Can felons own firearms, Stephen Bowling, DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys

After facing a felony conviction, felons may lose a number of the rights and privileges that others take for granted. Among those privileges is the right to bear arms, a right typically protected by the Second Amendment. A felony conviction does not necessarily mean that felons can never own firearms. However, it does mean that felons will need to have their rights legally restored before they can own or carry a firearm again. Carrying a firearm with a felony conviction can mean facing third-degree felony charges. 

What Qualifies as Possession of a Firearm?

According to Texas law, a person commits an offense if that person “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun” after conviction of a felony offense. In order to face conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon, several conditions must be met. 

The Felon Must Own or Have Control of the Firearm

In order to establish illegal possession of a firearm, it may be necessary to show that the felon actually had control of the firearm. For example, a felon walking down the street with someone who has a gun, or sitting next to someone who has a gun, would not be in possession or control of that firearm, which means that they would likely not face criminal charges. 

The Felon Must Know About That Control

Felons may need to exercise caution when taking any bag or container from someone else when they do not know what is inside. For example, a felon who holds a purse or bag for a friend or family member without reasonably knowing that it contains a firearm might not face charges for possession of a firearm. 

The Felon Must Be Outside His Home

Once five years have passed following the date the felon has completed their sentence, including any probation or jail time, the felon may, under Texas law, have the legal right to possess a firearm on their own property. However, that does not mean that a felon can carry a firearm outside his/her property.

Can a Felon Carry a Firearm After Ten Years?

Texas law and federal law differ when it comes to possession of a firearm. Under federal law, felons forfeit the right to own or carry firearms. Texas law, on the other hand, allows felons to possess a firearm “at his or her residence” once five years have elapsed after the disposition of the conviction. That means that while a felon might not face charges for possessing a firearm after the five-year mark under state law, he might end up facing charges under federal law. 

On the other hand, federal law notes that it defers to state laws when it comes to issues like possession of a firearm. Thus, Texas residents convicted of a felony are unlikely to face further prosecution for possession of a firearm after five years have passed. 

The law governing a felon’s ability to own a firearm in Texas only covers possessing a firearm at the victim’s residence. This means that felons who carry a firearm in public may face conviction. 

What is the Penalty for a Felon Possessing a Firearm?

Possessing a firearm as a felon, even in Texas, can carry severe penalties. If convicted, the charge counts as a third-degree felony and may result in up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

Can a Felon be in Possession of Ammunition?

Ammunition falls under the same category as a firearm based on both federal statute and Texas law. Felons cannot own ammunition for the same length of time that they cannot own or possess a gun. 

State Versus Federal Statutes on Felons Owning Firearms

Under US Code 18, individuals convicted of a felony cannot own or possess firearms at any time after the felony conviction, regardless of the length of the sentence or how much time has passed since the conviction, unless the individual has had their rights legally restored. Texas law, on the other hand, differs. According to Texas law, while felons cannot carry guns or ammunition outside their own properties, they can legally be in possession of a gun again once five years have passed from the completion of their sentence; five years after the end of jail time, probation, or any other requirements of that conviction. 

This means that, under Texas law, a felon who owns a firearm and keeps it on his own property cannot be convicted of possession of a firearm. That individual is unlikely to face any type of firearm conviction. If that individual is under federal investigation, however, he/she could be charged with a federal crime of possessing a firearm as a felon.

Can a Felon Ride in a Car with Someone in Possession of a Firearm?

According to Texas law, residents over the age of 21 have the legal right to carry a gun in public without a permit. That means that Texas residents can generally also carry guns in their vehicles. While gun owners should always secure their guns, either by placing them on their person or by ensuring that others cannot access them, many gun owners secure their weapons by keeping them in a glove box or center console. 

Under those circumstances, a felon would probably not be charged with possession of a firearm unless the felon was touching or carrying the gun at the time of a traffic stop or arrest. However, in order to avoid risk, gun owners may want to secure their weapons in a way that ensures the felon clearly cannot access them. 

Understanding Gun Laws Can Help Protect Felons

Owning and carrying a gun is often part of life in Texas. For felons, however, clearly understanding Texas gun laws is critical to avoiding a repeat felony conviction, which could further limit freedoms. When in doubt, avoiding firearm possession or contact with a firearm can help felons keep their lives on the right track.

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