Texas has a certain reputation when it comes to gun laws, but it does draw some lines, and one of them is that felons are not allowed to own guns in the state (except within very strict parameters). If you have been convicted of a felony, it’s important to understand how this affects your right to own a gun in the State of Texas. If you are facing a gun possession charge, it is time to consult with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.
Possession of a Firearm in Texas
When it comes to the possession of firearms, the State of Texas is exacting in its terminology and specifications – in an effort to help ensure that both law enforcement and those with felonies on their records understand the parameters involved. Before you can be arrested for firearm possession in Texas, all the following criteria must be met:
You must be the owner of the firearm in question, or you must be in possession of the firearm in question.
You must have either been convicted of a felony or must have finished a felony sentence within the last five years, which means that five years have not yet passed since you completed your felony sentence.
You must have possessed the gun in question voluntarily.
In order to get your possession charge dropped, you would need to prove that the firearm in question actually belonged to someone else or that you did not know that it was in your vehicle, in your home, or wherever it was found. Further, if it has been longer than five years since you completed your felony sentence, you may have grounds to have the possession charge dropped.
Firearm Possession Laws in Texas
In Texas, felons are not entirely banned from owning firearms. If you have a felony on your record and your sentence ended at least five years ago, you can own a gun, but it must remain in your own home. As such, those with felonies on their records can only own firearms for self-defense purposes. As a former felon, it is illegal for you to carry a gun (whether open carry or conceal carry) outside of your home in the State of Texas. If you are found in possession of a gun outside your own home – regardless of how long it has been since you completed your sentence – you can face arrest for the illegal possession of a firearm, which can have serious consequences that include returning to jail and/or paying hefty legal fines. Simply put, former felons cannot possess guns in their cars or on their persons (other than inside their own homes) in the State of Texas.
The Federal Government Sees Things Differently
While Texas allows former felons to possess firearms in limited situations, the federal government does not. Federal laws clearly state that no felons are allowed to own or possess firearms (and the amount of time since the felony sentence was completed has no bearing). This means that the potential of facing a federal charge remains and should be taken into careful consideration when you make a decision regarding whether or not to purchase a gun in Texas in the first place.
Sentencing Requirements for Firearm Possession Charges in Texas
Felons who are charged with firearm possession face serious legal consequences, including the following:
A conviction for a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, which is a third-degree felony, comes with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or with fines of up to $10,000.
Aggravated consequences can be imposed if the person convicted of possession is deemed a habitual felony offender.
If the defendant’s prior conviction was for a felony other than a state jail felony, he or she could face a second-degree felony, which comes with a sentence of up to 20 years in prison in addition to fines of up to $10,000.
Unlawful Federal Possession
The federal government deems it illegal for any of the following people to possess, ship and transport, or receive any firearm or ammunition:
Anyone who has been convicted of a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year, which includes all felons in the State of Texas (this is true even if the person pled guilty to the charge and received deferred adjudication in exchange – based on the federal definition of conviction)
Anyone who is a fugitive from justice
Anyone who uses controlled substances unlawfully or addictively
Any alien who is in the country illegally or who was admitted into the country under a nonimmigrant visa
Anyone who was dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
Anyone who has renounced his or her American citizenship
Anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge
Firearm Possession in Texas: FAQ
Firearm possession laws in Texas are fairly exacting, and better understanding them can help you stay on the right side of the law. The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions as they pertain to firearm possession in the state may answer some of your own questions.
Can I hunt in the State of Texas if I have a felony conviction?
If hunting means having a firearm in your possession, then no, you cannot hunt in Texas if you have a felony conviction. The only time someone who has a felony conviction on his or her record can possess or own a firearm is if at least five years have passed since his or her felony sentence was served and if the firearm in question remains in his or her home.
What if I received deferred adjudication? Does it affect my possession rights?
If you pleaded guilty to a felony and received deferred adjudication in exchange, it does not alter the fact that it is illegal for you to possess a firearm at the federal level. While the matter is less clear when it comes to Texas, you do not have a green light for possession of a firearm outside your home. Successfully completing deferred adjudication means that you were not convicted of the crime in question, but it could still affect your right to possess a firearm in the state – depending upon your situation. Consulting with an experienced criminal attorney is well-advised.
Where is it always illegal to carry a handgun in Texas?
While Texas has loosened its restriction related to carrying firearms considerably, there are certain places that are always off-limits, including:
At schools, on school buses, and anywhere that school activities are happening
Wherever professional, interscholastic, or school sporting events are being held
At any businesses that receive more than half of their income from the on-premises sale of liquor
At all nursing homes and hospitals
At polling places when voting or elections are taking place
In court buildings and court offices
What are the new carry laws in Texas?
On September 1, 2021, Texas made sweeping changes in its carry laws, and the Texas Tribune shared the governor’s take on this loosening of restrictions with the following: You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights, but today, I signed documents that instilled freedom in the Lone Star State. Police throughout the state, however, voiced such grave concerns that several amendments were ultimately included, such as requiring the Department of Public Safety to offer free online firearm safety courses. Prior to September 1, those who were capable of legally possessing a gun were required to have a license to do so (whether they engaged in open or concealed carry). To obtain the necessary carry license, Texans needed to fulfill the following requirements:
Completing at least four to six hours of a safety training class
Submitting one’s fingerprints
Passing a written test and a shooting proficiency test
These requirements, however, were done away with on September 1, and now, anyone who is at least 21 years old and who is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun (such as anyone who has a felony or a domestic violence conviction on his or her record) has the right to carry a gun without the inconvenience of obtaining a license to carry.
Can you still obtain a license to carry?
The new carry rights are referred to as constitutional carry, and there are distinctions between having an actual license to carry (LTC) and engaging in constitutional carry, including:
If a business so chooses, it can deny those who are not licensed to carry a firearm from entering their premises while carrying, but they must employ posted notifications to let the public know. It is also important to note that businesses have the right to ban weapons altogether, including for people who have a license to carry and for those invoking their constitutional carry rights. A simple No Weapons sign suffices.
Those who have a license to carry are granted what is referred to as a savings clause. This means that anyone with an actual LTC who carries a firearm into a prohibited area – but who exits upon being personally notified that he or she needs to do so – can avoid associated legal penalties. Constitutional carry, on the other hand, offers no such courtesy, and those who engage in constitutional carry while in a space that prohibits carry can find themselves facing either a third-degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor (depending on the prohibited space in question). This is true even if the person engaging in constitutional carry was perfectly willing to leave when requested to do so.
What gun charges are most common in Texas?
Two of the most frequent gun charges in Texas include:
The Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm – The unlawful discharge of a firearm is also referred to as the reckless discharge of a firearm, and it is a crime of knowingly firing a gun over premises that are occupied, over highways or streets, over paved roads, and/or on-premises that are primarily used as dwellings or that are exclusively zoned as residential properties.
The Unlawful Possession of a Firearm – The unlawful possession of a firearm refers back to those people who are barred from possession of a firearm in the first place, such as felons, and the charge applies when such a person is found in possession of a firearm.
Other common charges include:
Assault with a deadly weapon
Conceal and carry license violations
Possession of an unregistered or stolen weapon
Trafficking in illegal firearms
Unlawful brandishing of a firearm
Can a loaded gun be carried in one’s car without a license to carry?
In the State of Texas, it is perfectly legal to keep a loaded gun in one’s car without needing a license to carry – as long as the person who does so is not prohibited from possessing a gun for any reason. It is important to note that this practice is illegal in most states across the nation.
Are there any specific requirements regarding how a gun is carried in Texas?
While there used to be a legal requirement that guns be holstered either at the shoulder or the belt in Texas, this is no longer the case. Now, the only requirement is that you must use a holster to carry a gun on your person. Unless your gun is appropriately holstered, however, it is a crime to purposely display a handgun in a public place (when in plain view of someone else) in the State of Texas.
An Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Is Standing by to Help
If you are facing a gun possession charge of any kind, the consequences of a conviction are far too dire to leave to chance. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an accomplished criminal defense attorney who is committed to aggressively advocating for your legal rights – in pursuit of your case’s most beneficial outcome. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.