March 16, 2020

We know what you’re probably thinking: “Oh great, another COVID-19 email from a business!” But unlike the random coronavirus emails filling your inbox from every vendor who has your email address, THIS email actually has some important work-related news in it, so please read on.

Board meeting and committee cancellations

As you probably know by now, Governor Abbott issued a disaster declaration on March 13, 2020, for all 254 counties in Texas. Several of your local cities and counties may have done the same or issued related emergency ordinances limiting public gatherings. We intend to keep the lights on at TDCAA World Headquarters™ for as long as Austin’s mayor permits, but in response to these latest actions, we are announcing the cancellation or postponement of the following TDCAA-related in-person governance meetings:

SPU Board meeting – Austin, March 25
TDCAA New Board Member orientation – Austin, March 26
TDCAA Board of Directors meeting – Austin, March 27
TDCAA Training Committee – Austin, April 2–3
TDCAA Diversity, Recruitment, and Retention Committee – Austin, April 24
TDCAA KP-VAC Board meeting – Austin, May 1

Members of all affected boards and committees will receive a separate email with further instructions for setting up remote conference calls or re-scheduling, as appropriate. All affected board or committee members should cancel their own related travel reservations.

Seminar cancellations

TDCAA is also cancelling the following training events:

Effective Courtroom Testimony – Tyler, March 18
BPU Region 2 Training – Laredo, March 25–26
DWI Update – New Braunfels, April 1
DWI Update – Georgetown, April 3
DWI Update – Richmond, April 8
Crimes Against Children Conference – Houston, April 14–17

All registrations fees for cancelled TDCAA conferences will be refunded. Registered attendees for these events will receive an email confirmation and additional information as necessary. Attendees are responsible for cancelling their own hotel and related travel reservations. For questions, check our frequently-updated website and if that still doesn’t answer your question, contact Training Director Brian Klas.

Going forward, we will not conduct any in-person meetings, seminars, or other training events for the duration of the state’s disaster declaration. Under Gov’t Code §418.014 (Declaration of State of Disaster), a disaster declaration lasts up to 30 days but can be renewed ad infinitem. As a result, we are not officially cancelling any training events beyond the week of April 13–17 at this time, but if the statewide disaster declaration is renewed, you can expect any applicable conferences, seminars, or in-person meetings to be cancelled.

For those of you in need of CLE hours to comply with State Bar mandates, please direct your questions to the Bar; we have received no instructions regarding extensions or waivers of those mandates.

SCOTX/CCA emergency order

On the heels of the governor’s disaster declaration, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals issued an emergency order effective March 13, 2020, modifying or suspending various court procedures. The emergency order is effective until May 8, 2020 (unless extended) and grants wide latitude to individual courts to modify or suspend various deadlines and court procedures; read the order for yourself for all the details.

If you are curious to know what courthouses are open or closed during this pandemic period, consult this webpage curated by the Office of Court Administration.

Punishment enhancements

Another interesting effect of the governor’s statewide disaster declaration is that it increases the punishment range for the following offenses committed during the pendency of that declaration:

  • 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)

According to PC §12.50 (Penalty if Offense Committed in Disaster Area or Evacuated Area), the punishment for any of these offenses is increased by one degree, with exceptions for Class A misdemeanors—for which the minimum punishment is merely increased to 180 days—and first-degree felonies, which are unaffected.

As with any punishment enhancement, the decision on whether to allege that circumstance in a particular case rests within the sound discretion of your office.