Coronavirus in Texas: False Alarm and Terrorist Threat Arrests

Coronavirus molecules over dark background.

Q: How is the coronavirus crisis impacting crime in Texas?

El Paso DWI attorneys have seen what auto insurance experts predicted— that the coronavirus stay-at-home directives would result in a decrease in drunk driving cases during the lockdown period. In fact, AutoInsurance.org predicted the “biggest driving while impaired drops [will be] in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic” with a projected 33% decline in Texas. 

While a decrease in DUI and DWI cases is a welcome benefit from the global pandemic, there’s been an uptick in arrests for other behavior in Texas.

Can I get arrested for my social media posts about coronavirus?

Texas criminal defense attorneys are seeing an increase in arrests of people who have allegedly used social media to lie and/or boast about having and/or spreading the coronavirus. 

In one case early on in the pandemic, a man reportedly posted on Facebook that he had contracted the virus and that he was told, “the deadly contagion had evolved to spread even more easily than it already does”. According to authorities, the post generated a public panic and a “slew of emergency calls to local law-enforcement, medical, and emergency management authorities in East Texas” that required responses. 

The 23-year-old man was reportedly charged with “making a false alarm” under Texas Penal Code 42.06–a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a potential fine of $4,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

In another case, an 18-year-old Texas woman was arrested after she allegedly took to Snapchat and implied that she had the virus and reportedly “boasted about spreading the deadly bug”. 

Her videos reportedly showed a testing site nurse advising her to go home and wait for results, followed by expletive-laden videos of her shopping at a Walmart, coughing, and threatening viewers about “infesting everyone” and offering to “meet up with them to shorten their lives”. She was reportedly arrested and charged with “making a terrorist threat, a third-degree felony”.

The pandemic is causing unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress and many people may find their actions and words–whether intentional pranks or moments of bad judgment–can result in serious criminal charges. If so, we are here for you.

If you have been arrested or expect to be charged with a felony or misdemeanor in the state of Texas, the Benjamin Law Firm can help you. Contact us for a consultation

From our office in El Paso, we represent clients throughout Texas in a wide range of criminal offenses in state and federal court. We believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty and we’ll treat you with respect regardless of the charges against you.

Posted in: Criminal Defense