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Remaining Civil An officer’s guide to responding to non-criminal calls for service.
The Purpose… The purpose of this training is to give officer’s a basic understanding of the difference between civil and criminal calls for service, To explore preferred responses to some of the most common non-criminal calls for service, And to familiarize officers with the steps that the involved parties can take to resolve their civil issues.
Why? To increase the effectiveness of police officers as problem solvers. To decrease citizen complaints against officers. To help officers consider options outside of arrest and to allow them to explain to citizens when there are better “civil” options available to them. To minimize the loss of time and financial resources caused by non-criminal calls for service. To keep officers on the street fighting crime.
What it is NOT meant to do: Give officers an intricately detailed understanding of all “civil” issues. Make officers experts in the civil areas of law covered in this training. Allow officers to competently give callers free legal advice. Allow officers to start a legal practice as a side-job. Degrade officers by making them more like lawyers and less like police officers.
What makes a call civil or criminal?
Civil v. Criminal Can you name some civil calls? Can you name some criminal calls?
Civil Law Civil law is concerned with relationships between individuals and is addressed in civil court. The person injured or “wronged” is called the “plaintiff. ” The plaintiff generally files a lawsuit against that person dubbed the “defendant. ” Generally, if the plaintiff wins, the defendant pays the plaintiff’s “damages. ” Other “remedies” may include “injunctive relief. ” Incarceration and other “punishments” are rarely invoked except in rare circumstances such as when someone is held in contempt of court or when a protective order is enforced.
Criminal Law deals with relationships between individuals and the federal, state or local government. If someone breaks a criminal law, he/she is called the “defendant. ” The government files a criminal charge called either a “complaint” or “information” through an attorney who represents the State, typically called a “prosecutor. ” If the defendant loses he/she is “convicted. ” Fines and incarceration are customary “punishments” for violation of a government law. Sometimes under the right circumstances probation is granted instead of incarceration.
What types of laws do officers deal with most often? Most officers become officers to enforce criminal law However, some officers deal almost exclusively with civil matters? Ø Constables are a good example. Some sheriff’s deputies are also assigned to almost exclusively civil process. Despite the reasons for most officers getting into law enforcement, how much of police work is “civil” in nature?
“To provide a more accurate idea of the kinds of crimes more typically committed, we reviewed a list of calls for police service in Chicago, Illinois, for the month of June 2000. There were 181, 748 calls for police service in Chicago during the period selected. A close examination of the list of police calls reveals that the most frequent type of call for service in Chicago involves disturbances (for example, domestic quarrels, neighbor or landlord-tenant squabbles, gang altercations, bar or street fights, or even loud music or a dog barking). This type of call accounted for 30. 2% of the total. ” Foundations of Criminal Justice, 2011, Stephen Owen et. al.
Are those 30% civil or criminal? Domestic quarrels… Typically civil. Can escalate to criminal. Neighbor or landlord-tenant squabbles… Typically civil. Can escalate to criminal. Gang alterations and bar or street fights… Typically criminal. Could be civil. Loud music… Typically civil. Dog barking… Typically civil.
Our Own Research In preparation for the development of this course, TYLA surveyed various law enforcement entities. Our research indicated civil calls accounted for as much as 52% of calls for service in one agency. Our research indicated non-criminal or “civil calls” on average accounted for more than 20% of an officer’s calls for service.
Most Common Civil Calls Consumer Disputes Including: Theft of service, contract disagreement, and repossession Custody Disputes Domestic Relations Disputes Including: Restraining Orders, Emergency Protective Orders, and Protective Orders Landlord/Tenant Disputes Including: Eviction Mental Commitments Property Disputes Including: Lost and/or abandoned property and animal disputes
How to decide whether it’s civil or criminal? Departmental Policy. District or County Attorney Policy. Officer discretion
What is the officer’s primary job? In all of these situations the officer’s job is two fold. Keep the peace / Maintain public safety!!! Never forget your safety and the public’s safety comes first!!! You always have the ability to enforce laws relating to criminal trespass and/or disorderly conduct. Make a record!!! All calls deserve a notation on the call sheet, at a minimum. MOST require a report. The report will with all likelihood be used in civil or criminal court at some point. Do not end up in court without a record!
Consumer Disputes There is overlap between what remedies are available. Civil remedies can be found in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Criminal issues are codified in the Texas Penal Code. First apply departmental or DA/CA policy. If no direction is provided, then officer discretion will ultimately determine how you proceed.
Dine and Dash… A person commits theft of service if, with intent to avoid payment service that he knows is provided only for compensation, he intentionally or knowingly secures performance of that service by deception, threat, or false token. he intentionally or knowingly secures the performance of the service by agreeing to provide compensation and, after the service is rendered, fails to make payment after receiving notice demanding payment. TPC § 31. 04(a)(1)&(4)
Intent Presumed… For purposes of this section, intent to avoid payment is presumed if: the actor absconded without paying for the service or expressly refused to pay for the service in circumstances where payment is ordinarily made immediately upon rendering of the service, as in hotels, campgrounds, recreational vehicle parks, restaurants, and comparable establishments. TPC 31. 04 (b)(1)
An alternative, civilly speaking… Owner has a right to sue under Texas Theft Liability Act: Chapter 134 of Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Remedies include: Actual damages or loss Court cost Attorney's fee Additional punitive sum not to exceed $1000. 00
What if the dashers were minors? Texas Theft Liability Act makes parents responsible for the acts of their minor children.
What about other services? Examples: Video store or equipment rentals, contractors, etc…. Returning to the definition of Theft of Service… Sec 31. 04 THEFT OF SERVICE. (a) A person commits theft of service, if, with intent to avoid payment for service that he knows is provided only for compensation: having control of personal property under a written rental agreement, he holds the property beyond the expiration of the rental period without the effective consent of the owner of the property, thereby depriving the owner of the property of its use in further rentals. Some CA’s and DA’s will prosecute under these circumstances. Others will not. Know your Jx. TPC § 31. 04(a)(3)
Like before, intent presumed if… (2) the actor failed to make payment under a service agreement within 10 days after receiving notice demanding payment; (3) the actor returns property held under a rental agreement after the expiration of the rental agreement and fails to pay the applicable rental charge for the property within 10 days after the date on which the actor received notice demanding payment; or (4) the actor failed to return the property held under a rental agreement: (A) within five days after receiving notice demanding return, if the property is valued at less than $1, 500; or (B) within three days after receiving notice demanding return, if the property is valued at $1, 500 or more.
What constitutes notice… For purposes of Subsection (a)(4), (b)(2), and (b)(4), notice shall be in writing, sent by registered or certified mail with return receipt requested or by telegram with report of delivery requested, and addressed to the actor at his address shown on the rental agreement or service agreement.
Criminal Prosecution or Civil Suit? Owner should be advised that: Criminal prosecution for theft may or may not result in restitution being paid. You, the officer, WILL complete a report detailing your findings that can be used as evidence in any future civil or criminal proceedings. The victim could limit their ability to prosecute criminally should they accept a settlement agreement. Know your Jx’s prosecutorial policies as to whether they will be able to pursue the issue criminally.
What if the Owner is the problem? Examples are a second hand shop selling a broken television or a shady car lot selling a broken vehicle. Has the person attempted to return the item? If the owner accepts a return of the item and returns the purchaser’s payment, there is likely no need to be involved any further. If not…
Determine if the action is criminal… Be aware of various criminal statues which pertain to fraudulent business practices: Almost everything that “seems” fraudulent or criminal can be defined as such under one of the following statues. Officer discretion must be used.
Sec 32. 33. CRIMINAL SIMULATION (a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to defraud or harm another: (1) he makes or alters an object, in whole or in part, so that it appears to have value because of age, antiquity, rarity, source, or authorship that it does not have; (2) he possesses an object so made or altered, with intent to sell, pass, or otherwise utter it; or (3) he authenticates or certifies an object so made or altered as genuine or as different from what it is. (b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
Sec 32. 23. TRADEMARK COUNTERFEITING (b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally manufactures, displays, advertises, distributes, offers for sale, sells, or possesses with intent to sell or distribute a counterfeit mark or an item or service that: (1) bears or is identified by a counterfeit mark; or (2) the person knows or should have known bears or is identified by a counterfeit mark. The level of offense depends on the value of the item counterfeited
Sec 32. 34. FRAUDULENT TRANSFER OF A MOTOR VEHICLE (b) A person commits an offense if the person acquires, accepts possession of, or exercises control over the motor vehicle of another under a written or oral agreement to arrange for the transfer of the vehicle to a third party and: (1) knowing the vehicle is subject to a security interest, lease, or lien, the person transfers the vehicle to a third party without first obtaining written authorization from the vehicle's secured creditor, lessor, or lien holder; (2) intending to defraud or harm the vehicle's owner, the person transfers the vehicle to a third party; (3) intending to defraud or harm the vehicle's owner, the person disposes of the vehicle in a manner other than by transfer to a third party; or (4) the person does not disclose the location of the vehicle on the request of the vehicle's owner, secured creditor, lessor, or lien holder. (f) An offense under Subsection (b)(1), (b)(2), or (b)(3) is: (1) a state jail felony if the value of the motor vehicle is less than $20, 000; or (2) a felony of the third degree if the value of the motor vehicle is $20, 000 or more. (g) An offense under Subsection (b)(4) is a Class A misdemeanor.
Sec 32. 42. DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES (b) A person commits an offense if in the course of business he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence commits one or more of the following deceptive business practices: (1) using, selling, or possessing for use or sale a false weight or measure, or any other device for falsely determining or recording any quality or quantity; (2) selling less than the represented quantity of a property or service; (3) taking more than the represented quantity of property or service when as a buyer the actor furnishes the weight or measure; (4) selling an adulterated or mislabeled commodity; (5) passing off property or service as that of another; (6) representing that a commodity is original or new if it is deteriorated, altered, rebuilt, reconditioned, reclaimed, used, or secondhand; (7) representing that a commodity or service is of a particular style, grade, or model if it is of another; (8) advertising property or service with intent: (A) not to sell it as advertised, or (B) not to supply reasonably expectable public demand, unless the advertising adequately discloses a time or quantity limit; (9) representing the price of property or service falsely or in a way tending to mislead; (10) making a materially false or misleading statement of fact concerning the reason for, existence of, or amount of a price or price reduction; (11) conducting a deceptive sales contest; or (12) making a materially false or misleading statement: (A) in an advertisement for the purchase or sale of property or service; or (B) otherwise in connection with the purchase or sale of property or service. (c) An offense under Subsections (b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4), (b)(5), and (b)(6) is: (1) a Class C misdemeanor if the actor commits an offense with criminal negligence and if he has not previously been convicted of a deceptive business practice; or (2) a Class A misdemeanor if the actor commits an offense intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or if he has been previously convicted of a Class B or C misdemeanor under this section. (d) An offense under Subsections (b)(7), (b)(8), (b)(9), (b)(10), (b)(11), and (b)(12) is a Class A misdemeanor.
When it is not criminal… Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA): Can hold a seller liable for representing that a product has uses that it doesn’t have, or is of a particular standard. Texas Lemmon Law: A law through which a purchaser can make a complaint about a defect in a vehicle covered by warranty. Texas Occupation Code § 2301. 604. For vehicles that are outside of warranty, the DTPA is still applicable. Consumers should be advised they can always contact their local Better Business Bureau. Consumers should be advised they can always pursue their case in civil court.
Who can the calling party contact? The Texas legal aid office: http: //www. lonestarlegal. org The State Bar of Texas http: //www. texasbar. com/am/template. cfm? section=Volunt eer Additional information available on the web through TYLA: http: //www. tyla. org/tasks/sites/default/assets/Files/37322 - How. To. Sue. In. Small. Claims
Custody Disputes For our purposes, defined as any call for service arising from a dispute over who should or should not have actual physical possession of a child at the time of the call. ****REMEMBER, SAFETY COMES FIRST**** The safety of the responding officer and all involved parties should be the first priority when responding to custody disputes. Several officers die each year responding to calls concerning child custody. Take these calls very seriously!
Civil or Criminal? Departmental Policy District or County Attorney Policy Officer discretion… Some Jx’s will not enforce custody laws criminally and have specific polices regarding how an officer can be involved. Follow the direction of the policies stated above…
Criminal… Sec. 25. 03. INTERFERENCE WITH CHILD CUSTODY. (a) A person commits an offense if the person takes or retains a child younger than 18 years when the person: (1) knows that the person's taking or retention violates the express terms of a judgment or order, including a temporary order, of a court disposing of the child's custody; or (2) has not been awarded custody of the child by a court of competent jurisdiction, knows that a suit for divorce or a civil suit or application for habeas corpus to dispose of the child's custody has been filed, and takes the child out of the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district if the court is a district court or the county if the court is a statutory county court, without the permission of the court and with the intent to deprive the court of authority over the child. (b) A noncustodial parent commits an offense if, with the intent to interfere with the lawful custody of a child younger than 18 years, the noncustodial parent knowingly entices or persuades the child to leave the custody of the custodial parent, guardian, or person standing in the stead of the custodial parent or guardian of the child. (c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the actor returned the child to the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district if the court is a district court or the county if the court is a statutory county court, within three days after the date of the commission of the offense. (d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
Civil… Subject did not “know” he/she was in violation with the court order. Subject does not like the current order. The current order is unenforceable due to a change of circumstances. Etc.
What to do first when responding… Immediately address the safety of you and the involved parties. Determine whethere is a need for CPS to respond based on the safety and security of the children. If there is ANY sign off abuse or neglect you are required by law to contact CPS. Ask for a copy of the last court order.
Enforce the order… READ THE ORDER ENFORCE THE ORDER… to the best of your ability. *Including an order from a court in another state* Failure to do so could be considered an act of contempt. Are you disobeying a court order? Failure to enforce the order “properly” is NOT an act of contempt. You are protected from liability.
Language in most custody orders… NOTICE TO ANY PEACE OFFICER OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: YOU MAY USE REASONABLE EFFORTS TO ENFORCE THE TERMS OF CHILD CUSTODY SPECIFIED IN THIS ORDER. A PEACE OFFICER WHO RELIES ON THE TERMS OF A COURT ORDER AND THE OFFICER’S AGENCY ARE ENTITLED TO THE APPLICABLE IMMUNITY AGAINST ANY CLAIM, CIVIL OR OTHERWISE, REGARDING THE OFFICER’S GOOD FAITH ACTS PERFORMED IN THE SCOPE OF THE OFFICER’S DUTIES IN ENFORCING THE TERMS OF THE ORDER THAT RELATE TO CHILD CUSTODY, ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY PRESENTS FOR ENFOREMENT AN ORDER THAT IS INVALID OR NO LONGER IN EFFECT COMMITS AN OFFENSE THAT MAY BE PUNISHABLE BY CONFINEMENT IN JAIL FOR AS LONG AS TWO YEARS AND A FINE OF AS MUCH AS $10, 000.
What if there’s NO order? Maintain the peace and document your involvement. The child(ren) should be left with the parent or guardian who had custody of the child when you arrived, UNLESS doing so would subject the child to abuse or neglect. Subjects should be informed to contact a lawyer or the Texas Attorney General's Office.
What if… A parent does not LIKE the current order? They cannot simply refuse to comply with the current court order. They must seek a “Modification. ” A parent is not paying child support? A parent cannot refuse to allow visitation for non-payment of child support. They must file a “Motion to Enforce. ” The child wants to be with his mom/dad? A parent cannot refuse to follow court order because of the child's preference. They must seek a “Modification. ” A parent leaves the state or country? The calling party should be told to seek legal counsel immediately for temporary orders and/or a permanent injunction. Otherwise, address the call in the same manner as already discussed. Officer discretion MUST be utilized. If you fear for the safety of the child, take all necessary actions. Texas Family Code § 262. 003. A person who takes possession of a child without a court order is immune from civil liability if, at the time possession is taken, there is reasonable cause to believe there is an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the child.
Domestic Disputes Defined for our purposes as a dispute between members of the same family or household, or a dispute between someone who has had a dating relationship. http: //www. thehollywoodgossip. com/videos/siri- argument/
You tell me… An assault has taken place? Criminal Violation of a protective order? Criminal and civil. Violation of a restraining order? Civil. Use your training, knowledge, and ultimately your discretion.
Protective Orders What is a protective order? A civil court order that protects victims of family violence for up to two years. The district or county attorney can seek one on behalf of the victim. Elements necessary to obtain one: Violence from a family or household member has been committed or attempted. It is likely to occur again in the future. Authority is Texas Family Code Chapters 82 -85
Three types of protective orders… Protective Order (PO) - Issued by a district or county judge and lasts up to two years. It IS enforceable through arrest by any peace officer (also enforceable through contempt). Requires notice and a hearing. Temporary Ex-Parte Protective Order (TXPO) - Issued by a district or county attorney without the presence of the party who is subject to the order. It is good for up to 20 days. Requires a hearing, but no notice. Violence and cohabitation must have occurred within last 30 days. NOT enforceable by arrest. Emergency Protective Order (EPO) - Issued by a magistrate and good for up to 90 days. It IS enforceable through arrest by any peace officer. Typically, these are filed by police officers who have statutory authority to file on behalf of the victim’s of family violence. They are statutorily required in cases aggravated by injury or use of a deadly weapon.
What is a Restraining Order (RO)? A civil court order that protects people and/or their property during a pending lawsuit or divorce. Authority is in Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Chapter 680. Filed by the attorney representing a victim in a pending law suit. Extends until the law suit is ended or through a permanent injunction. NOT ENFORCEABLE THROUGH ARREST!!! Other state laws make this confusing to many callers who equate a RO with a PO. Officers must know the difference to avoid conflict.
Three types of RO’s… Temporary restraining order (TRO) - Issued by an Associate or District Judge for up to 14 days. Notice is not required, but is preferred. Enforceable through a contempt order. Temporary injunction - Issued by an Associate or District Judge and lasting until a final order is entered. Notice and a hearing ARE required. Enforceable through contempt order. Permanent injunction - Issued by an Associate or District Judge and lasting until new orders are entered. Notice and a hearing ARE required. Enforceable through contempt order.
What is a peace bond? A peace bond is an order typically entered by the Justice of the Peace to protect someone who has been threatened, but not harmed. Authority is found in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 7. The person who is subject to the peace bond is required to post bond, and in the instance that he/she commits the named criminal acts or acts of violence, the money is forfeited. Notice and a hearing are required. The peace bond can extend for one year. Anyone can apply through the J. P. if they have been threatened. Enforceable by arrest ONLY if the act precluded was a criminal violation. In that case, it is arrestable due to the criminal violation not the peace bond (this will almost be the case).
Back to the streets: A caller states that his next door neighbor has threatened to poison his dog if the dog barks again. What should you do? Speak to the caller and his neighbor about the issue and attempt to find a peaceful resolution. Recognize any criminal violations, determine if an arrest is statutorily required or necessary under the circumstances, explain to all involved parties the criminal ramifications of possible actions. If the safety of the involved parties calls for it, explain other options including what a peace bond is and how to apply for one.
Back to the streets: You arrive on scene to see a woman severely beaten. She has a lacerated lip and three teeth missing. Her husband has injuries on his knuckles consistent with striking another person and their teeth cutting his skin. He says he’s going to do it again. What do you do? Gather evidence and arrest him for assault. Apply for an EPO for her. Direct her on how to apply for a TO.
Back to the streets: You arrive on scene to see all of a man’s possessions in the front yard in a pile. He says that his wife was about to burn them because she was just served with papers concerning their divorce. She denies it. She says he can just get his cheating butt out of “her” house and that maybe LOLA will let him stay there. No act of violence appears to have occurred from your initial investigation. Ensure that no criminal violations have occurred. Explain to the man what a restraining order is, and tell him he should contact his divorce attorney as soon as possible to see if it would be in his best interest to secure one. Explain to the woman the potential criminal repercussions of her actions.
Back to the streets: You arrive on scene to see a woman sitting in a car in the driveway. She looks over at you with her dark eyes and you realize that her stare chills you to your core. You physically shiver a bit and think you can audibly hear the tune of Hotel California in the background. A man approaches you crying. He stays as far from his scorned woman as possible walking clear around the neighbor’s house to approach you between the ex-lovers. He says that he has a Protective Order issued in New Mexico requiring that the woman in the car stay 200 feet away from him or his property at all times. You find out that the PO was issued based on fear of bodily harm, but that the woman had never threatened him in any way other than starring at him with her deep lack eyes. What do you do? If the PO appears valid, you enforce it by arresting her. Out of state PO’s are valid if the police officer believes the are what they appear to be. This includes instances when the PO would not be valid under the laws of this state. FYI… we do not grant PO’s in Texas for threat by laser eye.
Back to the streets: You arrive on scene to find that Betty has a restraining order against Mark. It becomes apparent through your investigation that Betty asked Mark to come to her house to mow the lawn, but then Betty became offended when Mark asked if he could sleep with her even though they were still getting divorced. Betty wants Mark arrested immediately. What do you? Nothing. You inform Betty that she should talk to her attorney if she would like to consider a contempt order. Same thing, but it’s a PO. What do you do? You arrest Mark. It doesn’t matter if Betty suckered Mark over to her house. All that matters is that a Judge issued an order that neither of them have the authority to altar or ignore. (FYI… the prosecutor will likely not prosecute the violation. )
Mental Illness Remember… almost all calls where mental health are an issue are, or have the ability to become, exclusively civil in nature. Even when a criminal act has occurred, the situation may call for you to respond through civil means. “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” “The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty. ” Mens Rea v. Actus Reus Can an insane person be guilty? Their acts may be criminal nature, but can they have the requisite criminal intent?
How to Respond Once a Mental Illness or Health Issue is Identified? Remember your Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). Respond appropriately, always remembering to put your safety and the safety of the involved parties first. When it becomes apparent that a person is mentally ill and poses a substantial risk of harm to him/herself or others, they should be immediately restrained. If there is no time to obtain a warrant, the person should be arrested.
On what does an officer base his decision? On everything he has come to know… What he/she hears? Man yelling he is going to kill himself. What he/she sees? Man stepping in front of traffic. What is apparent based on the circumstances? Ex. Man looks depressed and is sitting on the edge of a bridge. What other credible people have told the officer they have personally seen or heard. Hearsay and speculation are ok to consider in making a decision.
After warrantless arrest… The mentally ill person must be taken to the nearest inpatient mental health facility. The designated temporary mental health facility deemed suitable by the local mental health authority. The jail, but **The person may NOT be placed in contact with criminal defendants or convicts. ***
After delivery, is the officer finished? No, the officer is now on a 48 hour timeline. Within 48 hours, or by 4 p. m. on the first day after a weekend or holiday, the officer must submit an Application for Detention. An Application for Detention shall include: A statement indicating the officer believes the arrested person is suffering from a mental illness. That the arrested person exhibited signs of being a substantial risk of harm to himself/herself or others. The exact risk posed. That immediate restraint is necessary. Why an officer believes there is a risk of harm. A detailed description of the arrested person’s acts. Any relationship between witnesses and the arrested person.
What if there is no IMMEDIATE harm posed? Secure a warrant by following the same process. File an Application for Detention including: A statement indicating the officer believes the person is suffering from a mental illness. That the arrested person exhibits signs of being a substantial risk of harm to him/herself or others. The exact risk that is posed. Why an officer believes there is a risk of harm. A detailed description between witnesses and the arrested person. Then arrest the mentally ill person and transport them to the appropriate inpatient mental health facility.
What if there is no risk of substantial harm? The person’s family or guardian should be contacted and advised of possible options. Help the family locate a private party mental health provider. Help the family locate a charitable mental health provider (churches, universities, the Salvation Army). Help the family contact the county or district attorney for other options.
Lost or Abandoned Property A vehicle can be considered abandoned under the following conditions: It is inoperable, more than five years old, and left unattended on public property for more than 48 hours. It has remained illegally on public property for more than 48 hours. It has been left unattended in a right-a-way of a county, state, or federal highway for more than 48 hours. It has been unattended for more than 24 hours in the right-a-way of a turnpike of the Texas Department of Transpiration. Texas Transportation Code § 683. 002
Once “abandoned, ” vehicles can be impounded… Notice must be sent within 10 days to the last known registered owner. Notice should state that no later than 20 days after receipt of the notice, the vehicle and all interest in it can be forfeited if the owner does not reclaim the vehicle.
Junked Vehicles A junked vehicle is one that has no license plate or motor vehicle inspection sticker, is wrecked or partially dismantled or discarded, and has remained inoperable on public property for more than 72 hours or on private property for more than 30 days.
Repossession of Vehicles… Sneaky wins! A creditor may go on private property to repossess a vehicle without notice or delay. Repossession can occur as early as the day after the payment is missed depending on the finance contract. However, a creditor or his/her agent (the towing company) may NOT cause a breach of the peace. So, if the vehicle is off the debtors property it stays with the towing company, but if it is still on the property (hooked up or not), it stays with the debtor.
Eviction In Texas, one cannot be evicted simply by the owner throwing all one’s stuff out whenever they like. A clearly defined process must be followed. Failure to comply with the statuary guidelines violates the Removal of Property and Exclusion of Residential Tenant statute detailed in Texas Property Code § 92. 0081. If a landlord violates this law, the tenant can recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease. In addition, the tenant may sue the landlord for a civil penalty of one month’s rent, $1, 000, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees, minus any rent or other amounts the tenant owes the landlord.
Steps to Eviction There are four specific steps that must be followed to evict someone: 1. 2. 3. 4. The owner must provide Notice to Vacate. The owner must file suit. The owner must provide notice and the tenant has the right to a hearing. If successful at the hearing, the owner must attain a Writ of Possession.
Can a LL change the locks? A landlord may change the locks on a tenant’s door when the rent is delinquent, but only if: The provisions for changing the locks are specified in the lease; AND The landlord has given the tenant advance written warning, that the locks will be changed Three days’ notice if it is hand-delivered or posted. Five days’ notice if mailed. The notice must state: The earliest date that the landlord proposes to changes the locks. The amount of rent the tenant must pay to prevent the changing of the locks; And in underlined or bold print, the tenant’s right to receive a new key, at any hour, regardless of whether the tenant pays the delinquent rent. The landlord is required by law to give the tenant a new key, and the tenant can continue living in the unit. The tenant does not have to pay the rent to get a key. The intended purpose of this law is to allow for a meeting between the landlord and the tenant. A lockout is not an eviction.
How long does it take to evict? 3 days from notice to vacate to filing of suit. 8 -10 days to serve the citation-the law requires the defendant have six days notice before the hearing. 5 days to appeal the suit following the hearing required by law. 2 days-the constable is required by law to post a 24 hour Notice to Vacate on the Writ of Possession. Generally, takes 20 -23 days total.
Hitting the streets You arrive on scene to see two men screaming at each other. Big Bluto the knee -breaker is removing Poor Popeye’s property from his apartment. Popeye tells you that he has fallen on hard times and has been unable to pay the rent or even buy a can of spinach. Emboldened by Popeye’s spinach shortage, Bluto tells you that Popeye can get his stuff out of his apartment or he’ll throw him out. You ask if he has filed for eviction. Bluto tells you he doesn’t need to go through all that, he’s, “fully capable of taking care of this pipsqueak on his own. ” What do you do? Inform Bluto that what he is doing is illegal. He must stop and allow Popeye to remain in the apartment until he has complied with the Texas Property Code. If Bluto fails to comply, you will have no other option but to arrest him. But, for what? Interference with Public Duties is your most likely option. Consider disorderly conduct and others.
How NOT to respond to animal calls. http: //videosift. com/video/Reno-911 -Assistance-Call
Animals The biting dog…criminal or civil? Criminal, if the owner acted with criminal negligence in allowing a dog to bite another person without provocation and it causes serious bodily injury or death Texas Health and Safety Code § 822. 005
Liability for an animal attack… Texas Health and Safety Code § 822. 013 A person who kills a dog or coyote while witnessing an attack is not liable for damages. The owner of the attacked animal who has knowledge of the attacking animal is not liable. An officer also has official immunity if acting within policy and reason.
Foul odor, barking dog, etc… Most animal calls related to nuisances will be regulated by city or county ordinance. See local laws for direction in this area. Remember TPC 49. 02 if you failure to provide appropriate food, water, care, and/or shelter. Advise about small claims court options and inform caller to look at local homeowner’s association rules.
Thank You Please call or e-mail me if you have any questions or concern C. Barrett Thomas, M. C. J. , J. D. Assistant District Attorney 32 nd Judicial District 100 E. Third, Room 201 A Sweetwater, TX 79556 Ph. (325) 235 -8639 -or. The Thomas Firm Ph. (325) 480 -4276 [email protected] com www. thethomasfirm. com