Former State Prosecutor Jeff Hampton Can Help You Navigate the Murky Waters of Texas’ Weapons Laws
People may think that Texas is still the Wild West when it comes to carrying weapons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Texas’ weapons laws are comprehensive and challenging to understand. People can unwittingly get themselves into a tremendous amount of legal trouble because it is impossible to know what is allowed when it comes to possessing a weapon. As a result, many people wind up in jail or prison for behavior they believed to be legal. Parker County weapons crime defense attorney Jeff Hampton understands these convoluted laws well having sought to enforce them as a state prosecutor and now, vigorously defending his clients who allegedly violated those laws.
Texas’ Weapons Laws
People might think of a handgun or knife when they hear the word “weapon.” The Texas Penal Code includes many more weapons than that. The Texas Penal Code defines weapons as:
- Clubs, which also includes nightsticks, mace, blackjack, and tomahawk;
- Explosive weapons, like bombs, rockets, mines, and the like;
- Firearm, except an antique or replica of an antique gun made before 1899;
- A silencer;
- A knife bearing a blade longer than five and one-half inches, which is also known as a location restricted knife;
- Brass knuckles;
- Hoax bomb;
- Machine gun;
- A firearm with a short barrel;
- Improvised explosive device (IED); or
- Chemical weapon.
Most of these items are per se dangerous and cannot be carried unless you are an active military member or a member of law enforcement, but only in the course of his or her duties.
People face weapons charges in Parker County commonly because he or she is a prohibited person carrying a weapon or carrying a weapon not in complicate with Texas law. Unless otherwise duly licensed, a person may not carry a firearm outside of his or her home or in his or her car or boat. Even if the person is on his or her watercraft, Texas law prohibits him or her from carrying openly so that the weapon is visible (unless holstered on a belt or shoulder holster and the person has a license to carry) or the person is engaged in criminal conduct which is more severe than a Class C misdemeanor. Furthermore, Texas law recognizes that two classes of people cannot lawfully possess firearms. Convicted felons may not possess a firearm. Additionally, a person who belongs to a street gang cannot possess a firearm.
Texas law does not prohibit every person from carrying a location-restricted knife. Only people under 18 years of age and not in their home or car or under parental supervision can lawfully that kind of knife.
Punishment for unlawful possession of a firearm or knife is a Class A misdemeanor unless an exception applies. A person found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor faces up to one year in jail and a $4,000.00 fine.
Texas law lists numerous locations where a person cannot carry a weapon. Prohibited places include:
- Places of religious worship,
- Courts, jails, and prisons,
- Government office,
- Airport, and
- Amusement park.
Running afoul of this prohibition is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $500.00 fine if committed with a location-restricted knife. Otherwise, the crime may be punished as a third-degree felony. Punishment for a third-degree felony includes confinement in the state prison for no less than two but no more than ten years.
Defenses to Weapons Crimes
Weapons crimes are possessory in nature, like drug crimes. The government is responsible for convincing the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged possessed the weapon either on his person or constructively. Constructive possession is the legal theory that permits a judge or jury to conclude that the person had the weapon even though law enforcement did not find the weapon on him or her. So, taking the case to trial when the police did not see the weapon on the person could lead to an acquittal if the facts suggest that you had no connection to the vehicle or premises searched by the officer.
Inherent in possessory crimes is the notion that police must lawfully seize the contraband. Since every person is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution’s command that every person is free from unreasonable searches and seizures, a judge can suppress the evidence if the police wrongfully took it from you. For example, if a sheriff conducts a pat-frisk and finds a gun on you, the sheriff needed to have a lawful reason to stop and pat-frisk your person. If not, the judge can toss the evidence out of court, which will result in a dismissal of the charges due to lack of evidence. The same principle applies to car stops and searches of homes as well.
Expert Criminal Defense for Weapons Crimes in Parker County
Call Attorney Jeff Hampton today at 817-877-5201. Attorney Hampton will discuss the case with you and devise the best strategy for a successful defense of your weapons charges in Parker County.