement may apply):


Class C Misdemeanor - Texas Penal Code §12.23

  • No jail;

  • Fine up to $500.


Class B Misdemeanor - Texas Penal Code §12.22

  • Up to 180 days in jail;

  • Fine up to $2,000.


Class A Misdemeanor - Texas Penal Code §12.21

  • Up to 1 year in jail;

  • Fine up to $4,000


State Jail Felony - Texas Penal Code §12.35 (a) and (b)

  • 180 days - 2 years in a state jail;

  • Fine up to $10,000


Third Degree Felony - Texas Penal Code §12.34

  • 2 - 10 years imprisonment in the institutional division;

  • Fine up to $10,000.


Second Degree Felony - Texas Penal Code §12.33

  • 2 - 20 years imprisonment in the institutional division;

  • Fine up to $10,000


First Degree Felony - Texas Penal Code §12.32

  • 5 - 99 years imprisonment in the institutional division;

  • 25 - 99 for aggravated assault of a child under 6;

  • 25 - 99 for aggravated assault of a child under 14 if threat of serious bodily injury / use of a deadly weapon;

  • Life in prison;

  • Fine up to $10,000.


Capital Felony - Texas Penal Code §12.31

  • Death Penalty;

  • Life without parole imprisonment in the institutional division.




If you have been accused of a crime contact an attorney as soon as possible in the process in order to give him or her the best chance to assist you in your case. Call the Law Office of T. Maxwell Smith, PLLC today at (817) 475-5522.




59 views0 comments

1205 North Main Street    ·    Fort Worth, Texas 76164    ·    Tel: (817) 475-5522    ·    Fax: (817) 532-3419