When Freedom Cried Out
The Freedmen's Bureau in Texas




An Act to define the offence of Vagrancy, and to provide for the punishment of Vagrants: 

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas. That a vagrant is hereby declared to be an idle person, living without any means of support, and making no exertions to obtain a livelihood, by any honest employment. All persons who stroll about to tell fortunes, or to exhibit tricks or cheats in public, not licensed by law, common prostitutes and professional gamblers, or persons who keep houses for prostitutes, or for gamblers; persons who go about to beg alms, (and who are not afflicted or disabled by a physical malady or misfortune); and habitual drunkards, who abandon, neglect or refuse to aid in the support of their families, and who may be complained of by their families; or persons who stroll idly about the streets of towns or cities, having no local habitation, and no honest business or employment, each and all of the above and aforesaid classes be, and they are hereby declared vagrants, coming with the meaning of this Act.

Sec. 2. The County Courts, Justices of the Peace, and Mayors or Recorders of incorporated towns and cities, shall have power to order the arrest of vagrants, and to try the offence provided for by this Act.

Sec. 3. A peace officer shall arrest a vagrant, and bring him or her before the Court or magistrate issuing the warrant, as herein provided for; and, if no peace officer can be conveniently procured, the warrant may be directed to any private person, who shall execute and return the warrant according to law.

Sec. 4. When a person arrested is brought before a court or magistrate, it shall be the duty of such court or magistrate to proceed to ascertain, by evidence, whether or not the accused is a vagrant within the meaning of this Act; and, if found guilty, he shall be fined in any sum not more than ten dollars.

Sec. 5. The accused shall, in every instance, if he demand it, be entitled to the right of trial by jury.

Sec. 6. In cases of conviction, the defendant shall not be released from custody until the fine and costs are paid; which, if not done within a reasonable time, to be judged of by the officer, the accused shall be put at such labor, and in such manner, as the Police Court of the county, or municipal authorities of towns and cities shall provide; and a vagrant who is so put to work, after conviction as aforesaid, shall not be released therefrom, until the fine and costs have been satisfied, at the rate of one dollar per day.

Sec. 8. A warrant may issue for the arrest of vagrants by the Judge of the County Court, or by a magistrate, and mayor or recorder, of their own motion, or on complaint, in writing, by some credible person, charging the offence.

Sec. 8. The Police Courts of the respective counties, and the municipal authorities of towns and cities, shall, at stated periods, make regulations prescribing the klnd of work at which vagrants are to be employed. And should any vagrant refuse to work, after conviction and failure to pay fine and costs, he or she shall be lodged in jail, and placed in close confinement, on bread and water, until he or she may consent to work; and the period spent in jail shall not be computed in estimating the time for satisfying the fine and costs.

 Sec. 9. Youthful and juvenile vagrants shall be sent before the Police Court, to be bound out, under the Act regulating Apprentices; Provided, that the fines and penalties prescribed in this Act shall conform to the provisions of the Criminal Code in relation to the same offences.

Sec. 10. All laws and parts of laws, in conflict with the provisions of this Act be, and the same are hereby repealed.

Approved November 8th, 1866

  Extracted from Gammel's The Laws of Texas