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August 23, 2005



New Traffic, Criminal Laws Set to go Into Effect September 1

Notable traffic and criminal laws that go into effect on September 1 (unless noted otherwise) include the following:

SB 1257 prohibits use of wireless communications devices (including cell phones) for the first six months after teenagers get their driver licenses. The bill also prohibits passenger bus drivers transporting minors from using wireless communications devices, except in emergencies or when the bus is stopped.

HB 51 requires an ignition interlock device if a driver’s blood alcohol level is determined to be .15 or more (upon conviction).

HB 1357 creates a six-month driver license (DL) suspension for a person convicted of providing alcohol to a minor (one year for second offense), and increases the DL suspension to one year for minors who are convicted of a second alcohol offense.

HB 1481 makes it a Class B misdemeanor if a person drives around a barricade where a warning sign or barricade has been placed because water is over any portion of a road, street or highway. It also specifically creates a traffic violation for driving around a barricade put in the roadway because of dangerous conditions.

HB 183 states that all children younger than 5 years of age (old law was younger than 4) and less than 36 inches tall are required to be in a child safety seat system. It also classifies safety seat infractions as moving violations for the first time.

SB 1005 provides that if a driver younger than 25 years of age commits a traffic offense classified as a moving violation, the judge must require the driver to complete a driving safety course—and, if the driver holds a provisional driver license (under 18 years of age), submit to a DPS road test. Failure by the driver to meet this requirement will result in a final conviction for that traffic offense.

HB 1484 specifies that a person commits a traffic offense if they are involved in a crash on the main lane, ramp, shoulder, median or adjacent area of a freeway and don’t move their vehicle to an area that minimizes interference with freeway traffic (assuming the vehicle is drivable).

HB 1596 clarifies the definition of neighborhood electric vehicles and motor assisted scooters and allows municipalities to regulate the use of motor assisted scooters on roadways and sidewalks.

SB 1257 disqualifies a person from operating a commercial motor vehicle if the person’s driving is determined to constitute an imminent hazard.

HB 754 increases the maximum fine to $500 for violating laws related to transporting loose material—and requires all commercial motor vehicles transporting aggregates or refuse to completely cover the load-carrying compartment.

SB 1258 specifies that an original commercial driver license or commercial driver learner’s permit expires in five years instead of six years.

HB 87 allows cities to lower residential speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph in certain instances. This bill took effect immediately.

HB 2257 allows the TxDOT commission to establish a daytime speed limit of 80 miles per hour on I-10 or I-20 in Crockett, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kerr, Kimble, Pecos, Reeves, Sutton or Ward counties. If established, this speed does not apply to truck tractors, trailers, semi trailers, or trucks, other than light trucks and light trucks pulling a trailer. This bill took effect immediately.

SB 1670 requires the Department of Insurance, in conjunction with TxDOT and other agencies, to establish a verification program for vehicle insurance in order to try and reduce the number of uninsured drivers.

HB 120 creates an organ donor education and registry program. Eventually, Texans will be able to indicate their wish to become an organ donor when they are issued or renew their driver license or ID card.

SB 122 requires peace officers to report notification of ID theft to their employing agency. It provides penalties for the unauthorized use of personal information.

HB 699 increases the penalty for using someone else’s DL or ID card to a Class A misdemeanor. It also clarifies that use of a false ID by someone under 21 for purchase of alcohol is a Class C misdemeanor.

HB 1239 makes DPS more involved with drug task forces operating in Texas, including any “multi-county” drug task forces. (Effective August 1.)

HB 164 places restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine products and allows children exposed to meth production to be removed from the home. (Effective August 1.)

HB 867 eliminates mandatory newspaper notification for sex offenders. Another provision deals with postcard notification for high-risk sex offenders. DPS is now required to send the postcards to all addresses within the distribution area, except post office boxes. Prior law specified residential addresses only.

HB 1068 creates an independent commission with investigational oversight involving complaints against DNA crime labs in the state. It also requires DNA sampling from some 60,000 current Texas prison inmates who do not have DNA profiles in the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database.

HB 823 describes the conditions under which a person will be presumed to be “traveling” for the first time. It applies to people who have a handgun in their vehicle but do not have a concealed handgun license (CHL). It also places the burden of proof on prosecutors to prove the driver was “not traveling.”

HB 225 extends the renewal time for a CHL from four to five years, which will reduce the average annual cost of a license.

HB 322 lowers the age requirement for active duty or retired members of the military applying for a CHL from 21 years of age to 18, and reduces the original license fee and any renewal fees for active duty members of the armed forces by 50 percent.

HB 1038 reduces CHL renewal fees by 50 percent for anyone over 60 years of age.

The texts of these bills can be found at www.capitol.state.tx.us. Select the enrolled version in the regular legislative session.