Weapons Crimes in Texas
Encounters with police can often lead to a weapons charge if you are in possession of a weapon law enforcement believes you should not have, so it is important to be aware of your rights and what constitutes a weapons crime in Texas. Give us a call at 817.810.9395 for more information regarding weapons crimes.
Weapons offenses in Texas can include many different crimes. The charge may be based on the classification of the weapon, a prohibited place, or a prohibited weapon. Illegally carrying or possessing a weapon, improperly discharging a firearm, or using a gun or weapon during the commission of a crime are just a few ways you can find yourself facing a weapons charge. The State of Texas takes these cases seriously, therefore if you are arrested or charged with one of these offenses, you should seek the counsel of a qualified Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer.
Unlawful Carrying of Weapon in Texas
It is illegal for you to carry a concealed handgun in Texas unless you have a state concealed handgun license, except under certain circumstances. You can carry a weapon in your car if it is not in plain view. In addition to firearms, Texas Penal Code Section 46.05 (a) includes other weapons such as clubs and illegal knives—those with blades longer than five and a half inches.
Unlawful carrying a weapon (UCW) in Texas is a Class A Misdemeanor that carries a punishment range of 0-1 year in county jail and up to a $4000 fine. If you carry the weapon to prohibited places, you can face a felony charge. It is a Third Degree Felony to carry a weapon to a school, a business that sells alcohol, a polling place on election day, to court, a racetrack or the secured area of an airport. Texas Penal Code Section 46.03 explains that these places are enhanced from a misdemeanor to a felony with a punishment range of 2 to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Probation and deferred adjudication are possible for these offenses as well, but possible outcomes to your weapons charge should be discussed with a criminal defense lawyer.
Which Weapons are Illegal to Possess in Texas?
Texas Penal Code Section 46.05 outlines Prohibited Weapons. A “person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs or sells” the following:
- Explosive Device (bomb) – this includes explosive or combustible devices made to cause serious bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage. It’s also an offense if the explosive device is made to cause noise that would lead to “undue public alarm or terror.”
- Machine gun – this is a gun that can shoot more than two shots automatically without manual reloading by a single function of the guns trigger.
- Short Barrel Firearm – this a “sawed off” shotgun or rifle; any rifle with a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches or a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18 inches; any altered shotgun or rifle that has an overall length of less than 26 inches.
- Firearm Silencer – this is just any device that muffles the sound of a firearm.
- Knuckles (commonly “brass knuckles”) – this means finger rings or guards made of something hard that is for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by hitting someone with a fist enclosed in the knuckles.
- Armor-piercing Ammunition – this is handgun (pistol or revolver) ammunition that is designed to pierce metal or body armor.
- Chemical Dispensing Device – this is something other than a small chemical dispenser sold commercially for personal protection, like mace or pepper spray on a keychain; this is a device that dispenses a chemical that causes an “adverse psychological or physiological effect” on a person.
- Zip Gun – something that is not originally a firearm but is altered to shoot a projectile through a “smooth-bore or rifled bore barrel” by an explosion or flame.
- Tire Deflation Device – this is anything, like a caltrop or spike strip, that impedes or stops a vehicle when by puncturing one or more of the vehicle’s tires. This does not apply to a “traffic control device” like in guarding an entrance to a garage or gated area, so long as there is a clearly visible warning sign posted close to the traffic control device.
Illegal possession of brass knuckles is a Class A Misdemeanor carrying a punishment range of 0-1 year in county jail and up to a $4000 fine. Illegal possession of a tire deflation device is a State Jail Felony which is punishable by 180 days to 2 years in State Jail. All other weapons listed above are Third Degree Felonies if you are caught in possession; meaning you can face up to 10 years in prison.
No Weapons with a Domestic Violence/Family Violence Conviction
It is illegal for a person convicted of any felony or misdemeanor domestic/family violence assault charge to possess any kind of firearm. Any plea bargain, plea of guilty, plea of no-contest, probation or even deferred adjudication for a domestic violence or family violence crime will carry with it a Family Violence Finding. This finding prohibits you from possessing weapons.
Unlawful Possession of Firearm by Felon
The Texas Penal Code keeps people who have been convicted of a felony offense from possessing firearms. A person convicted of a felony commits this offense if they possess a weapon with five years of being released from prison, from probation or parole—whichever is later. After the five year period has passed, a person convicted of a felony may possess a firearm in their home or residence—anywhere else will still be an unlawful possession and crime under Texas Penal Code Section 46.04. Unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon is a Third Degree Felony. A skilled and experienced Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate this confusing area of the law and ensure that police did not violate your rights when discovering the weapon.
Discharge of a Firearm
It can be illegal to fire a gun inside the city limits of certain cities. Discharging a firearm in a city with a population of 100,000 or more is a crime under the Texas Penal Code. This means cities like Fort Worth, Arlington, and Dallas. It is a Class A Misdemeanor that could land you up to one year in jail for simply firing a gun.
Under the Texas law against “Disorderly Conduct” shooting a gun in a public place (even outside of a city) is a crime unless done at a sporting range or private gun club. If you display a gun or other deadly weapon in a public place in a way that will alarm others it is a Class C Misdemeanor (ticket). Shooting a gun across a roadway is a Class B Misdemeanor (possible jail time and up to $2,000 fine).
The Texas laws against “Deadly Conduct” make a crime to recklessly shoot a gun at or in the direction of another person or people or shoot in the direction of a “habitation, building, or vehicle.” This is a Third Degree Felony. Pointing an unloaded gun at someone can be a Class A Misdemeanor.
Using a Weapon During Another Crime
Using or simply displaying a weapon while committing certain offenses can automatically increase the offense to an ‘Aggravated’ crime. Using or carrying a weapon with you during the commission of a robbery, assault or sexual assault changes the punishment range and increases the degree of felony sometimes leaving you facing life in prison. In cases such as these, the State of Texas through the District Attorney’s office will include something called a ‘Deadly Weapon’ paragraph. Cases with ‘Deadly Weapon’ allegations not only include an enhanced range of punishment, sometimes you are not able to receive probation and if sent to prison must serve at least half your sentence before being eligible for parole. It is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer when facing a serious ‘Deadly Weapon’ allegation.