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Summary: Some parties note that stalking and harassment are similar yet do not overlap in Texas law. HB 1606 seeks to change this.
Analysis: We support efforts to clean up the code and provide clarity. Section 1 of HB 1606 cleans up the harassment section of the Penal Code. We believe this is a step in the right direction. Additionally, we believe stalking and harassment are objectionable offenses. Both of these offenses are criminal under current Texas law. However, we have some concerns about this bill.
Stalking and harassment are currently separate under Texas law. Stalking exclusively involves similar, repeated acts and the belief that the stalker will cause bodily harm or a property offense. Harassment involves a single act of calling someone anonymously and repeatedly, calling someone and silently staying on the phone, or allowing an individual to use one's phone for harassment among other acts. These offenses are separate for good reason. Joining them together causes the penalty for multiple acts of harassment to increase from a Class B misdemeanor to a third degree felony.
HB 1606 is a case of overcriminalization. An adolescent who calls another adolescent multiple times and stays on the phone silently should not be a felon. Such a prank may be very annoying, but not worthy of a felony. Texas has one of the largest prison populations in the nation. HB 1606 would add to that problem. Inmates cost the taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Truly violent individuals are the ones that belong in prison and deserve to have the label of felon, not careless adolescents or pranksters. For these reasons, we recommend amending HB 1606 to strike Section 2 of the bill. If Section 2 of this bill remains, we will remain opposed.