Weapons Charges in Texas
Americans have a constitutional right to carry weapons, and yet someone might face weapons charges in Texas. What is this all about?
Today’s world presents us with a lot of uncertainties, crime being one of them. Crime and violence is prevalent in almost every state in the United States. That is why many feel the need to protect themselves, their family and those around them. It is the right as a citizen of the United States to keep and bear arms for self-defense as stipulated in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
In Texas, a rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches and a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches are both considered weapons. This is in accordance with the Texas criminal code and federal law. To purchase a firearm here, you need to be at least 18 years of age and be a resident of Texas. No permit is necessary.
More than 1.2 million residents in Texas are active holders of disguised handguns with no laws accounting for the long guns except for the existing federal restrictions. Texas gun laws regulate the sale, possession and use of firearms in Texas. It focuses mainly on the carrying of guns rather than restricting its ownership.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to allow concealed handgun permit holders to openly carry handguns. Since the bill took effect January 1st 2016, a license is still required to carry a handgun around. However, the firearm shouldn’t be displayed in a manner that can cause alarm.
License application is done online. Your fingerprints are required, followed by a training of 6 to 4 hours. You are therefore granted a permit to carry your handgun having met the basic requirements. In certain places such as schools, courtrooms, secure airport areas and polling places, guns are still banned.
You may be permanently or temporarily banned from carrying a firearm in Texas due to some of the following reasons:
Pending criminal charges.
Permanent cases in domestic violence.
Substance dependency such as use of alcohol or chemicals.
Certain physiological diagnosis.
Defaults on child support, taxes, student loans or other governmental fees.
There exist State and Federal laws in Texas that still restrict a permit holder from carrying a weapon in certain situations and certain places. These include:
Airports – Allowed only within secured areas of an airport.
Racetracks – It is a felony to carry a firearm on a racetrack.
Election polling places – You are not allowed to possess a firearm in the premises to be used as a polling center whether the polls are open or not at the time.
Court offices – Whether you are licensed or not, a firearm is not allowed inside a building used by a functioning municipal, state or federal court for official business. Employees such as judges and attorneys are the only exceptions.
Correctional facilities – It is a crime to carry a firearm inside a building that is a jail or prison facility.
Public sporting events – It is an atrocity to carry a firearm while inside a building currently being used for a professional sporting event unless the person carrying is a participant of the event and the event requires the use of a firearm.
Hospital and amusement parks – You must have 30.06 and 30.07 signs posted.
These are some of the weapons considered illegal in Texas:
Armor piercing ammunition
Knives with a blade over five and a half inches
Rifles with barrel lengths of less than 16 inches
Shotguns with barrel lengths of less than 18 inches
Tire deflation devices like a spike strip or a caltrop
Any altered shotgun or rifle with an overall length of less than 26 inches
There are also certain kinds of weapons which are legal to possess and carry on their own property but not out in public. This includes the carrying of handguns, knives and clubs.
Illegal knives include : Daggers, throwing knives, swords, spears and any regular knife with a blade of more than 5.5 inches. While illegal clubs include : Blackjacks, nightsticks, mace and tomahawks.
Most of the offenses found from the illegal carrying of handguns, knives and clubs are treated as Class A Misdemeanors.
These are the 9 new gun laws that became effective as of September 1, 2019:
HB 121 – Provides legal defense for a License To Carry (LTC) holder who unknowingly enters an area that has a signage prohibiting guns and if the holder leaves the establishment quickly after being asked.
HB 302 – Forbids residential rental agreements from restricting the possession of weapons by residents or their guests.
HB 1143 – Prevents school districts from controlling the manner in which a licensed firearm is stored in a vehicle in a school parking area.
HB 1177 – Gives disaster shelters an option of accommodating evacuees with firearms. It also prohibits a resident from being arrested or charged for carrying a firearm without LTC from a local disaster area or while returning it there.
HB 1387 – Provides an opening for more armed school marshals that a school district or governing body may appoint.
HB 1797 – Provides an update on the language in the Texas Government Code that is related to the carrying of firearms on property owned or leased by a state body.
HB 2363 – Provides an update on how firearms need to be stored in a foster home by the caretakers.
SB 535 – Elucidates that places of worship need to be treated equally as a private property when deciding on whether a license holder may carry on the premises or not.
Other relevant laws
The Texas ‘‘Castle Doctrine’’ law gives you the right to use deadly force for self defense while at your home.
The ‘‘Stand Your Ground rule’’ as stipulated in the Castle Doctrine. An individual is entitled to public spaces if they are there rightfully and are not committing any crime.
A Texas resident free from felony, any charges or prevented by law is allowed to purchase firearms and ammunitions in the neighbouring states.
There exist State and Federal laws in Texas that still restrict a permit holder from carrying a weapon in certain situations and certain places.
Penance for illegal weapon possession
Retribution for the possession of illegal weapons depends on the weapon in question. Always, show your weapon to a police officer upon being asked. Remember to follow all directives regarding carrying of firearms and ammunitions.
If you get pulled over by a police officer and you are carrying a concealed weapon in Texas, it is important for you and the police officer to follow the right procedure. The law in Texas states that you need to inform the officer on your concealed weapon when you are asked for your identification.
This is what you should do when you are pulled over:
If it is dark outside, turn on an interior light and lower your window. Put your arms where the officer can see them for instance on the steering wheel.
Inform the police officer you have a concealed firearm, its location and that you have a License To Carry permit.
Inform the police officer of the location of your license and ask for permission to retrieve it.
The penalties for illegally carrying or possessing firearms and ammunitions in Texas are very high. They can be classified as misdemeanors while others are felony charges. Violation of the Texas Gun Laws could result in the revocation of rights to own or use a firearm among others.
Some of the penalties include:
Third-degree felony punishable by two to ten years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 for a person convicted of possessing a zip gun, machine gun, explosive weapon, armor piercing bullets or a chemical dispensing device.
Six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of upto $10,000 for possessing a tire deflating device such as a caltrop.
A Class A Misdemeanor punishable with up to three hundred and sixty five days in jail and a fine of up to $4,000 for possession of brass knuckles.
Carrying a large knife around with a blade over five and a half inches attracts a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine of $4,000. Internment can occur even for first time offenders.
If charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon, you need skilled legal representation. Your attorney has a variety of variables to consider when building your defense including your state of mind at that time, intention of having the weapon, your criminal history and how it was used.
Heavy consequences can also be imposed if the weapon is found being carried by a member of a criminal organisation or is being used to commit another crime. Even if you have a License To Carry permit, it becomes illegal when you are under the influence of alcohol or a chemical substance.
Firearms and ammunition carrying offenses can be confusing in Texas. Explosives will definitely land you in jail while there seems to be double standards if found with firearms as compared to knives.
A variety of criminal charges exist, arrests are usually made for guns being sold, bought or carried by persons arrested with a state weapon charge.
Criminal related charges for weapon carrying in Texas include:
It is a crime if a person intentionally or recklessly carries a handgun in somebody else’s premises.
Unlawful locations to carry a gun
A person commits an offense if they knowingly carry a gun on the premises of an educational institution or a school, a polling station or a race track.
Disorderly conduct involving a firearm
It is illegal to display or discharge a firearm or a weapon in a public place in an alarming manner.
Trespassing where guns aren’t allowed
There exists signages or notices in certain establishments allowed by the law that prohibit visitors from carrying firearms onto that land or premises
Part of the job
It is a defense to prosecution if a person has a firearm while undertaking official duties, for instance a national guard or a member of the national armed forces. It is also a defense if he or she is in possession of a firearm while travelling to and from work.
Licensed to carry
An individual is allowed to carry a firearm either in the open or concealed as long as they are eligible and have a License To Carry(LTC) permit.
Justification excluding criminal responsibility
The defense attorney can find specific statutory defenses based on the use of a firearm for self-defense, defense of others and its possession.
On March 27, 2007, Senate Bill 378 was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, making Texas a ‘Castle Doctrine’ state. Residents occupying a certain place are allowed to forcefully remove someone unlawfully entering or attempting to enter a premise.
The Senate Bill 378 also contains a ‘Stand Your Ground’ clause. It states that a person has legal right to be wherever they are at the time of a defensive shooting has no duty to retreat before being justified in a shooting.
Chapter 86 of the bill prevents a person convicted of a felony from filing suit to recover any damages as a result of the criminal offense. Chapter 83 of the same code states that a person who used force against an individual who is justified from taking responsibility for causing injury to the individual against whom force was used.
This law however does not exempt a person from being sued for using deadly force.
In summary, you need to be compliant with the existing Texas Gun Laws and abide by them. Sometimes just possessing a piece of property such as an illegal weapon could get you arrested in the United States, Texas. Get a strong defense team if charged to increase your chances of having a favorable outcome.
If you or someone you know needs help with immigration procedures, or if you are a victim of the judicial system, we can help you. Keep in mind:
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