Texas Penal Code 42.055 – Funeral Service Disruptions
WHAT IS FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against funeral disruption prohibits picketing within 1,000 feet of a facility or cemetery used for a funeral service three hours before and after the service begins and ends.
- What is picketing? Texas Penal Code Section 42.055 defines “picketing” as “standing, sitting, or repeated walking, riding, driving, or other similar action by a person displaying or carrying a banner, placard, or sign.” It also includes “loud singing, chanting, whistling, or yelling, with or without noise amplification through a device such as a bullhorn or microphone.” Such conduct may not be completely outlawed in all circumstances, but may be regulated.
WHAT IS THE FUNERAL DISRUPTION LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 42.055. FUNERAL SERVICE DISRUPTIONS.
(b) A person commits an offense if, during the period beginning three hours before the service begins and ending three hours after the service is completed, the person engages in picketing within 1,000 feet of a facility or cemetery being used for a funeral service.
(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.
Tex. Penal Code § 42.04. DEFENSE WHEN CONDUCT CONSISTS OF SPEECH OR OTHER EXPRESSION.
(a) If conduct that would otherwise violate Section 42.01(a)(5) (Unreasonable Noise), 42.03 (Obstructing Passageway), or 42.055 (Funeral Service Disruptions) consists of speech or other communication, of gathering with others to hear or observe such speech or communication, or of gathering with others to picket or otherwise express in a nonviolent manner a position on social, economic, political, or religious questions, the actor must be ordered to move, disperse, or otherwise remedy the violation prior to his arrest if he has not yet intentionally harmed the interests of others which those sections seek to protect.
(b) The order required by this section may be given by a peace officer, a fireman, a person with authority to control the use of the premises, or any person directly affected by the violation.
(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Section 42.01(a)(5), 42.03, or 42.055:
(1) that in circumstances in which this section requires an order no order was given;
(2) that an order, if given, was manifestly unreasonable in scope; or
(3) that an order, if given, was promptly obeyed.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS?
Funeral disruption is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in county jail.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS?
Funeral disruption, a Class B misdemeanor, carries up to 180 days in jail, and up to a $2,000 fine.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS?
A person charged with funeral disruption may be eligible for probation after a conviction, or deferred adjudication without a conviction, for a maximum period of two years.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS?
Texas law authorizes a defense for disrupting a funeral service, which also applies to prosecutions for obstructing a highway, and disorderly conduct by unreasonable noise. If the disruption consists of speech or expression, such as a nonviolent protest, police must first tell protestors to stop the disruption. A person arrested for the disruption may defend himself or herself by arguing that a warning was required, and either none was given, or the warning given was obeyed or unreasonable.
- Is the funeral disruption law constitutional? While no court has discussed the constitutionality of the Texas funeral disruption statute, the law follows the limits set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Snyder v. Phelps as “content-neutral” regulations. The statute addressed the widespread protesting of fallen soldiers’ funerals by the Wesboro Baptist Church and its radical activists by creating a buffer zone and reasonable time limits, rather than outlawing the protests altogether. See Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443 (2011).
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for funeral disruption, a Class B misdemeanor, is two years.
FUNERAL DISRUPTION IN TEXAS
The law against disrupting funeral services was enacted to address the picketing of military funerals. Any protesters are prohibited from picketing within 1,000 feet of the funeral location three hours prior to the funeral, and three hours after it ends.
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