Tampering with railroad property is prohibited by law. Consequences range from fines to prison time. Tampering includes putting obstructions on railroad tracks. It also includes causing the derailment of property that moves on the railroad tracks, the derailment of a railroad car, or the derailment of an entire train. Entering or remaining on railroad property, without the consent of the owner, while knowing it is railroad property, can also be considered tampering. Finally, throwing things at trains or at rail-mounted work equipment, as well as discharging a firearm can constitute tampering.
Railroad property includes trains, railroad cars, and cabooses. It also includes work equipment, safety devices, switches, and other connections, as well as rolling stock. It does not matter if the railroad owns, leases, or merely operates the equipment. Railroad property also includes railroad tracks, rails, bridges, trestles, and other right-of-ways either owned or used by the railroad.
Interfering with railroad property is an offense which can be charged as a Class C misdemeanor, the least serious offense under Texas law, to a felony in the first degree, which is one of the state’s most serious crimes. The consequences of this offense are based on the amount of loss incurred by the conduct. Further, consequences can be dictated by the amount of injury a person sustains as a result of the railroad tampering. Conviction of a Class C misdemeanor can result in a fine up to $500. A felony in the first degree, on the other hand, calls for a minimum prison sentence of five years.
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(a) In this section:
(1) “Railroad property” means:
(A) a train, locomotive, railroad car, caboose, work equipment, rolling stock, safety device, switch, or connection that is owned, leased, operated, or possessed by a railroad; or
(B) a railroad track, rail, bridge, trestle, or right-of-way owned or used by a railroad.
(2) “Tamper” means to move, alter, or interfere with railroad property.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) throws an object or discharges a firearm or weapon at a train or rail-mounted work equipment; or
(2) without the effective consent of the owner:
(A) enters or remains on railroad property, knowing that it is railroad property;
(B) tampers with railroad property;
(C) places an obstruction on a railroad track or right-of-way; or
(D) causes in any manner the derailment of a train, railroad car, or other railroad property that moves on tracks.
(c) An offense under Subsection (b)(1) is a Class B misdemeanor unless the person causes bodily injury to another, in which event the offense is a felony of the third degree.
(d) An offense under Subsection (b)(2)(A) is a Class C misdemeanor.
(e) An offense under Subsection (b)(2)(B), (b)(2)(C), or (b)(2)(D) is a Class C misdemeanor unless the person causes pecuniary loss, in which event the offense is:
(1) a Class B misdemeanor if the amount of pecuniary loss is $20 or more but less than $500;
(2) a Class A misdemeanor if the amount of pecuniary loss is $500 or more but less than $1,500;
(3) a state jail felony if the amount of pecuniary loss is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000;
(4) a felony of the third degree if the amount of the pecuniary loss is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000;
(5) a felony of the second degree if the amount of pecuniary loss is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or
(6) a felony of the first degree if the amount of the pecuniary loss is $200,000 or more.
(f) The conduct described in Subsection (b)(2)(A) is not an offense under this section if it is undertaken by an employee of the railroad or by a representative of a labor organization which represents or is seeking to represent the employees of the railroad as long as the employee or representative has a right to engage in such conduct under the Railway Labor Act (45 U.S.C. Section 151 et seq.).