Price Gouging as Texans Prepare to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus
Price gouging is illegal, and a disaster declaration triggers tough penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Texans who believe they've encountered price gouging should contact the Texas Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection.
1. “Does a charging instrument that does not identify the defendant by name, but which is preceded by a caption that does identity the defendant by name, meet the jurisdictional requirement that a charging instrument name a ‘person’ as required by article V, §12(b) of the Texas Constitution?”
2. “Whether Cook v. State is outdated in light of Teal v. State and Kirkpatrick v. State?”
Jenkins was charged with continuous trafficking of persons. On the second day of trial, he argued for the first time that the indictment failed to charge a “person,” as required by the Texas Constitution. The caption included the words “Defendant: DEONDRE J JENKINS,” but there was no reference to his name in the body of the indictment (or after the words “In the name and by the authority…), only the allegation that “the defendant” committed the elements of the offense. The trial court denied Jenkins’s motion to dismiss, and he was convicted.
On appeal, Jenkins argued the trial court lacked jurisdiction because of the indictment defect, and the court of appeals agreed. Although most indictment defects are waived if not raised pre-trial, the Texas Constitution provides that jurisdiction vests upon the filing of “a written instrument presented to a court…charging a person with the commission of an offense.” Tex. Const. art. V, § 12(b). In Cook v. State, 902 S.W.2d 471 (Tex. Crim. App. 1995), the Court of Criminal Appeals held that an indictment that merely alleged that the “defendant” had committed an offense without referring to him by name failed to charge “a person,” was not an indictment in the constitutional sense, and thus did not vest jurisdiction in the trial court.
The State argues that more recent caselaw has supplanted Cook. Under Teal v. State, 230 S.W.3d 172 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007), an indictment is constitutionally sufficient to allege “an offense” if the trial court and defendant can determine, looking at the indictment as a whole, that the State was intending to prosecute a specific penal code provision that the district court has subject-matter jurisdiction over. And in Kirkpatrick v. State, 279 S.W.3d 324 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009), the Court relied on information in the caption to conclude that the tampering indictment met the Teal test. The State contends that because the constitutional requisites of an indictment have been met, error in failing to include Jenkins’ name in the formal charging language was mere statutory error that he forfeited by failing to object before trial.