While much of the criminal justice system targets illegal acts committed against individuals (such as identity theft) or the government (such as tax or Medicare fraud), there is a class of offenses known as “public safety” crimes focused on activities that cause harm to the public at large. While some public safety crimes are relatively minor in terms of possible punishment, others can lead to serious consequences. In any case, to avoid having a conviction on your permanent record, it is advisable to seek legal representation.
Examples of Public Safety Crimes
Disorderly conduct that puts other people at risk of danger is typically charged as a public safety offense. Some examples of criminal disorderly conduct under Texas law include:
- Discharging a firearm in public or near a private residence (other than at a shooting range)
- Displaying a firearm or other weapon in public in order to cause alarm
- Getting into a fight in a public place
- Threatening or abusing another person in public
- Using abusive language or making offensive gestures in a public place that may lead to a breach of the peace
Providing Alcohol or Drugs to Minors
For public safety reasons, it is illegal to provide drugs or alcohol to minors. Specific laws vary from state to state, but those who sell or give alcohol or tobacco to minors can expect to face fines and possible jail time. For example, here in Texas, selling alcohol to a minor with “criminal negligence” is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
Vagrancy and Loitering Laws
Most states have laws against various forms of vagrancy and loitering. From urinating in public to engaging in prostitution, these laws are used to combat a wide range of activities considered to endanger public safety.
While the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, state governments still have the authority to place certain limits on the possession, use, and display of firearms. For example, in Texas convicted felons are prohibited from owning guns for a period of time, and purchasing or selling an illegal weapon can lead to criminal charges.
What to Do if You Have Been Arrested for a Public Safety Crime
If you have been cited or arrested for a public safety crime, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case. You should not talk to the police, and you do not want to miss your court date. These can both significantly harm your chances of negotiating a favorable plea or having your charges dismissed.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation at The Criminal Defense Firm
For more information about what to do if you have been charged with a public safety crime, we invite you to contact us for a complimentary case evaluation. To speak with one of our experienced criminal lawyers for free, call 866-603-4540 or contact us online today.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.