Unlawful Carrying of Firearm
While Texas lawmakers enacted open carry legislation in 2015 that allows licensed residents of the Lone Star State to openly keep handguns other weapons openly displayed in shoulder or belt holsters, the law’s passage does not mean that people can no longer be charged with the crime of unlawful carrying weapons (UCW). Alleged offenders can still face criminal charges for the improper carrying of a handgun, illegal knife, or club.
UCW charges are often classified as misdemeanors, but they may be graded as felony offenses in certain cases. This is also true for the similar crime of unlawful carrying a handgun by a license holder.
Houston Unlawful Carrying of Firearm Lawyer
Were you recently arrested for the alleged unlawful carrying of a weapon in Texas? It is in your best interest to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Harris County unlawful carrying of firearm attorney Matt Horak represents clients in and around Houston, including such communities as Pearland, Richmond-Rosenberg, Conroe, The Woodlands, Pasadena, Sugar Land, Galveston, League City, Spring, and Missouri City.
Horak Law will provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to schedule a completely initial consultation.
Harris County Unlawful Carrying of Firearm Overview
- What kinds of weapons can result in criminal charges if not carried properly?
- When might a licensed handgun owner be arrested for unlawful carry?
- Are there any legal defenses against these types of charges?
- New Defenses for Trespassing as a Licensed Gun Holder in Texas
- Where can I find more information about this subject?
Texas Penal Code § 46.02 makes it illegal for a person to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry on or about his or her person a handgun, illegal knife, or club if he or she is not on his or her own premises, a premises under his or her control, or inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by him or her or under his or her control.
A handgun refers to any firearm that is designed, made, or adapted to be fired with one hand, but Texas Penal Code § 46.01 establishes the following definitions for the other types of weapons in a UCW offense:
- Club — An instrument specially designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with the instrument. This term includes, but is not limited to a blackjack, nightstick, mace, or tomahawk.
- Illegal Knife — This term applies to a knife with a blade over five and one-half inches, hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown, dagger—including but not limited to a dirk, stiletto, and poniard, bowie knife, sword, or spear.
Beginning in September 2015, a person also commits this offense if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft he or she owns or is under his or her control at any time in which the handgun is in plain view unless the alleged offender is licensed to carry a handgun and it is carried in a shoulder or belt holster. This also applies if the person is either:
- Engaged in criminal activity, other than a class c misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic or boating;
- Prohibited by law from possessing a firearm; or
- A member of a criminal street gang.
UCW is a Class A misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. However, this crime is classified as a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if it is committed on any premises licensed or issued a permit by this state for the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Texas Penal Code § 46.035 prohibits the unlawful carrying of a handgun by a license holder. This statute makes it a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000 for an alleged offender to:
- Carry a handgun on or about his or her person under the legal authority granted by the Texas Government Code and intentionally display the handgun in plain view of another person in a public place (beginning in September 2015, it will be an exception if the handgun was partially or wholly visible but was carried in a shoulder or belt holster by the license holder);
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry a handgun under the legal authority granted by the Texas Government Code, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed or carried in a shoulder or belt holster, on or about his or her person on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place, unless the license holder is a participant in the event and a handgun is used in the event, on the premises of a hospital or nursing home without the written authorization of the hospital or nursing home administration, in an amusement park, or on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship;
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry a handgun under the legal authority granted by the Texas Government Code, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed or carried in a shoulder or belt holster, at any meeting of a governmental entity;
- Carry a handgun while intoxicated under the legal authority granted by the Texas Government Code, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed or carried in a shoulder or belt holster; or
- In the course and scope of employment as a licensed security officer, violate a provision of the legal authority granted by the Texas Government Code.
It is a third-degree felony under this statute if the alleged offender intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun under the legal authority granted by the Texas Government Code. This prohibition is regardless of whether the handgun is concealed or carried in a shoulder or belt holster, on or about his or her person on the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued under Chapter 25, 28, 32, 69, or 74 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, if the business derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, or on the premises of a correctional facility.
If convicted of unlawfully carrying of a firearm in Texas, the punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Anybody who has been charged with unlawfully carrying a handgun or other weapon in Harris County or any surrounding area of Texas, it is important to understand that there often numerous defenses available in these cases. Every case is different, so it is wise to have an experienced lawyer review the unique circumstances surrounding your own arrest and evaluate which claims would be most beneficial for you.
Generally, a few of the most common defenses in these types of cases include, but are not limited to:
- Alleged offender did not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry the handgun, firearm, or weapon;
- Alleged offender was engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting activity;
- Alleged offender was in or on his or her own private property;
- Alleged offender was traveling;
- Handgun was not in plain view;
- Misidentification of alleged offender; or
- Nothing unlawful about alleged weapon.
On September 1st, 2019, the state of Texas passed new laws which added multiple defenses that can be used in court if you’re charged with trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun. Under Section 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code, it’s now a defense to the prosecution that the license holder was personally given notice of oral communication and promptly departed the property after that signal.
In addition, various defenses were added to the Texas Penal Code 30.05 for the crime of criminal trespass. It’s now a defense to the prosecution for trespassing with a firearm if:
- You’re the owner of the apartment in a condominium regime;
- You own the condominium unit the crime happened in;
- You’re a tenant or guest of the owner; or
- You’re a guest of a tenant living in another’s leased home
The actor must have done one of the following to qualify for this admissible defense. These circumstances include:
- Carried or stored the firearm or ammunition in the condominium apartment or unit owner’s apartment or unit; or
- Carried a firearm or ammunition directly en route to or from the condominium apartment or unit owner’s apartment or unit; or
- Carried a firearm or ammunition directly en route to or from the defendant’s vehicle located in a parking area provided for residents of the property; and
- The actor is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing a firearm or ammunition
It’s also an admissible defense to the jury if the actor was a tenant of a manufactured home lot or the tenant’s guest and they were:
- Carrying or storing a firearm or ammunition in the tenant’s home; or
- Carrying a firearm or ammunition directly en route to or from their home;
- Carrying a firearm or ammunition directly en route to or from their vehicle located in the parking area provided for the residents of the premises; or
- Carries or stores a firearm or ammunition in their vehicle located in the parking area of for the tenants or guests of the tenants; and
- The actor was not prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition
Texans can also avoid criminal charges if they were entering a railroad switching yard or any part of a railroad switching yard and was at the time an employee or representative of employees exercising a right under the Railway Labor Act.
National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) | Texas State Profile — This website provides an overview of gun laws in the Lone Star State as well as concealed carry reciprocity with other states in the nation. There are also sections dedicated to recent news and laws on purchase, possession, and carrying of firearms.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) | Concealed Handgun Licensing — You can learn more about the Concealed Handgun Licensing (CHL) Program administered by DPS on this website. There is also information about the CHL fingerprint and photo requirements. DPS also needs to conduct a fingerprint-based state and FBI Criminal History background check as part of the application process for both original and renewal applicants.
Contact an Unlawful Carrying of Firearm Lawyer in Houston
If you have been arrested for unlawfully carrying a handgun or other weapons charges in Texas, make sure that you have legal counsel willing to fight to protect your Second Amendment rights. Matt Horak is a criminal defense attorney in Houston, TX who has more than a decade of experience handling these types of cases, including several years as an Assistant District Attorney in the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
Horak Law helps alleged offenders charged with weapons or firearm crimes all over the Houston area, including locations in Harris County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Waller County, and Galveston County. Contact our firm today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to receive a confidential consultation that will let our Harris County unlawful carrying of firearm attorney review your case.