What Are Some of the Common Firearms Charges in Texas?
Common gun crimes involve the possession, carrying, and sale of firearms. This includes possession of a firearm by those for whom it is illegal, such as convicted felons and other persons barred from doing so.
Other common charges involve persons violating the terms of a permit, carrying a gun into places where they are prohibited regardless of having a permit, and brandishing or discharging a weapon unlawfully, such as during the commission of a crime. Convictions also result from selling a firearm to someone prohibited by law from owning one.
What Is Considered a “Firearm” Under the Law?
Texas statute defines a firearm as anything made or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by an explosion or burning, or anything that can be adapted to these characteristics. These would include handguns, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, zip guns, and other similar devices.
Who Can and Cannot Own and Carry a Gun in Texas?
Who can and cannot possess a gun in Texas is subject to both federal and state laws. To obtain a license to carry a handgun, you must:
- Be a legal resident of Texas for at least the six preceding months;
- Be at least 21 years old or a current or honorably discharged member of the military;
- Be current on payment of child support and taxes; and,
- Be capable of exercising sound judgment regarding the storage and use of the handgun.
Those prohibited from possession include persons convicted of a misdemeanor in the past five years, persons arrested for domestic violence and those who have a domestic restraining order issued against them, those with drug addictions or mental disabilities, and those fleeing from justice.
In addition, a convicted felon may not possess a firearm until it has been five years or longer since their release from incarceration or parole. Even then, the firearm can only be used within the premises in which they live. Convicted felons can never qualify for a license to carry a firearm and will have theirs revoked if they had one prior to conviction.
Federal law prohibits possession by illegal aliens and those in the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, those who have renounced their U.S. citizenship, those convicted of crimes of domestic violence, and anyone dishonorably discharged from the military.
What Are the Penalties for Gun Crime Convictions?
Most firearm crimes result in felony convictions; however, a few are Class A misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. These include discharging a weapon within the limits of any city with a population of 100,000 or more (without aiming it at any person), illegally selling a firearm, unlawfully carrying a firearm, and carrying a concealed weapon in a place where it is not allowed, so long as you are charged under Texas state law and not federal law.
Most other offenses rise to third-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Such offenses include discharging a weapon in the direction of someone, violating a conceal-and-carry license, carrying a concealed weapon in violation of federal law, and carrying a weapon if you are a convicted felon.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
Experienced criminal defense attorneys can challenge gun crime charges on various grounds, including the circumstances of possession, whether you were actually in possession of a firearm or it was merely near you, and whether you were in actual violation of Texas’s concealed or open carry laws. Bear in mind that the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, supported by incontrovertible evidence. Defense attorneys with a demonstrable record of success may be able to have charges reduced or dismissed or have conviction penalties minimized.