Ahead of this legislative session some state senators are fighting to reform futile laws that many Texans aren’t even aware of, but could still land them in hot water.
One such reform came from State Sen. Konni Burton, who is pushing to prohibit arrests for fine-only crimes. But the latest example is from Vice Chairman of both the Nominations and Sunset Advisory Committees State Sen. Van Taylor, who filed Senate Bill 350 to, “[T]he repeal of certain laws regulating the sale or transfer of secondhand watches.”
While it may seem trivial, it’s not. Frivolous laws such as this criminalize innocuous behavior and make unsuspecting people, who may simply be selling an old family heirloom or an unwanted gift, a criminal.
Over-criminalization is not something to be taken lightly: very often those who find themselves at the mercy of the justice system for one of these “criminal” activities don’t have the resources – financially or otherwise – to fight back.
SB 350, dubbed the “It’s About Time Act,” is strictly aimed at repealing the law that criminalizes the failure to clearly label and display a tag that says the watch is secondhand.
The bill comes as the result of a Gov. Greg Abbott appointed review commission led by District Court Judge-elect Andrea Stroh Thompson of the 416th court.
Stroh Thompson’s commission was tasked with reviewing obsolete crimes still in statute. Many of these laws are duplicative and covered in other statutes while others are simply outdated, such as the Austin ordinance prohibiting the carrying of wire cutters in your pocket.
The bill that spurred secondhand watch regulations came in 1941, during the 47th legislature.
H.B. 118 said that anyone selling, displaying, or offering a watch with the intent to sell must have a clearly displayed tag at all times with the word “Secondhand.” The invoice must also have the word on it, in bigger typeface, and has to be kept for five years readily available for inspection by the county or district attorney during business hours.
The author deemed the bill so important that it was passed as an emergency item to, “protect the public from the deception and fraud so practiced upon them by the sale of secondhand watches.” Taylor said the bill came in response to a nationwide spike in counterfeiting.
The penalty that could be applied for breaking this law is up to 100 days in county jail, a $500 fine, or both.
Since few people pay attention to these laws today as they routinely sell secondhand watches on online marketplaces, Taylor said, “Bad laws shouldn’t be ignored, they should be repealed – especially if they have criminal penalties associated with them.”
Municipalities across the state, and the state itself, have outdated and unnecessary ordinances and laws that merit a second look, or repeal. While many go unenforced, having them on the books with criminal penalties attached could spell disaster for someone who unknowingly find themselves in violation.
Taylor is taking the right approach by fighting to repeal this outdated law before it has the chance to find an unsuspecting victim.