An Update from the Austin County District Attorney’s Office

Gavel

On March 19, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued an emergency executive order for all counties in Texas as a result of the imminent threat posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). President Donald Trump likewise declared a national emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Austin County District Attorney’s Office remains operational and ready to serve the citizens of Austin County. Austin County Law Enforcement and the Austin County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work together to prosecute offenders and keep dangerous criminals off the streets.

I want the public to be aware of several topics regarding current developments related to the disaster.

Enhanced Punishments :
The Texas Legislature has enacted laws specifically aimed at punishing those who take advantage of others during a disaster.
Under the Texas Penal Code, the punishment range for the following criminal offenses may be enhanced if a person commits the offense in an area subject to the declaration of a state of disaster:
Penal Code §22.01 (assault)
PC §28.02 (arson)
PC §29.02 (robbery)
PC §30.02 (burglary)
PC §30.03 (burglary of coin-operated or coin collection machines)
PC §30.04 (burglary of vehicles)
PC §30.05 (criminal trespass)
PC §31.03 (theft)

My office is committed to utilizing this provision and prosecuting offenders to the fullest extent of the law.

Price Gouging:
Law enforcement has made inquiries into some complaints regarding price gouging. Local businesses have provided evidence that product prices were proportional to their own expenses in obtaining the products. Austin County merchants have cooperated and been responsible in their dealings with the public.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office handles consumer complaints regarding price gouging.
In addition to enhanced punishments during a state of disaster, any person or business selling goods should be aware that Texas law prohibits “price gouging” and subjects offenders to civil penalties. Texas consumer protection statutes provide that it is a false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice to take advantage of a disaster declared by the Governor of Texas or the President of the United States by: (1) selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or (2) demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity. 

More information on how to properly report price gouging can be found at:
https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/disaster-and-emergency-scams/how-spot-and­report-price-gouging

Court Operations:
Austin County Courts have amended their current schedules.

Defendants in criminal cases with questions regarding their court dates are encouraged to call their attorneys immediately. Defendants without legal counsel are encouraged to contact the District Attorney’s Office at (979)865-5933 for more information about scheduling matters.

Citizens with civil cases are encouraged to contact their attorneys for more information. Citizens without legal counsel should contact their respective courts for information about scheduling matters.