Many Texans own handguns, rifles, and other weapons for their personal protection or occupations. Despite Texas being known for being a ‘gun-friendly’ state, the state of Texas has many strict weapons laws that regulate what weapons can be legally owned, as well as how, when, and where they are lawfully allowed to be possessed.
Texas weapon laws are complex and constantly changing; new Texas weapons laws were passed as recently as 2019. While this article will provide a general overview of Texas weapon laws and common offenses, there is no way to do so exhaustively. If you are being charged with a weapons offense in Texas, do not wait to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to evaluate your case. Having an attorney early on to investigate the State’s case against you may save you time, money, and life altering penalties down the road.
What are the common types of Texas Weapon Offenses?
While the most recent set of Texas weapons laws passed in 2019 did remove some previous regulations, Texas weapon offenses are still very common, and the penalties are still very severe if convicted.
The most common Texas weapon crimes typically fall under 3 broad categories: Possessing an Illegal Weapon, Unlawful Carry, and Disorderly Conduct involving a Firearm. Of these 3 categories, charges and arrests involving firearms are the most frequent.
Possessing an Illegal Weapon
In Texas, many weapons are considered illegal, including firearms. Under certain conditions, however, such as a license to concealed carry, these weapons can be lawfully possessed.
Other weapons, however, are always illegal to possess. These illegal weapons are typically uncommon and include:
- Machine guns
- Sawed off shotguns
- Armor-piercing ammunition
- Hoax bombs
- Zip guns
- Tire deflation devices
Illegal possession of a weapon in Texas will be charged as a 3rd degree felony, punishable by between 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Additionally, individuals that have been convicted of a prior felony or misdemeanor domestic assault are prohibited from carrying any firearm within 5 years of being released from jail, probation, or prison. Following this 5-year suspension, these individuals may only possess and carry a firearm within their homes.
- Individuals with a prior felony conviction that illegally possess a firearm will be charged with a 3rd degree felony, punishable by between 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
- Individuals with a prior domestic assault conviction that illegally possess a firearm will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
Illegal possession of firearms does not only apply to individuals themselves; you may also be charged if you sell or give your weapon away to certain people that should not have access to firearms.
- Individuals that give or sell a firearm to a convicted felon or an intoxicated person will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
- Individuals that sell or give a handgun to a minor without parental permission will be charged with a state jail felony, punishable by between 180 days to 2 years in state jail and fines of up to $10,000.
Similarly, recklessly possessing a weapon that can get into the hands of a child is also a crime under Texas law.
- Individuals that leave a loaded and unsecured firearm where a child can access it will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $500.
- If as a result of a child gaining access to a loaded and unsecured firearm someone is seriously injured or killed, the owner of the firearm will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
Unlawful Carrying Of A Weapon (UCW)
Recent Texas laws allow for the open carry of long guns without a license, and the concealed carry of handguns with a license, but not vice versa. Nevertheless, there are still many restrictions that circumscribe when, where, and how an individual may carry their weapons. Violating these restrictions ushers in strict penalties, so individuals should know their rights as well as their respective limits.
- Illegally carrying a weapon in Texas is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Excluding license-holders and certain privileged professions, Texas may generally only carry weapons and firearms to their car for transportation purposes, and in your home and places they control.
However, even license-holders are restricted from carrying their otherwise lawful weapons and guns in certain places and at certain events. These laws and restrictions are often subject to change, such as with the recent campus carry changes, so it’s important to stay up to date. If you are being charged with an unlawful carrying weapons offense in Texas, it is never a good idea to rely on information on the internet; contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Gun owners may not carry their guns into churches, hospitals, amusement parks, sporting events, or government meetings.
- Unlawfully carrying in or on these premises is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Additionally, even license-holders may not carry weapons at a business that sells alcohol.
- Unlawfully carrying on such premises is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Disorderly Conduct involving a Firearm
Firearms have the potential to cause real stress and panic in public settings. Individuals that retain their right to own, possess, and even carry firearms are expected to behave in a manner that reflects that responsibility. As such, laws exist specifically against committing disorderly conduct involving a firearm.
- Displaying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000.
- Firing a gun in a public place is generally Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000. However,
- Firing a gun in a public place that is inside of city limits of a town with a population greater than 100,000 people is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and $4,000 in fines.
Other charges and factors to consider…
The illegal possession, carrying, or usage of firearms and other weapons may only result in misdemeanors depending on the circumstances of your case. There are other ways, however, in which firearms may pose a unique and burdensome challenge when dealing with the Texas criminal justice system.
- Using a gun, even if you don’t shoot it, while committing a violence crime may elevate the charge to an aggravated offense. This will effectively make it a 1st degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison.
- Carrying a weapon while committing a non-violent offense may alter or remove your ability to receive probation for that offense.
- Prior offenses play a big role in determining what type of offense you may be charged with, your chances of having your case enhanced or elevated, and how a judge, prosecutor, or even jury will view your record and character.
- Even for misdemeanor charges, future employers may see a gun or weapons charge on your record and associate it with a violent crime, even if no violence was committed. This can make it difficult to maintain and/or seek out employment.
Weapons Offenses may be stressful, time consuming, and intimidating, but there are many areas where your lawyer may be able to strategically weaken the state’s case. Depending on the specifics of your case, certain factors like your occupation, history, and licenses may serve as the foundation for a solid defense strategy. Additionally, false allegations and illegal searches and seizures do occur in Texas weapons cases; a talented criminal defense attorney will be able challenge witnesses, theories, and evidence that will be used against you. Every case is different, so contacting a lawyer early on will give you the best odds of achieving a favorable outcome, whether it be a lesser sentence, a successful trial, alternative sentencing, or even an outright dismissal.
If you are being charged with a Weapons Offense in Texas, do not wait to contact a relentless criminal defense attorney that will fight for you!
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