In Texas, the Unlawful Carrying Weapons (UCW) law is governed by Texas Penal Code §46.02. Under this law, it is illegal to carry a handgun, illegal knife, or club on your person in public places. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially when it comes to carrying a handgun.
The law stipulates that a person commits an offense if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry a handgun in public, and the handgun is not concealed, or the person is not carrying the handgun under the authority of a License to Carry (LTC) issued by the state.
What Is a Concealed Weapon?
A concealed weapon is defined as a firearm, knife, or other weapon that is hidden from view and not discernible by ordinary observation.
In Texas, if you have a License to Carry (LTC), you can carry a concealed handgun on or about your person. However, the handgun must remain concealed and not be openly visible to others.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Law?
There are several exceptions to the Unlawful Carrying Weapons law in Texas. Some of these include:
Carrying a Handgun on Your Own Premises or Premises Under Your Control
For example, if you own a house and have a handgun for self-defense, you are allowed to carry the handgun within the boundaries of your property. Similarly, if you own or manage a business, you can carry a handgun within the property under your control.
Carrying a Handgun While Inside a Motor Vehicle
Suppose you are driving from your home to a shooting range for target practice. You have your handgun in your car, but it is not in plain view and is stored in a secure location such as a glove compartment or console. You are not engaged in criminal activity, prohibited from possessing a firearm, or a member of a criminal street gang. In this case, you are not violating the UCW law.
Carrying a Handgun While Engaged in Lawful Hunting, Fishing, or Other Sporting Activities
Imagine you are on a hunting trip in a designated hunting area, and you have a handgun with you for personal protection. As long as you are on the immediate premises where the hunting activity is taking place or traveling to or from such premises, you are within the exceptions to the UCW law.
Carrying of a Handgun by a Person Who Holds a Valid License to Carry (LTC)
Suppose you have obtained a valid LTC from the state of Texas. In that case, you are allowed to carry a concealed handgun in public places as long as you follow the specific rules and restrictions associated with carrying a concealed weapon.
For example, you might be carrying your concealed handgun while shopping at a grocery store that does not display a sign prohibiting firearms.
Please note that these examples are for illustrative purposes only and may not cover all possible scenarios. Consult with a lawyer in Texas or familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations governing firearms in your area to completely protect yourself.
Can I Still Be Arrested Even if I Am in My Car?
Although Texas law allows you to carry a handgun in your vehicle under certain circumstances, you can still be arrested if the conditions specified in the exception are not met.
For example, suppose the handgun is in plain view. In that case, you are engaged in criminal activity, you are prohibited from possessing a firearm, or you are a member of a criminal street gang, you may be arrested for violating the Unlawful Carrying Weapons law.
If you are stopped by law enforcement, remain calm, follow their instructions and communicate clearly about the presence of a firearm in your vehicle.
The following are some steps to follow:
- Pull over to a safe location and turn off your vehicle.
- Roll down your window, and place your hands on the steering wheel, where they are visible to the officer.
- If the officer asks for your identification, inform the officer that you need to reach for your wallet or purse to get your ID and that you have a firearm in the vehicle.
- Clearly communicate the location of the firearm in your vehicle without making sudden movements. For example, you might say, “Officer, I want to let you know that I have a legally owned firearm in my glove compartment.”
- If you have a License to Carry (LTC), inform the officer and provide the necessary documentation when asked.
- Continue to follow the officer’s instructions and answer any questions they may have.
What Does the Term “Premises” Refer to Regarding the Unlawful Concealed Weapons Law?
“Premises” might refer to your home, yard, or place of business. In the context of the Unlawful Concealed Weapons law, the term “premises” generally refers to a building or a portion of a building, including the land or structures associated with it. It does not typically include public or private driveways, streets, sidewalks, walkways, or parking areas.
What Is the Punishment for Unlawful Carrying Concealed Weapons in Texas?
In Texas, the punishment for Unlawful Carrying Weapons can vary depending on the specifics of the offense.
Generally, unlawfully carrying a handgun in public is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both. However, the charges and penalties may vary based on the circumstances and the offender’s criminal history.
Unlawful carrying of a weapon, particularly handguns, is generally considered a more serious offense due to its potential danger to public safety. As a result, Texas law classifies most Unlawful Carrying Weapons offenses as Class A misdemeanors, which carry more severe penalties.
While a Class C misdemeanor typically results in a fine of up to $500 and does not involve jail time, it is less likely to be associated with Unlawful Carrying Weapons charges because the nature of the offense usually warrants a more severe classification.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me With My Weapons Case?
If you are facing charges related to Unlawful Carrying Weapons or any other firearms-related offense, it is highly recommended that you consult with a knowledgeable Texas criminal lawyer.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system, protect your rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. They can also provide guidance on the specific laws and regulations governing firearms in Texas and develop a legal strategy tailored to your situation.
LegalMatch is an online legal marketplace that can help you find a qualified attorney in Texas who can assist you with your weapons case.
The following shows how LegalMatch works:
- Create a profile: First, create a profile on LegalMatch’s website and provide details about your case and legal needs.
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Use LegalMatch to save time and effort in finding a qualified attorney to assist you with your weapons case.