Texas Law on Abuse of a Corpse

Texas Law on Abuse of a Corpse

Even in death, everyone deserves consideration, compassion, and affection. When someone we care about dies, we want to ensure their remains are handled with the utmost respect. Many families spend a lot of money to ensure this.

Unfortunately, some people who are supposed to handle and prepare bodies for burial don’t treat them with the respect they deserve. This is called corpse desecration, and it’s a serious crime in Texas. Those responsible could end up spending years in jail and paying hefty fines. Not only that, but they might also face lawsuits from the families of the deceased.

While it may be uncomfortable, it is essential for the general public to have a clear understanding of these laws. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the rules around abusing a corpse in Texas, examining the legal consequences and possible defenses.

How Texas Law Defines Abuse of a Corpse

In the current Texas legal framework, the offense of Abuse of Corpse is outlined in Penal Code Section §42.08 as follows:

(a) A person commits this offense if, without legal authority, they knowingly:

(1) disinterring, disturbing, damaging, dissects, whole or part, carries away, or treats in an offensive manner a human corpse

(2) Conceal a human corpse or cremate its remains, knowing it was illegally disinterred.

(3) Engage in selling or buying a human corpse.

(4) Transfer or facilitate the transfer of a human corpse outside the state; or

(5) Vandalizes, damages, or treats in an offensive manner the space where the human corpse has been laid to rest permanently.

In this part, the term “human corpse” covers:

  1. Any part of a human body.
  2. Cremated human remains, often referred to as ashes,.
  3. Any part of the ashes from a cremated human body.

Corpse Abuse in Texas Legal Penalties

In 2014, the stakes heightened for mishandling a deceased individual’s body. If someone is proven guilty under this law, it’s treated as a Class A misdemeanor, and they could be sentenced to a maximum of one year in county jail with a fine of up to $4,000.

In the spring of 2017, legislators approved Senate Bill 524, elevating the charge of corpse abuse to a state jail felony. This entails potential penalties of six months to two years in a state jail facility and a fine of up to $10,000 for individuals convicted of the offense.

Legal Defenses if Charged with Abuse of a Corpse

If charged with the abuse of a corpse in Texas, building a solid defense is crucial. Here are some customized defense strategies that a criminal defense attorney might consider:

  1. Challenge Intent or Knowledge:
    Argue that there was no intention or knowledge to abuse the corpse. Show evidence that the accused did not knowingly or deliberately commit the alleged actions, emphasizing any lack of malicious intent.
  2. Dispute False Accusations:
    Investigate the circumstances surrounding the accusation. Look for any signs of misunderstandings, personal disputes, or false motives that may have led to the charges. Uncovering such elements could cast doubt on the credibility of the accusations.
  3. Examine Procedural Errors:
    Scrutinize the legal procedures followed during the investigation and arrest. Any violations of constitutional rights, mishandling of evidence, or procedural errors could be grounds for a dismissal or reduction of charges.
  4. Mental Health Considerations:
    If applicable, explore the mental state of the accused at the time of the alleged offense. Taking mental health issues into account could serve as a factor in reducing the severity of the sentence or exploring alternative resolutions.
  5. Funeral Home Compliance:
    If the accused has ties to a funeral home or mortuary, make sure to actively follow the regulations set by the Texas Funeral Service Commission. Proving adherence to industry standards could bolster the defense, especially if the alleged actions occurred within the scope of professional duties.

Remember, each case is unique, and the effectiveness of a defense strategy depends on the specific facts and circumstances. It is crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can tailor a defense strategy based on the details of the case.