Even though Texas has some of the most relaxed firearm laws in the United States, there are still circumstances under which you could be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. A conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm can land you in jail, therefore, if you’ve been charged with this offense, you should immediately speak to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. In particular, if your charges are federal, you need a law firm that defends federal charges as well—like Whalen Law Office. We will defend your charges aggressively, making sure that every stone is overturned as we build a case on your behalf.
What is Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in Texas?
You could be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in Texas if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry a handgun on your person and you:
- Are under the age of 21
- Are prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law
- Have a prior conviction within the past five years for carrying a firearm while intoxicated, while displaying a firearm in plain view in a public place (unless the weapon was holstered), or for disorderly conduct, terroristic threat, or assault with bodily injury
- Are prohibited under federal law from carrying a firearm
- Are an employee of the state who is under a restraining order or order of protection and you possess the firearm prior to the expiration of the order
- Are a known member of a criminal street gang
You could be charged with Carrying Where Weapons are Prohibited if you possess a firearm in any of the following places (unless you are licensed to do so):
- A prison or other type of correctional facility
- Any school event (high school, college, professional, or interscholastic)
- An amusement park
- A mental hospital
- A meeting room of a governmental entity during an open, scheduled meeting
- Any educational institution or school
- At a polling place on the day of an election or during early voting
- In any court or an office utilized by the court
- A nursing home or hospital
- A racetrack
- An airport
- A civil commitment facility
- A place of execution, or within 1,000 feet of a place of execution
- Anywhere that alcohol is sold
- Any other place where weapons are prohibited
Depending on the location, carrying where weapons are prohibited can be a third-degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor. Even though the wording is similar, you could also be charged with criminal possession of a firearm if you are found to be carrying a firearm under any of the following circumstances:
- You were served with a restraining order and are found carrying a weapon
- You were convicted of domestic assault within five years of the date your sentence was discharged.
- You were convicted of a felony offense and you are found with a firearm at any location other than your residence.
You are also prohibited from possessing a handgun while you are committing another criminal offense.
What Are the Penalties for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm?
While you will generally be charged with a Class A misdemeanor in the state of Texas if charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, there are circumstances under which the offense could be charged as a third-degree felony. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can result in up to a year in jail and/or a fine as high as $4,000. The penalties for a third-degree felony conviction in the state of Texas include a prison sentence of up to ten years, and/or a fine as large as $10,000. The circumstances in which felony charges would be applicable are when you take the firearm into an establishment that sells alcohol.
Carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime makes the offense much more serious. If you do so, you could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, and your firearm will be seized by law enforcement. As an example, if you are arrested for the Class B offense of driving with an invalid license, even if you have a Texas-issued license to carry, you could be arrested for driving with an invalid license as well as charged with carrying a weapon while committing a criminal offense. In this case, the offense of carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime greater than a Class C offense is more serious than the underlying charge of driving with an invalid license.
What Are the Potential Defenses to Charges of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm?
You may wonder whether there are any valid defenses to charges of unlawful possession of a firearm. While your specific defense will depend on the exact offense you are charged with, as well as the circumstances and facts surrounding your charges, the following defenses are those more often used in this situation:
- There was an illegal search and seizure of your firearm.
- You did not voluntarily consent to a search and there was no valid warrant.
- There is insufficient evidence to show that you knowingly possessed the weapon.
- The weapon was concealed or in a holster.
- You were lawfully engaged in hunting or fishing.
- You were traveling between the hunting or fishing location and your residence or motor vehicle.
- Your constitutional rights were violated following your arrest; perhaps you were not properly Mirandized, or you requested an attorney, and law enforcement failed to allow you to contact your attorney.
How Can a Firearms Defense Attorney from Whalen Law Office Help?
Charges of unlawful possession of a firearm in the state of Texas can have extremely serious consequences. Not only could you be sentenced to jail or prison, but you could risk losing your right to own a firearm. A conviction on your record could prevent you from obtaining employment or perhaps even renting a home. You might be unable to obtain a professional license you were otherwise well-qualified for.
It is essential that you speak to an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney from Whalen Law Office as soon as possible. We will fight for your rights and for your future, every step of the way. Remember—an arrest doesn’t mean you are guilty. Your case can be successfully fought and won by an experienced, highly skilled criminal defense attorney from Whalen Law Office. Don’t wait—contact our experienced attorneys at Whalen Law Office today.