8 Surprising Crimes on the Books in Texas
We've all heard about the arcane laws that somehow still survive on the books. Hell, the fifth graph of the Texas Constitution says you can't hold office unless you "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."
This isn't a post about those types of strange-yet-unenforced laws. Under Supreme Court precedent, atheist politicians can hold office, even though they'd probably still have a tough time getting elected in many pockets of the state. While it should embarrass state lawmakers that they still haven't stripped "homosexual conduct" from the Texas Penal Code, the "offense" has been unenforceable since the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated so-called sodomy laws across the country in 2003. Texas' "obscene device" law made it a crime to own six or more dildos until it was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2008 (reminder: Attorney General Greg Abbot, the frontrunner for governor, totally fought to reinstate the six-dildo ban).
No, these are crimes lifted from the Texas Department of Public Safety's most recent offense list that we had no idea carried possible jail time in the Lone Star State. Some we totally get (anyone who commits number No. 4 is a real scumbag). Others we found a bit more surprising.
8. Tampering with a cattle brand or tattoo While we're not exactly surprised this is frowned upon, we were stunned to learn that anyone who "reproduces, counterfeits, copies, adds to, takes from, imitates, destroys, or removes a registered tattoo mark on livestock" can be charged with a felony, facing up to 12 years in prison.
7. Selling a used watch to an unsuspecting customer You read that right. If you sell a second-hand watch and don't fasten "a clearly written or printed tag bearing the word 'secondhand,'" it's a Class A misdemeanor in the State of Texas. That's one step below a felony. And punishable by up to a year behind bars and a $4,000 fine.
6. Improperly throwing a "going out of business" sale Apparently, there are pretty strict rules on how you do and don't throw a going-out-of-business sale. You have to file a final inventory with the local appraiser, get a permit, and you can't hold another going-out-of-business sale for at least two years, among other things. You can get slapped with a Class A misdemeanor otherwise.
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5. Cheating at bingo If you're running a bingo game, and people have anted up any amount of money to play in said bingo game, you'd better not screw it up. If someone "knowingly participates in the award of a prize to a bingo player in the manner that disregards, to any extent, the random selection of numbers or symbols," that's fraudulent awarding of a bingo prize, and a third degree felony carrying a prison term of 2 to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.
4. Screwing with a paternity test At first we found this surprising. But come to think of it, anyone who's chicken-shit enough to swap out their sample on a court-ordered paternity test to avoid the consequences deserves to be slapped with a third degree felony, and the 2 to 10 year prison term the charge carries.
3. Oysters: the criminal mollusk Lots of felonies here - harvesting oysters in a restricted area, night dredging oysters in a restricted area, harvesting oysters without a license, etc. You get the picture. This one was so strange that last year Politifact even fact-checked it just to make sure (apparently there are 11 oyster-related felonies in all).
2. Selling horse meat for human consumption It's legal in most states to buy and sell horse meat, even though the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States closed years ago (recent efforts in Missouri to revive the practice stalled early this year).
Not so in Texas, however. In 2007, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state statute outlawing horse slaughter that sat on the books for half a century but was unenforced. Before the USDA shuttered Texas' remaining horse slaughterhouses later that year, the state made up two-thirds of all the horse-meat production in the country. Some in the horse industry actually argue that reviving horse slaughter is a humane way to deal with horses that are elderly, unhealthy, or otherwise unwanted (naturally, the folks at the humane society feel otherwise). As it stands, horses are still dragged across international lines to be killed in Mexico and in Canada.
But selling horse meat can get you slapped with a $1,000 fine and prison time of up to 2 years here in Texas. You're facing 2-5 years behind bars if you're caught doing it a second time.
1. Selling a live armadillo Not a dead one - you can totally sell those. But a live one? This law was passed in hopes of limiting people's contact with armadillos, which in southern Louisiana and East Texas have been found to carry mycobacterial leprosy. But according to this undated Texas Parks and Wildlife article:
"[T]hanks to the current armadillo-mania, prohibiting the sale of live armadillos has not lessened human contact with the armor-plated critters. They still are being caught for armadillo races; their shells are being converted into hard hats and other weird curios; whole animals are being stuffed in such undignified positions as lying on their backs, supposedly guzzling beer from a bottle; and the meat is being baked, barbecued, or turned into chili."
If you're caught selling a live armadillo, you might get slapped with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
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