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New Bill Could Make Public Camping a Crime in Texas

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Dallas criminal defense lawyer for property crimesWhen one thinks of camping, they likely imagine families on vacation, setting up tents in campgrounds to sleep under the stars. While camping like this is welcomed as a family-friendly activity, there is another form of camping that Governor Greg Abbott and state legislators are looking to eradicate: public camping. Recently, discussions began surrounding whether or not public camping should be considered a crime in Texas.

Addressing Homelessness

Cities have always been a haven for homelessness, as the numerous buildings can provide temporary shelter. Some homeless individuals seek refuge near buildings, while others set up camp in public areas. The topic of homelessness has been under discussion as of late as Austin political leaders have been developing a new strategy to address the area’s struggles with the homeless population. According to the Texas Homeless Network’s annual report, approximately 27,000 Texans experienced homelessness on a single night in 2020. This population is skewed to the Black community, with 37 percent of the homeless population consisting of Black individuals, even though they make up only 13 percent of Texas’ population. 

The legislators behind Senate Bill 987 highlight the economic and public health consequences that these public camping communities bring into Texas cities. For instance, the fires often lit in these public campsites can present deadly hazards to those in the encampments and the cities themselves. If passed, SB 987 would allow local governments to enact stricter camping ordinances and establish a statewide ban on public camping, making the act a property crime and Class C misdemeanor for violators. Though this misdemeanor classification is relatively low, those found guilty of camping on public property would still face criminal charges and fines.

Many view this potential new law as a way to reduce the homelessness issue in cities, while others seek an alternative solution. Austin’s homeless strategy officer Dianna Grey argued that criminalizing homelessness is not the answer, labeling the proposed solution as “wishful thinking.” Meanwhile, Senator Paul Bettencourt argued on behalf of those who have been personally victimized by the homeless population, stating that failing to pass the bill would leave the public at risk. At this time, the bill has yet to be passed, though it is important to remain up-to-date on any and all legislation changes in your area, especially those involving criminal laws. What may seem like a local argument that will never come to fruition could lead to criminal charges under a law that you were unaware existed.

Contact a Plano, TX Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges for a recently enacted law that you were unaware of? Legal updates and new ordinances can often leave those with innocent intentions facing an arrest and criminal charge. The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. provides regular legal updates through our News and Blog pages to notify Texans of new laws that could leave them in hot water. If you are facing criminal charges or have questions about recent legislation, contact our Collin County criminal defense lawyers at 214-303-9600 to schedule your free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.kxan.com/news/texas-politics/a-texas-wide-ban-on-public-camping-would-make-it-a-crime-lawmakers-are-considering-it-monday/

https://www.thn.org/2020-annual-report/

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/politics/texas-legislature/homeless-austin-camping-texas-bill/269-baba02cb-8009-43b4-82c3-b86c825d03e8

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