Although Texans are well-known for the aggressive defense of their rights, the state has laws that prohibit the possession of a firearm in a few specific situations. If you are charged with a firearms violation, take your case at once to a Dallas criminal defense attorney.
Knowing the firearms laws is important for anyone who wants to own or carry a firearm in Texas. What constitutes a firearms violation? If you are charged with a firearms violation, what are your rights? What steps can you take to defend yourself against a firearms violation charge?
If you’ll keep reading, those questions are about to be answered in this brief discussion of Texas gun laws. You’ll also learn where to obtain the legal help you will need if you are charged with any firearms violation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
What Are the Texas Firearms Laws?
Five different Texas laws address the ways a firearm may be illegally possessed and/or carried in this state. If you commit one of these offenses, you may be looking at serious legal difficulties, so you must be advised and represented by the right Dallas weapons crimes attorney:
- carrying a weapon unlawfully
- carrying where a weapon is prohibited
- unlawful carrying at designated locations
- unlawfully possessing a firearm
- possessing a prohibited weapon
How do these crimes differ, what are the penalties for convictions, and how can you defend yourself against one or more of these charges? Keep reading for the answers.
Carrying a Weapon Unlawfully
In Texas, carrying a weapon unlawfully happens when someone is carrying a handgun knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly, and is not on property that he or she owns or controls or is not in transit to a vehicle or a watercraft that he or she owns or controls.
The most common defense against this charge is that the defendant was legally engaged in fishing or hunting. It is not illegal to possess or carry a firearm in a motor vehicle or a watercraft provided that the firearm is concealed.
Carrying a weapon unlawfully is charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to a year in jail and/or a fine of as much as $4,000.
Carrying Where a Weapon Is Prohibited
Carrying where a weapon is not allowed happens when someone takes a firearm onto the premises of:
- a college campus (without a permit)
- a court office or courtroom unless pursuant to written authorization and/or regulations
- a place of execution or within a thousand feet of such a location
- a polling place on the day of an election or during early voting
- a racetrack
- any school or other educational institution
- the secured areas of airports
Carrying where a weapon is prohibited is a felony in the third-degree, punishable with a fine of as much as $10,000 and/or as much as ten years in prison.
Unlawful Carrying at Designated Locations
The illegal carrying of a handgun by a licensed holder happens when a licensed carrier brings a handgun – whether or not it’s in a belt holster or a shoulder holster – to one of these premises:
- locations on college campuses where the college prohibits concealed carry (licensed open carry is banned at all Texas college campuses)
- premises licensed under the Alcoholic Beverage Code
- any Texas hospital, correctional facility, nursing facility, amusement park, or place of worship (if prohibited by a posted notice)
- the meeting of a governmental body subject to the Open Meetings Act (if prohibited by a posted notice)
- while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
With one exception, unlawful carrying of a handgun by a licensed holder on any of these premises is charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to a year in a county jail and/or a fine of as much as $4,000.
The only exception is the unlawful carrying of a handgun by a licensed holder at premises licensed under the Alcoholic Beverage Code or at a correctional facility, which is a felony in the third degree punishable upon conviction with up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of as much as $10,000.
Unlawfully Possessing a Firearm
Unlawfully possessing a firearm happens if someone possesses a firearm within five years of a release from felony parole, felony community supervision, or felony imprisonment. Unlawful possession of a firearm is a felony in the third-degree punishable upon conviction with up to ten years in state prison and/or a fine as high as $10,000.
Beyond the first five years of release from felony parole, felony community supervision, or felony imprisonment, possessing a firearm is still illegal for that offender unless the weapon is possessed only at his or her residential address.
Additionally, it is against the law to possess a firearm within the first five years after release from custody or community supervision for a domestic violence conviction. In these cases, possessing a firearm unlawfully is charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to a year in a Texas county jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
What Weapons Are Prohibited in Texas?
In Texas, it is against the law to transport, possess, manufacture, sell, or repair an explosive device, a short-barrel firearm, a machine gun, or a firearm silencer.
Possession of a prohibited firearm is a felony in the third-degree punishable upon conviction with up to ten years in state prison and/or a fine of as much as $10,000.
What Are the Defenses Against Firearms Charges?
The Constitution doesn’t automatically protect you against a firearms charge. The courts have determined that the Second Amendment is not a defense in these cases. However, a Dallas criminal defense attorney may use one of the following defenses on your behalf:
- Self-defense: If you possessed a firearm when you needed to act in your own defense, you will need testimony from reliable witnesses who can confirm your claim.
- Insufficient evidence: Evidence in firearms cases usually means eyewitness testimony or video evidence. Lacking such evidence, the prosecution’s case against you will be weak, and your lawyer may ask the judge to dismiss the case.
- Violations of your rights: In some firearms cases, police agencies have violated a defendant’s constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Police must obtain a valid search warrant in order to search for and seize a firearm.
Having a good lawyer’s help is one of your most basic legal rights. If you are charged in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with any crime related to possessing or carrying a firearm, exercise that right and speak about your case with a Dallas weapons crimes attorney as quickly as possible.