Texas Firearms Lawyer
While the general view of Texas and firearms is that the laws are extremely lax, you could face serious penalties for violations of Texas gun laws. For example, even though you no longer require a concealed carry permit under Texas law, there are certain circumstances that could result in charges of illegally possessing a handgun. A weapons offense can be a Class A misdemeanor for which you spend up to a year in jail, or a first-degree felony that could place you behind bars for the remainder of your life—and everything in between. The weapons offenses you could potentially be charged with in Texas include the following:
- Possession of a prohibited weapon or ammunition (armor-piercing ammunition, a short-barrel firearm, firearm silencers, machine guns, zip guns, and certain other weapons)
- Transporting weapons
- The unlawful possession of a firearm
- Unlawfully carrying a weapon or handgun without a license
- Bringing a gun into a bar, onto a school campus, or into a correctional facility, resulting in charges of unlawful carrying of a weapon by a license holder
- Felon in possession of a firearm
- Possession of a stolen or unregistered firearm
- Illegal firearms trafficking
- Unlawful brandishing or discharge of a firearm
- Assault with a deadly weapon
Most firearms are legal to own and carry in Texas as long as you are on your own property, including your home, your vehicle, or your boat, or you are legally licensed to carry a gun in other places. Most unlawful carry firearms charges are Class A misdemeanors. However, subsequent arrests for the same offense could significantly increase the penalties. One of the harshest penalties for firearms offenses is unlawfully carrying a handgun into any establishment with a liquor license. If convicted of this third-degree felony, you could spend up to ten years in state prison and pay a fine as high as $10,000.
It is important to note that carrying a firearm while committing another offense is its own crime. In other words, while you may be lawfully carrying a weapon, you could be charged with a separate offense if you are carrying that weapon while violating the law in another manner. As an example, if you legally possess a weapon and commit the crime of driving while intoxicated or under the influence, you may also be charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon. While state gun crime charges are serious, federal gun crime charges are even more serious.
Federal Firearms Offenses
According to a U.S. government website, firearms offenses are among the most common crimes prosecuted and sentenced in federal court. In 2021, regarding felony firearms offenses, half of all offenders received a sentence that was a minimum of ten percent higher than the federal sentencing for other crimes. The vast majority of those sentenced under federal law for a firearm offense were prohibited from possessing a firearm, whether due to a prior felony, unlawful alien status, being a fugitive from justice, or being addicted to a controlled substance.
In about 25 percent of the federal felony gun crime prosecutions, the offenders had engaged in aggravating criminal conduct, including drug crimes and violent crimes. Stolen firearms and prohibited weapons (sawed-off shotguns or machine guns) were responsible for about a third of all federal gun charges. The average sentence for firearms offenders ranged from 35 months for gun crimes with no aggravating factors to 62 months for firearm trafficking and 119 months for using a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime or a violent crime.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do for Those Charged with Firearms Offenses?
A strong defense lawyer will build a comprehensive defense strategy against your charges based on the specific charges and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Your attorney may aggressively pursue lesser charges or negotiate another beneficial plea deal. If this is not possible, your lawyer will take your case to trial, presenting a strong argument on your behalf.
Your criminal defense attorney will have a thorough understanding of both Texas and federal firearms laws and, when applicable, will argue unreasonable search and seizure since evidence illegally obtained cannot be used against you. There may also be a question of actual possession—the prosecutor must prove you were in possession of the firearm and were aware you had the weapon.
Why Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer from Whalen Law Office?
When you choose a criminal defense lawyer from Whalen Law Office, you can rest assured that we will take your case very seriously, working diligently to ensure you receive the best outcome possible for state or federal charges.
Whalen Law Office has a record of many courtroom victories in state and federal courts for clients charged with firearms offenses. We will work hard to uncover any discrepancies in your state or federal firearms case, doing everything in our power to present evidence that supports your innocence.
At Whalen Law Office, we have the necessary resources, including expert witnesses, no matter the circumstances surrounding your charges. Our depth of knowledge regarding Texas and federal firearms offenses allows us to prevail on your behalf, even in challenging situations.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Firearms Charges?
The penalties for firearms can vary significantly, depending on the specific charges and whether the charges are state or federal. The most common firearm-related offense in Texas is unlawful possession of a firearm and criminal possession of a firearm. Unlawful possession of a firearm is generally a Class A misdemeanor; if convicted, you could face up to a year in county jail and fines as high as $4,000—unless you are in an establishment that sells alcohol, in which case you will face third-degree felony charges.
Charges of criminal possession of a firearm within five years of serving a felony sentence can result in third-degree felony charges. A conviction could bring up to ten years in prison, and fines as large as $10,000. Depending on the nature of your charges, whether you have a prior criminal history, and the skill of your criminal defense lawyer, you could potentially receive probation for a first-time unlawful firearm possession charge.
What Are the Most Common Defenses for Firearms Charges?
Firearms charges are often the result of a vehicle search that may have violated your rights. Under the Fourth Amendment, you cannot be subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure—the officer must either have your consent, probable cause, or a warrant to conduct a search of your person or your property. If they did not have consent, probable cause, or a warrant. Your defense attorney will determine your specific defense after a comprehensive investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding your charges. Some of the more common defenses include:
- You were not in actual possession of the firearm or did not own the firearm. The prosecutor may attempt to argue constructive possession—you had access to the gun and the intent to control it. This is often a prosecution tactic when you are stopped and a gun is found in the vehicle. The prosecution must show that you did not only know the gun was in the vehicle, but you also intended to “control” the firearm.
- The evidence was not gathered in a lawful manner, therefore, must be suppressed. There must have been a legal basis for the initial stop, as well as the search and seizure.
- Your rights were violated—you were not properly Mirandized, or you asked for an attorney and were refused this right.
- The firearm was not real or was not operable.
- The police or prosecution made other mistakes during your arrest or questioning.
Because the federal government has such vast resources, federal gun charges are less likely to be mitigated by many defenses, therefore require an attorney with significant experience in federal firearms charges.
Is Carrying a Concealed Weapon a Felony in Texas?
As of September 1, 2021, the state of Texas implemented “permit-less carry” legislation. This legislation generally allows individuals to carry concealed or holstered handguns in most public spaces with no license, safety training, or background check. The individual must be 21 years old and must have no conditions that otherwise prohibit him or her from possessing a firearm in the state.
Before the passage of this law, Texas residents were required to complete a basic safety training course, along with a background check to obtain a handgun license authorizing them to carry a concealed handgun. These requirements are no longer in place, so you can carry a concealed weapon in the state of Texas so long as you have no conditions that would prohibit this, such as a felony conviction. You are still restricted from carrying the weapon in any of the following places:
- On school property, on a school bus, or any place a school activity is taking place (there are special rules for handguns at colleges and universities)
- At sporting events
- In court buildings or offices
- Any place where alcohol is sold
- At a racetrack
- In hospitals and nursing homes
- At polling places during elections or early voting
What Are the Penalties for Carrying a Loaded Weapon in Texas?
As noted, the gun laws changed in Texas as of September 1, 2021. You are no longer required to have a permit to carry a handgun, whether concealed or open carry—except in certain places. This includes a loaded handgun. There is, however, an offense in Texas that is known as unlawfully brandishing a firearm. This means the firearm was displayed in an illegal manner, i.e., it was pointed at someone in a public place, causing the individual to feel fear or alarm. If the firearm was brandished in self-defense, you would not likely be charged with unlawfully brandishing a weapon.
In some cases, a weapon is brandished entirely by accident. You could also be charged with unlawful discharge of a weapon, which means the firearm was fired in an inappropriate place. If you were to fire a weapon in a highly populated area, near a school, while you were intoxicated, or while you were driving a vehicle, you could be charged with unlawful discharge of a weapon. Depending on the circumstances, these firearms offenses could be a misdemeanor or felonies. If you are sentenced to probation, you may be required to relinquish your right to possess firearms.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer from Whalen Law Office Can Help with Your Firearms Charges
Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer from Whalen Law Office can truly make a difference in the outcome of your state or federal charges. We are knowledgeable of all Texas and federal laws related to firearms possession as well as other firearms-related charges. We will fight for your legal rights to be a gun owner and to carry your gun outside your home except in prohibited areas. Don’t take firearms charges lightly—speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer from Whalen Law Office today.