Using “Anything” for Civil Disobedience in Texas is a Felony. Six Occupiers Charged.

In Texas, a “criminal instrument” is “anything” used in a crime that the Texas government says is a criminal instrument. The six protesters covered by an inflatable tent in Texas yesterday were charged with using a criminal instrument for the use of lockboxes. This is a state jail felony in Texas, meaning that the arrested occupiers could face up to two years in prison for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Lockboxes are a standard protest tactic popularized originally by the environmental movement. When engaging in the lockbox technique, protesters lock their arms inside of PVC pipe (or a tube made of other material), preventing the police from easily separating them. Protesters who engage in this tactic literally risk life and limb, as police will eventually be ordered to remove them. The only way to remove lockboxed protesters is to cut them apart. It’s not hard to imagine what would happen if a police saw met flesh underneath PVC tube.

Because of the “criminal instrument” law in texas, use of the lockbox technique is a felony. The use of tents for occupations could also be called “criminal instruments” under this law. Literally anything could be considered a criminal instrument under Texas law, because the law says that a criminal instrument is anything modified for “criminal” purposes, including civil disobedience.

§ 16.01. UNLAWFUL USE OF CRIMINAL INSTRUMENT.

(a) A person commits an offense if:
(1) he possesses a criminal instrument with intent to use it in the commission of an offense; or
(2) with knowledge of its character and with intent to use or aid or permit another to use in the commission of an offense, he manufactures, adapts, sells, installs, or sets up a criminal instrument.
(b) For the purpose of this section, “criminal instrument” means anything, the possession, manufacture, or sale of which is not otherwise an offense, that is specially designed, made, or adapted for use in the commission of an offense.
(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is one category lower than the offense intended. An offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a state jail felony.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1975, 64th Leg., p. 913, ch. 342, § 7, eff. Sept. 1, 1975; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, § 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Lockbox Diagram

Diagram of one style of lockbox used in civil disobedience.

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