Below is a list of selected changes to traffic and criminal statutes. Unless otherwise listed, all laws below take effect September 1, 2011. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all new laws passed by the Texas Legislature.
Certain synthetic compounds deceptively labeled as "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana products (K2 or spice) have been added to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. (HB 2118, SB 331) Bath salts contain dangerous stimulants, and K2 mimics the effects of marijuana. Both have been sold in convenience stores and head shops, and have side effects that can be harmful and long-lasting.
The electronic transmission or possession of visual material depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct ("sexting") has been added as an offense in the Penal Code. The penalty can range from a Class C misdemeanor to Class A misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. This does not apply to minors involved in a dating relationship or spouses. (SB 407)
The possession or use of tire deflation devices, commonly known as caltrops, for any purpose other than law enforcement use or as an antique or curio is prohibited. Criminal organizations have increasingly used caltrops as they attempt to evade apprehension, resulting in damage to patrol vehicles and innocent vehicles on the road. (SB 1416)
Tow trucks have now been added to the slow down or move over laws, which require drivers to slow down 20 miles per hour below the speed limit, or to vacate the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle that has emergency lights activated if the road has multiple lanes traveling in the same direction. (HB 378)
Speed limits will now be the same during night and day driving, and separate speed limits for trucks have been eliminated. The maximum speed limit on state highways may be raised to 75 miles per hour if approved after a finding by TxDOT that the increased speed would be reasonable and safe following an engineering and traffic investigation. (HB 1353)
A driver may not allow a child under 18 to ride in a watercraft while it is being towed on a street or highway. This does not include watercraft being towed on a beach or in a parade. (HB 2981)
Hardship driver licenses will be suspended if the holder is convicted of two or more moving violations during a 12-month period. DPS may no longer waive the driver education requirement to issue a 60-day hardship license. (HB 90)
Drivers subject to the Driver Responsibility Program will be able to pay the entire three-year amount of surcharges owed for a violation in advance, rather than paying across all three years. (HB 588)
Veterans will be exempt from the fee for a personal identification certificate if they can show honorable discharge and at least 60 percent service-related disability. Disabled veterans are exempted from driver license fees under current law. (HB 1148)
A veteran designation will be displayed on a driver license for applicants who provide proof of military service and honorable discharge. (HB 1514)
The Sunset Commission has been charged with reviewing the current oversight structure of driver education and driver safety schools, wh