AUSTIN -- The Senate on Monday voted in favor of two bills aimed at making it easier for law enforcement to battle the illegal drug trade.
As violence escalates in the turf war between Mexican drug cartels in northern Mexico, lawmakers on this side of the border are searching for more things the state of Texas can do to hinder them. The bills passed Monday are aimed at cartels finances as well as the means they use to avoid apprehension.
The first bill, SB 1701 by Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands, would give law enforcement more latitude in seizing the assets of drug dealers. While state law permits a judge to order the seizure of property related to illicit drugs, Williams said smart drug dealers try and get around this by disguising those assets.
"The individuals involved in these criminal enterprises are often very savvy and business minded, and are aware that once they are under investigation, their assets might be subject to forfeiture and therefore they take precautions to hide those assets," he said.
Under Williams' bill, if an asset to be seized cannot be located, then a judge could order the seizure of property that is of the same or lesser value.
The other bill, SB 1416 by McAllen Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, is intended to prevent drug runners and other cartel members from using or possessing improvised tire disabling devices. These are often homemade devices designed to be dropped behind a fleeing vehicle into the path of pursuing police officers in order to destroy their tires and aid in escape.
"These devices are very dangerous, not only to law enforcement in pursuit, but also to the general public, because they can cause tires to go flat or have a blow out," Hinojosa said.
His bill would add "tire deflation device" to the list of prohibited weapons along with machine guns, sawn-off shotguns and firearm silencers. Violators of the law could be charged with a third degree felony. Both bills now head to the House for consideration.