The Facts

Examples of excessive Texas criminal laws include:

  • Under the Agriculture Code, Chapters 76.201(e) and 76.202(b), it is a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to a year in jail) to use, handle, store, or dispose of a pesticide in a manner that injures vegetation, crops, wildlife, or pollinating insects.
  • Chapter 26.3574(s)(16) of the Water Code makes it a second degree felony (punishable by up to 20 years in prison) not to “remit any fees collected by any person required to hold a permit under this section.”
  • Occupations Code Section 165.151 makes it a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail) to violate a rule of a professional licensing board covered under this chapter. 



  • Refrain from creating new criminal offenses, especially those regulating non-fraudulent business activities.
  • Avoid licensing new occupations and revise laws to eliminate criminal penalties associated with many occupations.
  • Don’t criminalize voluntary economic transactions using either civil or criminal law.
  • Enact the Rule of Lenity, a rule of statutory interpretation instructing a court to resolve ambiguities concerning whether the business-related conduct at issue is criminally prohibited against the state.
  • Narrow the scope of catch-all statutes allowing agencies to create rules that carry criminal penalties. Offenses should be limited to statutory violations, and non-compliance with rules should be enforced by civil penalties and the revocation of permits and licenses.
  • Eliminate the possibility of jail time for a first-time conviction of a regulatory misdemeanor, unless the person does not comply with the fine or probation conditions.
  • Require that each bill creating an offense so specify in the caption and improve fiscal notes so that they state the full cost of the bill, including prosecutorial and judicial expenditures and the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants.
  • Ensure that an appropriate culpable mental state is included for all non-traffic offenses and that it applies to each element of the offense.
  • Repeal excessive and unnecessary offenses and narrow the scope of overly broad offenses. Eliminate criminal offenses based on voluntary economic transactions involving legal products and services. (Fraudulent transactions, meaning those that involve coercion, would not be included in this category.)
  • Amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to allow for citation without arrest for additional misdemeanors and prohibit arrest for regulatory Class C misdemeanors, unless the defendant does not respond to a court summons.