Austin Weapons Charges Attorney
Texas is known as a gun-friendly state, but this doesn’t mean that there are no laws surrounding firearms and other weapons. Even with the state’s 2021 constitutional carry law, which eliminated the license to carry requirement for most adults, Texans with certain criminal convictions are prohibited from carrying a gun. There are certain locations where guns are prohibited as well. Gun owners should be careful to understand the law surrounding how and where they can carry in public. If you’ve been charged with a weapons-related crime, an attorney with experience in Austin weapons cases can help. Weapons laws can be complicated, especially in Texas where open carry laws have recently changed. An attorney can help you navigate the legal system and get the best possible outcome.
How Does Texas Define the Term “Weapon”?
When it comes to weapons, most people think of handguns and other firearms. While guns are a common reason you may be facing a weapons charge, Texas mentions quite a few other weapons in its penal code.
Texas specifically prohibits possessing, manufacturing, transporting or selling certain weapons. Outside of exceptions for certain historical artifacts, Texans cannot lawfully possess these items. Prohibited weapons are:
- Explosive weapons
- Machine guns
- Short-barrel firearms
- Armor-piercing ammunition
- Chemical dispensing devices
- Zip guns
- Tire deflation devices
- Improvised explosive devices
Other weapons that may or may not be prohibited depending on the circumstances include:
- Hoax bombs
- Firearm silencers
- Switchblade knives
These items are all considered to be weapons, but they are legal to possess in many circumstances.
What Constitutes a Weapons Charge in Austin?
There are several types of criminal charges that involve using or possessing a weapon. While violent crimes committed with a gun may be the first thing that comes to mind, there are many less serious charges that can come from illegally possessing, carrying or selling a weapon.
There are several ways you could be charged with illegal possession of a firearm or other weapon. This could happen if you are not allowed to legally own a firearm, if you bring a firearm into a place where they are prohibited, or if you possess a prohibited weapon.
Possessing a firearm in Texas is illegal for those who are under the age of 21, with some exceptions. Those who have been convicted of domestic violence or another felony within the last five years also cannot possess a gun. Locations, where firearms are prohibited, include schools, polling places, courts, airports, amusement parks, and hospitals.
An individual can sell guns without a license unless they regularly sell them for profit. This means that you can sell a gun to a friend, family member, or acquaintance as long as the situation meets a few requirements. Selling a gun to someone under the age of 18 is prohibited. Selling to someone who lives in a different state requires additional reporting and licensing. If you want to sell a gun to someone in another state, you will need to work with a federally licensed dealer. For a private gun sale, you are not required to do a background check or keep any specific records.
You also cannot sell a firearm to someone you know is prohibited from owning one. This applies when the buyer has been convicted of a felony within five years. You can also be charged with unlawful selling if you believe that the buyer might use the gun to commit a crime or if the buyer is intoxicated at the time of the sale.
Improper Discharge of Gun
Even if you own and carry a gun legally, you cannot fire the gun in public unless you are at a designed shooting range. This also applies within the limits of a municipality of a certain size. For example, shooting into the air can be illegal even if no one is hurt. Texas law also prohibits displaying a gun in public “in a manner calculated to alarm.”
Using in Commission of a Crime
Possessing a gun, lawfully or not, while committing another crime can make those criminal charges more serious. Burglary, assault, and sexual assault can all be raised to “aggravated” if the suspect had a weapon during the incident.
What Is Open Carry?
As of September 1, 2021, most Texans can carry a handgun either openly or concealed without a license. Essentially, those who would have qualified for a license to carry no longer need that license to carry in public. People with recent felony or certain misdemeanor convictions are still prohibited from carrying a gun, and guns are still prohibited in certain locations.
When Does Permitless or Open Carry Apply?
Permitless carry, also known as constitutional carry, applies to Texans who are 21 or older and have not been convicted of a felony or domestic violence within the last five years. Those who have been convicted of certain misdemeanors or are subject to restraining orders may also be prohibited from owning a gun. Additionally, carrying a firearm while intoxicated is usually prohibited. There are some other specific restrictions. For example, city employees except for police officers cannot carry a gun at work.
How to Properly License Your Firearm
As of September 2021, most Texans can carry without a license in most public places. However, licenses to carry (LTC) are still available and can come with additional benefits. Gun owners should consider these and determine whether a license is still a good idea for them.
Who Can Carry
People aged 18 to 20 are not allowed to carry under the permitless carry law, but they may be able to get an LTC if they are under a protective order. Protective orders are issued those who have been victims of crimes like family violence, stalking or trafficking. Otherwise, Texans who would be eligible for an LTC do not need a license to carry a gun.
Where You Can Carry With a License
A license to carry gives gun owners some additional flexibility in where they can carry. For example, licensed gun owners are usually allowed to carry a concealed weapon on university campuses, where guns are otherwise prohibited. A license also allows a gun owner to securely store their weapon in their vehicle in the parking lot of a K-12 school. Businesses also have the right to set their own restrictions for who can carry a gun, which may mean only allowing license holders to carry. Finally, a Texas LTC allows gun owners to carry their weapons in other states that have reciprocity agreements with Texas. This means that students, teachers, and those who regularly travel out of state may want a license to carry.
Where You Can Carry Without a License
As of September 2021, Texans who are legally allowed to own a firearm and are 21 or older can carry a gun openly in most public places. This does not apply in places where guns are always prohibited, such as schools, polling places and correctional facilities. Private businesses can also set their own rules about who can carry. If a business owner does not want to allow firearms to be carried in their business, they need to post signs in both English and Spanish. These signs need to specify whether concealed, open or unlicensed carry is prohibited. Gun owners who carry in public should make sure to check for these signs and to be aware of locations where guns are prohibited.
How to Carry a Gun
Texas law requires guns that are carried openly to be in a holster. However, the law does not define the term “holster.” In the past, the law required a belt or shoulder holster, but that requirement has been eliminated.
The 2021 permitless carry law specifically refers to handguns, which the law defines as a firearm designed to be fired with one hand. Any information related to permitless carry is describing where and who can lawfully carry a handgun.
Even before the 2021 law change, Texas did not impose any restrictions on who could carry a rifle or long gun. This means that anyone who is not otherwise prohibited from carrying a gun can carry a rifle or long gun in public. The law does not specifically define “long gun,” and there is some ambiguity about how the holster requirement applies to these weapons.
Penalties for Weapons Charges in the State of Texas
The type of charges you might face and the penalties that could result can vary dramatically depending on the specifics of your case. If you have been involved in a crime that included a weapon or have been charged with any other type of weapons-related offense, it’s important to find an attorney with experience with these types of cases. Your attorney will be able to give you a better sense of what you might expect in your specific case. However, there are some generalizations that can give you a basic idea of the penalties involved.
Unlawful possession is usually a Class A misdemeanor unless you are suspected of being a gang member, in which case it can be a third-degree felony. Most weapons-related offenses in Texas are either Class A misdemeanors or third-degree felonies. For example, possessing a prohibited weapon is a third-degree felony, and unlawful selling of a firearm is a Class A misdemeanor.
Class A is the most serious type of misdemeanor. Penalties are:
- A jail sentence of no more than one year
- A fine of no more than $4000
- Both of these
A third-degree felony is the least serious type of felony. Penalties are:
- A prison term between two and 10 years
- A fine of up to $10,000
A felony conviction can have other consequences that continue after you have served your sentence. These include a five-year prohibition on carrying a firearm.
Charges Do Not Guarantee Guilt
Being charged with a crime does not automatically mean that you are guilty of that crime. The state of Texas has the responsibility to prove your guilt. An experienced attorney can help you present your defense in the best possible light. There are other things you can do to help your attorney during your case. First, it’s important to cooperate with your legal team. Be honest with your attorney about any details of your case and your background. Your attorney is obligated to keep your conversations confidential. Next, stay away from witnesses or other people who were involved in the incident. A prosecutor can easily present your attempt to clarify a misunderstanding as witness tampering. Finally, be careful to avoid any further arrests. Being arrested again, especially for a similar offense, will make your attorney’s job much more difficult.
How Long Does a Criminal Case Take to Come to Trial in Texas?
Moving through the court system can take time, and the specifics will depend on the type of charges you’re facing and the strength of the prosecution’s case. Most people who are charged with a crime do not ultimately go to trial. According to the Texas Office of Court Administration, only 1% of misdemeanor cases and 2% of felony cases end with a trial. If you do go to trial, there are several steps that come before that point.
If you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney, you may have already had a court appearance where a judge set your bail. At this point, the police officers who handled your arrest have passed the information they found during their investigation over to the prosecutor. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the prosecutor will file charges through an official document called an information. If you are charged with a felony, you will need to appear before a grand jury for an indictment.
The next step is an arraignment when you’ll enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. At this point, you will usually plead not guilty, and your attorney will be with you, so you won’t need to speak much.
Then, your attorney and the prosecution will have a series of pretrial conferences. The prosecutor needs to disclose what evidence they have to your defense attorney so that we can determine how best to proceed. Ideally, we might convince the judge or prosecutor to drop the charges. This happens in about 13% of felony cases and 33% of misdemeanor cases. Otherwise, most criminal cases end with a plea deal. This often means that you can plead guilty to a less serious charge with a lesser penalty.
Depending on your case, going to trial might be the best move. If you do go to trial, the prosecutor is the one who needs to prove your guilt to the jury, and we’ll already have gone over the evidence they have against you. During the trial, both sides will make an opening argument, call, and question witnesses, and make a closing argument. Your defense attorney will decide whether it’s a good idea for you to testify in your own defense. If you don’t testify, the jury cannot hold this against you.
Can an Austin Weapons Charges Attorney Help Get My Record Expunged?
The requirements for cleaning up your record can be complicated, but if you have been charged with a weapons offense in the past, an attorney can certainly help. There are two processes in Texas, expunction, and nondisclosure, depending on the circumstances.
Records that are expunged are permanently removed from your criminal history. However, this is only an option in limited circumstances. You can usually only have records expunged when you were charged with a crime but not convicted. This applies whether you were acquitted in a trial or charges were dropped. The minimum waiting period for expunction ranges from 180 days for Class C misdemeanors to three years for felonies. If you were charged with a crime, the waiting period may be longer.
Nondisclosure conceals your criminal record from the public but not from law enforcement and similar government agencies. While this is a narrower benefit than expunction, it applies to more people. First-time misdemeanors are eligible for automatic nondisclosure after six months. Otherwise, you’ll need to request it. A nondisclosure is usually an option unless you have ever been convicted of domestic violence, child abuse, or other serious crimes. Most weapons charges do not fall into these categories.
A criminal defense attorney can help you confirm whether you are eligible for either expunction or nondisclosure and file the required petitions if you do qualify. Both of these options can help you move on with your life after a criminal charge or conviction by making it less visible on your record.
Being arrested for a weapons offense is often overwhelming and scary. If you are facing charges for a gun crime, don’t try to navigate the legal system on your own. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges you’re facing and put together the best defense. Get through the process with support from an attorney who will fight for you. Stephen T. Bowling offers free initial consultations. Call to schedule yours today!
Sworn to Protect Our
KEPT US UP TO DATE EACH STEP OF THE WAY
Stephen Bowling, reviewed our case and discussed his recommendations clearly. He kept us up to date each step of the way with continued explanations. He was readily available for questions/concerns through the process. We would reach out to them again in the future for any legal concerns.
VERY COMMUNICATIVE AND VERY UNDERSTANDING
Stephen is Great, Great , Lawyer!! He give you weekly updates on not just your case but also on what’s going on with his firm as well!!! Stephen is also very communicative and very understanding on any situation!! I would hands down Refer Stephen to anyone with any situation!!! Great job Stephen words can’t describe what you have done for me!!!!