Texas gun laws are constantly evolving, and this year has been no exception. With the new “constitutional carry” law and changes to the Unlawful Carrying Weapons (UCW) statute, there can be confusion and uncertainty when it comes to your right to own a weapon. Yet, it is imperative that you understand your rights so that you can avoid any unwanted criminal charges.
What is the UCW law in Texas?
In Texas, UCW is an offense that makes it illegal to carry handguns and other weapons under certain circumstances. Under the current UCW law, it is illegal to carry a handgun outside of your home or vehicle if you are:
2. Prohibited from possessing a firearm under the law;
3. Under 21 years old; or
4. Convicted of certain offenses within five years from the date of carry.
The new law also makes it illegal to (1) carry a handgun in plain view in a public place unless the handgun is in a holster, and (2) carry a handgun in plain view inside a vehicle unless the handgun is in a holster. Stated differently, you may carry a handgun in plain view in a public place and your vehicle so long as it is in a holster.
Additionally, the new UCW law prohibits people under 18 years old from possessing “location-restricted” knives outside of their homes unless they are under adult supervision. A location restricted knife means a knife with a blade over 5 ½ inches.
What About Constitutional Carry in Texas?
As outlined above, the Texas Legislature significantly amended the UCW law. Most notably, an exception was created to the general prohibition against carrying a handgun. This exception, known as constitutional carry, allows people over the age of 21 to carry a handgun outside of their home or vehicle without a permit or CHL as long as the weapon is holstered.
The new constitutional carry law isn’t a free-for-all. While it does expand gun rights in Texas, there are severe penalties for any violations of the law.
What is the Punishment for UCW in Texas?
A UCW is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by 1 year in county jail and/or a $4,000 fine. However, a UCW will be charged as a third-degree felony if you are prohibited from possessing a firearm for a prior family violence conviction. It is charged as a second-degree felony if you are prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a prior felony conviction.
Who is Exempt from UCW Laws?
Texas law exempts many people from the applicability of the UCW laws. Below are categories of people who are exempt from UCW laws:
- Law enforcement;
- Court officials;
- Certain military members;
- Hunters and fishermen;
- Security officers;
- Personal protection officers;
- CHL holders; and
- Alcoholic beverage permit holders
How Do I Get My UCW Case Dismissed?
Because of the complexity of the law, there are various ways to challenge UCW charges. For example, the state must prove that you carried the weapon either “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly,” in order to be convicted of a UCW. This element can often be difficult for the state to prove.
For example, you are pulled over and the officer sees that you have a weapon in your vehicle that is unholstered. Unbeknownst to you, your spouse put the handgun your car earlier that day. Since you had no knowledge of the weapon’s existence, it will be difficult for the state to prove you “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” carried the weapon.
If you have been arrested for UCW, it is important to speak with an attorney who can guide you through these convoluted new laws. If you have any questions or concerns about UCW or constitutional carry, contact Mehr Singh today.