Blog

Understanding Weapon Offenses in Texas

Understanding Weapon Offenses in Texas

You’re about to start your day as usual, only to find yourself unexpectedly facing serious legal trouble due to a misunderstanding about weapon laws. It’s a scenario that could happen to anyone in Texas, where the regulations around weapons, especially firearms, are stringent and complex. Whether you carry a handgun for protection or happen to possess a prohibited item, knowing the ins and outs of these laws is essential. Weapon offenses can lead to severe consequences, affecting your freedom and future.

This guide breaks down the key aspects of weapon offenses in Texas, from unlawful carrying to the heavy penalties associated with using a weapon in a crime. Ready to understand how these laws impact you and how to stay compliant? Let’s explore the vital information that can help you navigate Texas weapon laws with confidence and peace of mind.

What is a Weapon Offense in Texas?

In Texas, weapon offenses encompass a range of criminal activities involving the use, possession, carrying, or handling of weapons, especially firearms. The laws are designed to maintain public safety by regulating how weapons can be owned and used. Let’s break down the key aspects of weapon offenses to make it easier to understand.

Types of Weapon Offenses in Texas

Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon (UCW) – Texas Penal Code § 46.02

Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon occurs when a person carries a weapon, such as a handgun, knife, or club, in a manner that is illegal. This can happen in several ways:

  • Without a License: Carrying a handgun without having the proper license (License to Carry, or LTC) required by Texas law.
  • Prohibited Places: Carrying a weapon in certain locations where it is forbidden, such as schools, government buildings, polling places, and businesses that prohibit firearms.

UCW First Offense (Handgun Without a License):

  • Class A Misdemeanor:
    • Up to 1 year in county jail
    • Fines up to $4,000

Carrying in a Prohibited Place:

  • Third-Degree Felony:
    • 2 to 10 years in state prison
    • Fines up to $10,000

Possession of a Prohibited Weapon – Texas Penal Code Section 46.05

A person commits an offense if they intentionally or knowingly possess, manufacture, transport, repair, or sell any of the following:

  • Explosive weapon
  • Machine gun
  • Short-barrel firearm
  • Firearm silencer
  • Armor-piercing ammunition
  • Chemical dispensing device
  • Zip gun
  • Tire deflation device
  • Improvised explosive device

Penalties for Prohibited Weapons (e.g., machine guns, explosives):

  • Third-Degree Felony (e.g., machine guns, explosives)
    • 2 to 10 years in state prison
    • Fines up to $10,000
  • Second-Degree Felony: (if the weapon is an explosive device)
    • 2 to 20 years in state prison
    • Fines up to $10,000

Discharging a Firearm in Certain Locations – Texas Penal Code § 42.12

Discharging a firearm in a specific place or in a reckless manner. This includes:

  • Shooting a gun in a crowded area
  • Firing a weapon into a building or across a road
  • Recklessly discharging a firearm without a clear target or purpose

Discharging a Firearm in Certain Municipalities:

  • Class A Misdemeanor
  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • Fines up to $4,000

Reckless Discharge of a Firearm:

  • State Jail Felony
  • 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility
  • Fines up to $10,000

Unlawful Possession by Certain Persons – Texas Penal Code Section 46.04

Some individuals are not allowed to possess firearms at all. This includes convicted felons, individuals with certain types of domestic violence convictions, and people under certain restraining orders. If such a person is found with a firearm, they can be charged with a weapon offense.

  • Have been convicted of a felony and possess a firearm before the fifth anniversary of their release from confinement, supervision, or parole.
  • Have been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor involving a member of their family or household and possess a firearm before the fifth anniversary of their release.
  • Are subject to a protective order under Chapter 7A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Unlawful Possession by Certain Persons Penalty

  • Third-Degree Felony
  • 2 to 10 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $10,000

Use of a Weapon in a Crime

Using a weapon during the commission of another crime, such as robbery, assault, or burglary, significantly increases the severity of the charges and penalties. The presence of a weapon often escalates the situation and poses a greater danger to victims and the public.

Aggravated Robbery (Section 29.03): A person commits an offense if they commit robbery and use or exhibit a deadly weapon.

  • First-Degree Felony:
  • 5 to 99 years or life in prison
  • Fines up to $10,000

Aggravated Assault (Section 22.02): A person commits an offense if they commit assault and cause serious bodily injury to another or use or exhibit a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.

  • Second-Degree Felony:
  • 2 to 20 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $10,000

Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section 22.021): A person commits an offense if they commit sexual assault and cause serious bodily injury, use or exhibit a deadly weapon, or if the victim is under a certain age or is elderly or disabled.

  • First-Degree Felony:
  • 5 to 99 years or life in prison
  • Fines up to $10,000

Defense Strategies for Weapon Offenses

Facing weapon charges in Texas requires a robust defense. Here’s a concise approach:

  1. Examine the Search and Seizure: Argue the weapon was found during an unlawful search, making the evidence inadmissible due to Fourth Amendment protections.
  2. Challenge the Evidence: Dispute the reliability and ownership of the weapon, questioning the prosecution’s proof.
  3. Assert a Legal Defense: Claim self-defense or lack of intent, showing the defendant did not knowingly or willingly commit a crime.

Arrested? Don’t Plead, Call Me!

Weapon offenses carry serious consequences in Texas, but you don’t have to face them alone. A criminal defense attorney can provide you with the necessary guidance and representation. Don’t delay in reaching out to a lawyer if you are facing charges related to a weapon offense. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights and build a strong defense. Contact Texas Criminal Defense Group for a free consultation with a skilled criminal defense lawyer for weapon offense charges in Texas.