Posted on 5/28/18

Legal theorists and commentators point out a distinction, generally, between tort law and criminal law. “Torts,” or wrongs, focus on a behavior’s result whereas criminal law focuses on the action. Societal differences, on the most part, dictate this dichotomy. Those who commit torts should be required to redress the injury suffered by the victim. Those who commit criminal law should be punished for acting criminally, with a smaller focus on addressing a victim’s needs.

Criminal law, as opposed to tort law, does not need a victim in every case. Texas law criminalizes “victimless” crimes. Tort law does not punish victimless crimes. In fact, damages are a required element of tort law.

Gun Possession

The Texas Penal Code criminalizes certain types of gun possession and imposes stiff sentences for those who break the law. While Texas has looser gun control laws than other states and it is relatively easy to procure a gun license in Texas, there are situations in which gun possession is illegal. For instance, owning a gun without a license can be a criminal act. Similarly, Texas law bans ownership of so-called “assault weapons.”

A person may have inherited a gun from his or herfather, who inherited it from his father. It may be that the gun was never fired and there is no evidence that the current owner plans on ever using it. The current owner may still be subject to punishment for gun possession if the owner does not have an active gun owner permit.

In contrast, there is no tort for gun possession. A murderer may be held liable for the tort of wrongful death and, if convicted, owe money for wrongful death. However, the plaintiff will not have a cause of action if he or she sues the alleged murderer for gun possession based on a tort theory.


As mentioned, to be liable for a tort action, the tortfeasor must have caused damages. Negligently causing a car crash is reason for a tort suit if there are damages. If the crash was at low speed and it was just a bumper hitting an already-scratched bumper, there is no tort suit. Similarly, suing someone for tortious trespass is rare because even if the person is guilty, he or she only pays nominal damages.

Law of the Parties

In Texas, accomplices are considered to be principals in a crime when a murder occurs, per law of the parties. As a result, the person in a getaway car can be held liable for first degree murder if the murder occurs in the course of committing a crime. This is applicable even if the getaway driver was far from the scene of the crime. Thus, despite not causing the “real” damage, the getaway driver may be liable for criminal murder.

Accused of a crime? You have rights. Speak with a lawyer who is a zealous advocate on behalf of his clients. Speak with the law firm of Christopher Abel.

(image courtesy of Paul Garaizar)


Flower Mound Office

Phone: 972.584.7837

Denton Office