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Unauthorized Trafficking In Firearms

Unauthorized Trafficking In Firearms

As Texas shares a significant border with the nation of Mexico, it serves as a primary import and export hub between the U.S. and Mexico, Central America, and South America. As a result, Texas has stringent laws regarding selling and transporting specific goods and services. The concern is that, without such restrictions, certain economic activities could negatively harm the U.S. or nations to the south.

The crime of smuggling firearms in Texas is inextricably linked to this concern. Many of those who face charges of unauthorized trafficking in firearms are accused of unlawfully selling firearms obtained in the U.S. so that they could be exported to southern nations. Unauthorized trafficking in firearms charges are also often linked to drug smuggling charges.

According to Texas Penal Code Section 46.14, an individual may be convicted of the crime of unauthorized trafficking in firearms if they knowingly engaged in the business of transferring or transporting at least one firearm that the individual knows was obtained in violation of Texas or U.S. law. “The business of transporting or transferring at least one firearm” occurs if the accused commits this conduct more than once and for-profit or another form of compensation.

Texas Unauthorized Trafficking in Firearms Lawyer

If you are facing accusations unauthorized trafficking in firearms, seek the assistance of a qualified criminal law attorney immediately. A criminal law attorney can help navigate conversations and negotiations with the court and the prosecution to attempt to mitigate the penalties and reduce the charges the accused faces. Although consequences can be severe for firearm cases, every criminal case and conviction hinges on the specific facts at hand.

To retain a qualified defense lawyer, contact Horak Law at (713) 225-8000. Criminal defense attorney Matthew Horak at Horak Law has practiced criminal law for years and carries extensive experience with all types of criminal cases.

Horak Law has two locations in Houston and The Woodlands, but we also accept clients in Harris County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, and Liberty County, Texas.


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Potential Penalties for Unauthorized Trafficking In Firearms

The criminal offense of unauthorized trafficking in firearms is usually classified as a felony in the third degree in Texas. However, this classification may be enhanced to a felony in the second degree if three or more illegally obtained firearms were transferred or transported in a single instance.

According to Texas Penal Code Section 12.34, the punishment for a felony in the third degree must generally include a term of imprisonment of two or more years but not more than ten years. Additionally, those convicted of this offense may be compelled to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

If an offense is charged as a felony in the second degree, anyone who is convicted of this offense also faces a possible fine of up to $10,000 and a term of imprisonment of no less than two years. However, instead of a maximum prison term of ten years, those who face felony charges in the second degree in Texas face a maximum prison term of twenty years.

The seriousness of being convicted of a felony in Texas cannot be overstated. In addition to facing prison time and steep fines, convicted felons often face loss of employment, a criminal record that makes it more difficult to secure housing, educational opportunities, and employment in the future, and felons may even lose their child custody rights. It is partially due to these high-stakes potential outcomes that anyone accused of a felony in Texas should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.


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Related Firearms Charges

Several other criminal charges are often filed simultaneously when someone is charged with the unauthorized trafficking of firearms. These charges include:

  • Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 – Unlawful Carrying of Weapons
  • Texas Penal Code Section 46.04 – Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon
  • Texas Penal Code Section 46.06 – Unlawful Transfer of Specific Weapons

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Defenses for Unauthorized Trafficking In Firearms

Several defenses may be raised if an individual is charged with unauthorized trafficking in firearms.

First, if a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer traffics a weapon while engaging in an official duty, this is a solid defense to such charges. Under these circumstances, an officer may have knowingly engaged in the transfer or transportation of an illegally obtained firearm. However, if they did so as part of a drug bust operation (for example), they are protected from criminal liability due to the purposes for which they engaged in such conduct.

Second, the government is only empowered to file criminal charges against an alleged offender during a specific period. This timing restriction, referred to as a statute of limitations, compels law enforcement to make arrests promptly. As the charge of unauthorized trafficking of firearms is generally classified as a felony in the third degree, law enforcement officials only have three years from the date upon which the infraction allegedly occurred to file charges against a suspected offender. If a prosecutor files charges after the statute of limitations has run, the case should be dismissed due to the statute of limitations violation that has occurred.

Third, it may be possible to have any firearm-related evidence excluded from consideration at trial if that evidence was obtained in violation of the accused’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. Essentially, if the evidence in question was seized without a warrant and no exception to the warrant requirement applies to the situation, or there was an issue with whatever warrant was issued, any evidence seized as a result of an unlawful search may be suppressed. If the prosecution cannot satisfactorily make its case without this evidence, it may be compelled to reduce or drop the charges entirely.

Fourth, if there has been a case of mistaken identity, proving that someone other than the individual accused of the crime committed the infraction may serve as a complete defense for that alleged offender.

Finally, it is worth noting that if the prosecution cannot prove every element of the crime in question, their case shouldn’t hold up. For example, the crime of unauthorized trafficking of firearms requires a specific level of intent. If someone transfers or transports a firearm and doesn’t know it was obtained unlawfully, they cannot be convicted of this charge.


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Additional Resources

Pretrial Diversion in Texas – A detailed explanation of – and eligibility criteria for – the Texas pretrial diversion program, as described by the United States Probation and Pretrial Services division of the federal court system.

Typical Felony Caseflow – This chart, prepared by the Texas Courts, details what to expect after someone has been arrested and charged with a felony. Reviewing this information with a lawyer can help a felony defendant better understand the various steps that will take place as their case progresses.


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Houston Unauthorized Trafficking in Firearms Attorney | Harris County, TX

You may feel hopeless after learning the penalties for unauthorized trafficking in firearms. Thankfully, you have options. You can choose to hire a seasoned Houston  criminal defense attorney at Horak Law. Defense lawyer Matthew Horak at Horak Law can examine every aspect of the case, collect imperative evidence, and craft a strong defense that will maximize your chances at receiving reduced or dismissed charges.

Call (713) 225-8000 now and our legal team will answer all your questions to the best of our ability. Horak Law has offices in The Woodlands and Houston, TX.


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