88th Legislation Session: 2023

July 7, 2023

Senate Bill 224: Deputy Darren Almendarez Act

The Governor signed Senate Bill 224 (Deputy Darren Almendarez Act) into law.  The law increases the offense for illegally obtaining a catalytic converter to a felony and increases the penalty if the actor uses a firearm when stealing a device.

Effective, July 1, 2023, a Metal Recycling Entity (MRE) will be required to maintain a fixed location for each Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued certificate of registration.  A fixed location is a structure or facility that:
1.    is attached to real property;
2.    has a fixed geographic location with a physical address; and
3.    is used wholly or partly to conduct regulated activity as an MRE.

The bill text states that if an individual is in possession of property consisting of one or more catalytic converters that have been removed from a motor vehicle, it is presumed to have unlawfully appropriated the property unless the individual:

(A)  is the owner, as defined by Section 601.002, Transportation Code, of each vehicle from which the catalytic converters were removed; or
(B)  possesses the catalytic converters in the ordinary course of the actor's business, including in the ordinary course of business of an entity described by Section 1956.123(1), Occupations Code

Below are the new penalties under this law:
1.    If the stolen value is less than $30,000, it is considered a state jail felony.
2.    If the value exceeds $30,000, the offense can be upgraded to a third-degree felony.
3.    If the value exceeds $150,000, it becomes a second-degree felony.
4.    If the value exceeds $300,000, it becomes a first-degree felony.

The penalties increase if the individual is caught in possession of a firearm.

In order for an MRE to obtain a catalytic converter, MREs must document the year, make, model, and vehicle identification number for the vehicle from which the catalytic converter was removed and a copy of documentation proving that the person has an ownership interest in that vehicle.

S.B. 224 requires an MRE to preserve each catalytic converter record until the second anniversary of the date the record was made and requires the records to be maintained in an easily retrievable format and to be available for inspection not later than 72 hours after the time of purchase or acquisition. The bill creates a Class A misdemeanor offense for an MRE that intentionally or knowingly fails to maintain a record as is required.

Also, the bill requires all MREs registered on the bill's effective date to submit a declaration to the DPS not later than October 1, 2023.  DPS is currently working to develop a form and update the Texas Online Metals database to accommodate this declaration.

The law also requires a new applicant for an MRE certificate of registration to submit a declaration describing the extent to which the applicant intends to engage in transactions involving catalytic converters removed from motor vehicles in the course of the applicant's business activity. This provision applies only to an application submitted on or after January 1, 2024.

The bill requires a person seeking to renew their certificate of registration to update the declaration submitted with their initial application. The declaration must be updated any time the business activity substantially changes in the extent to which the entity engages in transactions involving catalytic converters removed from motor vehicles.

S.B. 224 prohibits an MRE from purchasing or otherwise acquiring a catalytic converter that was removed from a motor vehicle from a public utility; a telecommunications provider; a cable service provider; a video service provider; or a manufacturing, industrial, commercial, retail, or other seller that sells regulated material in the ordinary course of the seller's business, unless each of the following conditions is satisfied:
A.    the person selling the catalytic converter to the metal recycling entity acquired it in the ordinary course of the person's business, including in the ordinary course of business of any of the following entities:
1.    an automotive wrecking and salvage yard;
2.    a registered metal recycling entity;
3.    a licensed motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, converter, or dealer, including any department of a dealer or converter that repairs or services motor vehicles;
4.    a shop or garage that is engaged in the business of repairing motor vehicles;
5.    a licensed used automotive parts recycler;
6.    a motor vehicle demolisher;
7.    a school or training program in which students are provided instruction on building, repairing, or restoring motor vehicles;
8.    a law enforcement agency;
9.    the National Insurance Crime Bureau;
10.    a business that is located in and regulated by another state or a political subdivision of another state and engaged in an activity for which any of the above businesses are regulated by the State of Texas or a political subdivision thereof; or
11.    a business that is located in a jurisdiction outside the United States and operated in a business form recognized by the laws of that jurisdiction and that imports catalytic converters into the United States in accordance with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States published by the U.S. International Trade Commission.
B.    any individual acting on behalf of that person has apparent authority to enter into the transaction and is acting in the scope of that authority.
Related to “B.” above, MREs should ensure that any employee or contractor who is transporting catalytic converters removed from motor vehicles (or any other regulated material) on behalf of the entity is in possession of documentation reflecting that the individual is an employee or independent contractor acting on behalf of the entity.  It is recommended that documentation include the MRE’s name and Certificate of Registration number, physical address, and contact information including a phone number that can be used to verify the individual’s employment with the entity.   
Finally, S.B. 224 requires an MRE to permit a peace officer, a DPS representative, or a representative of a political subdivision that issues a metal recycling license or permit, on request, to enter the entity's premises during the entity's usual business hours and inspect a catalytic converter record.
Link to Bill:  88(R) SB 224 - Enrolled version (texas.gov)
Link to more detailed analysis:  SB00224H (texas.gov)