HB 823 represents the first time a presumption has been crafted in favor of a defendant in the modern penal code of Texas. The presumption applies unless the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts giving rise to the presumption do not exist. If the state fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts giving rise to the presumption do not exist, the jury must find that the presumed fact exists. By enacting this evidentiary standard in conjunction with the presumption, the legislation is intended to have the practical effect of preventing in the first place the arrest of citizens who meet the newly specified prerequisites of being a presumed traveler.
It should be noted that the very real problem of citizens having to prove their innocence after arrest by the assertion of their right to carry a firearm while traveling was the reason for a 1997 legislative change which replaced the "defense" of traveling with a classification of the statute of UCW as instead entirely "inapplicable" to a traveler. This change was well-intentioned but did not have the intended effect of protecting honest citizens from potential arrest because the term "traveling" was still left to individual police or judicial officials to define on a case-by-case basis. As a consequence, law-abiding citizens who availed themselves of their right to have a handgun while traveling continued to face arrest and often later prevailed only in a court of law after proving that they were indeed traveling.
In enacting HB 823, the 79th legislature, like all previous legislatures, declined to define traveling as a narrow set of particular circumstances. For example, to require someone to have an overnight stay in a journey in order to be classified as a traveler would be unfair to persons traveling great distances in one day. Likewise, a requirement that a citizen be "crossing county lines" may make no sense, such as in areas of Texas where travelers drive hundreds of miles without leaving a single county. Moreover, the ability of police to elicit such evidence and consistently apply its subjective terms on the street in a traffic stop has not proven practical, at all. The new statute instead focuses on a defined set of relevant, objective facts that are capable of being determined on the spot by law officers.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Representative Terry Keel's press release on HB823
NRA-ILA has this press release from Representative Terry Keel (Austin):