BEAUMONT, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act into law which creates new criminal penalties for catalytic converter thefts.
The bill, which goes into effect immediately, was inspired by Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Darren Almendarez, who authorities said was shot and killed while trying to stop three suspects from stealing his catalytic converter in a grocery store parking lot in March 2022.
The Deputy Darren Almendarez Act creates new criminal penalties for catalytic converter thefts and gives prosecutors the flexibility to treat the thefts as organized crime. It was authored by Houston Democrat Sen. Carol Alvarado.
“I think it’s something that needed to be done, these people need to be held accountable for their actions” said Manager at Humane Society of Southeast Texas, Taylor Westphal.
Westphal remembers how he and staff of the humane society felt when thieves stole catalytic converters off the shelter’s vehicles in April and October of 2022.
“They stole the catalytic converter off of our van originally,” said Westphal. “We had some plans to get fencing to keep people out and, in that process, they came back again and stole it from the truck and the van.”
Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll said it's a huge help to officers aiming to stop the rising trend of catalytic convert thefts in Southeast Texas.
Depending on the amount of loss caused by the theft, under the bill, catalytic converter theft may be a Class C, B or A misdemeanor (loss of $100 to $2,500); a state jail felony (loss of more than $2,500 but less than $30,000); or a third-degree, second-degree or first-degree felony (loss of $30,000 to $300,000 or more). For a more thorough breakdown, read the full bill.
"Also, before we had to identify where the catalytic converter came from. We had to get up under the vehicle and match it to where it was cut. If you catch an individual going down the road and he has three catalytic converters in the back seat of his vehicle that is not common," Carroll said.
Southeast Texas Attorney Ryan Gertz says a state jail felony carries between six months to two years in state jail.
Chief Carroll says repairs could costs hundreds and even thousands of dollars and it’s usually not covered by insurance.
He hopes this new law will help reduce the amount of catalytic converter thefts in the area.