The bill would expand the federal definition of “official oppression” to ban federal employees from improperly touching a person’s private areas. Violations would constitute a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.
Another major revision changes the proposed standard for conducting searches from “probable cause” to “reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing. The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas said a “probable cause” standard would unduly restrict law enforcement searches.
But, conversely, supporters of the original bill said permitting “reasonable suspicion” as a basis for airport screening allowed a more relaxed standard that would give TSA agents broad latitude to conduct pat-downs. The bill applies to searches involving people seeking access to public buildings or transportation.
By passing the bill, the “Texas Legislature is not only telling the (Transportation Security Administration) to change their policies – we’re telling the Obama Administration that we will not be intimidated and we will vigorously defend our Constitutional rights,” Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said in a statement.
AUSTIN, Texas – Legislation to make enhanced airport security pat-downs a crime if they involve touching a passenger’s “private” areas was approved by the Texas House and Senate on Monday.
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“We’ve been working with the Attorney General’s office from the very beginning to ensure that the bill will accomplish our goal of stopping the humiliation of travelers while also maintaining language that will withstand judicial scrutiny,” Simpson said in a statement on Monday.The major change in the House’s amended bill, Simpson said, is a requirement that the TSA agent have “reasonable suspicion” before conducting an enhanced pat-down, a less stringent standard than the “probable cause” in the original measure.
The requirement to have probable cause before frisking an individual caused concern among Texas police officers, afraid it would make it more difficult to conduct routine searches of suspects — and not just in airports.
“We’re concerned about the entire jump to probable cause,” said Charley Wilkison, the chief lobbyist for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which represents police organizations. “We’re concerned about officers not being able to do their jobs.”
The revised House bill also includes a provision prohibiting prosecution of a TSA officer if the officer’s actions are “pursuant to and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.”