Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster for Texas because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Most people don’t realize that when the Governor of Texas declares a state of disaster there are serious implications under the Texas Penal Code. Punishment increases by one degree for certain crimes if the evidence proves the offense was committed in an area that was at the time of the offense subject to the state of disaster.
Normally the state of disaster is confined to a particular geographic area that was hit by a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood or tornado. This situation is different because it covers the whole state. This statue covers crimes like arson, burglaries, theft, robberies and assaults.
So if you go to the grocery store and get into a fight over toilet paper and punch your neighbor in the face you may get charged with a State Jail Felony rather than Misdemeanor Class A Assault. That would mean you would be facing 180 days to two years in a State Jail rather than up to one year in the county jail if the same assault had been committed under normal circumstances. You would also expect to get hit with higher bond since the charge is a felony.
This section of the penal code also applies when the President declares an area of Texas as a State of Disaster. So during the Coronavirus State of Disaster prosecutors have two ways to prove the enhancement portion of the criminal charge.