BILL ANALYSIS C.S.H.B. 556 By: Bob Turner 02-28-95 Committee Report (Substituted) BACKGROUND Under Section 30.05, Texas Penal Code, all trespass cases including minor offenses must be cited as a Class B misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and/or a jail term up to 180 days, or a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and/or a jail term up to one year if committed in a habitation or while carrying a deadly weapon. In rural areas these offenses, many of them minor, must be heard in a County Court, presided over by the County Judge, and prosecuted by the County Attorney. A county must invest much time, effort, and money to prosecute these offenses, which often involve bringing back the accused from some faraway area for prosecution. To avoid expense and inconvenience, these cases are more often than not dismissed, leaving many rural landowners concerned. Establishment of a Class C misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine up to $500 for trespass on agricultural land, would allow these cases to be heard in a Justice or Municipal Court and thus, the number of cases enforced would likely increase. PURPOSE This legislation creates a Class C misdemeanor for the criminal offense of trespass on agricultural lands. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the committee's opinion that this bill does not expressly grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Section 30.05(b), Penal Code, by adding Subdivision 4. Defines "Agricultural Land" as land located in the state that is suitable for use in forestry, animal production or plant production (including floriculture, viticulture, horticulture and planting seed.) SECTION 2. Amends Section 30.05, Penal Code. Creates the Class C misdemeanor Criminal Trespass offense for those people who without the owner's consent: (1) enter agricultural land, (2) are within 100 feet of the boundary of the land when apprehended, and (3) had notice that the entry was forbidden or received notice to depart but failed to do so. Establishes that the offense is a Class A misdemeanor if the person carries a deadly weapon while committing this infraction. SECTION 3. This Act applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. SECTION 4. Effective Date. The effective date of this bill is September 1, 1995. SECTION 5. Emergency clause. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE The original legislation provided special circumstances for which certain persons could enter another person's adjoining property without the owner's consent and not be charged with trespassing. The substitute for H.B. 556 does not provide any provisions to exempt a person from this trespass legislation. SUMMARY OF COMMITTEE ACTION H.B. 556 was considered in a public hearing on Tuesday, February 21, 1995. The following people testified in support of the bill: Mr. Arthur Nagel, representing Riverside and Landowners Protection Coalition, Inc. Mr. Ed Small, representing Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Ms. Deborah Mitchell, representing the Texas Wildlife Association. Mr. Charles Carter, representing the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas. Mr. Tommy Engelke, representing the Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council. The bill was referred to a subcommittee consisting of Representatives Hawley (Chair), King and Rabuck. After being recalled from the subcommittee, the bill was considered by the committee in a public hearing on Tuesday, February 28, 1995. The committee considered a complete substitute for the bill. The substitute was adopted without objection. The bill was reported favorably as substituted, with the recommendation that it do pass and be printed, by a record vote of 8 ayes, 0 nays, 0 pnv, 1 absent.