Consider the Texas Child Safety Laws found here: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/TN/htm/TN.545.htm#545.412

It says in one place:

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person was operating the vehicle in an emergency or for a law enforcement purpose.

And a little lower it says:

(b) It is a defense to prosecution of an offense to which this section applies that the defendant provides to the court evidence satisfactory to the court that:

(1) at the time of the offense:

(A) the defendant was not arrested or issued a citation for violation of any other offense;

(B) the defendant did not possess a child passenger safety seat system in the vehicle; and

(C) the vehicle the defendant was operating was not involved in an accident; and

(2) subsequent to the time of the offense, the defendant obtained an appropriate child passenger safety seat system for each child required to be secured in a child passenger safety seat system under Section 545.412(a).

Is "it is a defense to the prosecution" something that just suggests that the judge may, at his or her discretion, rule in favor of the defendant when s/he meets the conditions, or is this saying that the defendant, under the law, should definitely not be held guilty when proving these conditions were met?

In the first example, I would expect the defendant to be not guilty even if brought to court on multiple occasions. In the latter example, I would assume the defendant would only be let off the hook the first time but that s/he would be guilty in subsequent cases.

So to me common sense dictates that "it is a defense to the prosecution" is not a binding statement that requires the defendant be let off the hook but rather than it's at the discretion of the judge, but I just wanted to verify that this is accurate.

1 Answer 1


A “defense to prosecution” is a total affirmative defense

If the defendant can prove (on the balance of probabilities) that the circumstances in the defense hold then they are not guilty.

  • Okay, just one more thing for clarification. Say someone owns a car seat but his wife has it in her car. So he goes to the store (not an emergency) with his kid using the regular seat belt and happens to get a citation for not using a proper car seat but has no other violations (i.e. otherwise meets all conditions of the latter example). So after the citation he shows the court that he has procured a child seat and so is not guilty. From what you say, my understanding is that this scenario could happen more than once and he would continue to be not guilty. Is that accurate?
    – BVernon
    Mar 16, 2020 at 1:52
  • 1
    Yes, this is known in legal circles as piss-poor legal drafting; happens all the time.
    – Dale M
    Mar 16, 2020 at 2:02
  • If I read your post accurately, it required "subsequent" purchase of a car seat. So I guess they would have bought another car seat every time they got a ticket. Mar 16, 2020 at 17:52

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