If you were previously convicted and have since been charged with unlawful firearm possession in Texas, contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC for guidance and direction. Our experienced lawyers can help ensure that you are well defended and that your rights are protected.
Felon in Possession of a Firearm in Texas
One of the harsh penalties that results from a felony conviction is the loss of gun ownership rights. Under federal law, a convicted felon is never allowed to possess a gun again, even after serving time and completing parole and all other terms of their sentence. Texas has similar laws that forbid felons from owning guns under certain circumstances and the state also forbids anyone who was convicted of a family assault crime from having a gun in public.
Texas laws go on to say, though, that after at least five years have passed from the end of the punishment for the felony or family violence crime, a person can have a gun in their own home again. So, in the State of Texas, at least, being convicted of a felony isn’t the end of your right to have a gun nearby for self-defense and protection, as long as you are at home, anyway.
One of the conditions of a felony conviction is the loss of gun ownership rights. This rule applies throughout the United States and in every state in the country. In Texas, though, the bar against owning guns isn’t a lifetime condition. Texas law allows a felon to be in possession of a gun again after a certain time has passed post-conviction under certain circumstances. Virtually across the board, five years after the end of any sentence served, a former felon may again have possession of guns at home. The same rule applies to those who have been convicted of a crime of family violence, which is a misdemeanor. When five years have passed after the defendant has served the punishment for their crime, including incarceration and any term of supervised release in the community, the person is again allowed to have guns, but only at home and never in public places.
Texas Laws Concerning Felons in Possession of Firearms
The accepted principle in the U.S. is that convicted felons lose their right to bear arms and are forbidden from owning or possessing firearms at all. The same principle applies to those who have been convicted of certain family violence crimes – even though the charges, in those cases, are misdemeanor offenses – a conviction will result in the loss of firearm ownership privileges. Likewise, those who are covered by a protective order that requires them to stay away from certain people are also forbidden from gun possession so long as they are aware of the protective order that covers them.
Unlike the federal rule, though, which does not ever permit a convicted felon to possess a gun again legally, the Texas rule allows for an exception to the harsh penalty of forfeiture of all gun rights for life. Like most of the state’s gun laws, Texas has a relatively pro-gun ownership position on the subject of felons in possession of firearms. In Texas, a felon who has served the terms of their sentence, including any time incarcerated as well as all the time that has been ordered for any sort of supervised release in the community, like parole or probation, is eligible for limited gun possession rights, but only at home, and only when more than five years have elapsed after sentencing terms have been fully served.
The law in Texas allows felons who have served their term, plus any post-incarceration period of supervision like parole, and who have then waited five years after the last date of the sentence, to have guns in their own home and vehicle. This rule applies to people convicted of family violence misdemeanors, as well. Neither convicted felons nor those who have served time for family violence can lawfully own and carry weapons outside of the home (and a vehicle they own or control) at any time, even after the five years have run and they are allowed to have guns at home again.
Punishments for Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon in Texas
Possession of a firearm by a felon in Texas is treated as a significant crime. The offense is charged as a third-degree felony. If convicted, you will face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. There are even more severe consequences for people considered habitual felony offenders. If an accused has previously been convicted of any felony beyond a state jail felony, they can be charged with a second-degree felony if found in possession of a gun. A conviction of a second-degree felony will result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Elements of Felon in Possession of a Firearm Offense in Texas
Texas law says that someone who has been convicted of a felony commits a further offense if they possess a firearm at any time after the date of their conviction and before the fifth anniversary of the completion of their sentencing terms. Further, even if five years have passed, the person commits an offense if they have a gun in their possession anywhere outside of their home or vehicle.
The same law also explains that a person who has been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor offense of family violence assault has the same restrictions on the time and place when and where they are forbidden from gun possession. At any time that is more than five years after the conclusion of any term of confinement or community supervision has passed, the defendant can again possess guns, but only at home.
Since not all laws in all states use the same terminology, it’s important to understand how Texas classifies a felony for the purposes of gun possession law. An offense under the laws of Texas, of another state, or of the United States, is considered a felony if at the time the criminal offense occurs, the offense is either designated as a felony or if it is punishable by one year or more in a penitentiary. So, even if a person was convicted of a crime in another state and the offense wasn’t called a ‘felony’ but it was punishable by at least one year in prison, the law in Texas considers that conviction to have been a felony and the law against a felon in possession of a firearm is in effect for the affected felon.
Defenses to Charges of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm in Texas
Since a prosecutor must prove all elements of the crime in court beyond a reasonable doubt, a skilled defense attorney is often able to find weak spots in the case where the prosecutor’s evidence is questionable or doesn’t clearly establish a particular element. A good criminal defense lawyer will raise all relevant defenses and can produce any other evidence, testimony, or circumstances that may raise reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge or jury about the defendant’s alleged guilt.
Procedural Defects in the Prosecutor’s Case
Every criminal case is affected by a complicated investigatory process. All along the way, there are potential pitfalls that police or the state’s investigators may trip up on regarding how they gathered evidence against the accused and how the defendant was treated during the arrest and detention process. An experienced defense attorney can bring the court’s attention to any missteps and ask the judge to rule on whether any evidence gathered as a result of these missteps will be admissible in court. If evidence is excluded before trial, the result may lead to the charges being dropped, as the prosecutor may not be able to effectively make their case without that evidence.
Facts can come out through the course of a criminal investigation that may show that the person charged was wrongfully identified as a felon or someone who had been convicted of a family violence assault in the past. A capable defense attorney can assess the charges and quickly get to the bottom of any such mistake. In the case of someone covered by a protective order and forbidden from weapons possession, the prosecutor must prove that the individual had full legal knowledge of the facts of the protective order that was to have applied in the case. Suppose the order was never properly served on the individual to whom it applies. In that case, they could not have known they were in violation of the law forbidding them from gun ownership because of the protective order, and so the case against them may not be able to stand.
Unlawful Possession Lawyer in Texas
Facing criminal charges, such as being accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm, can have life-altering consequences. The impacts of such charges on your reputation in the community can be severe. Dealing with the possibility of a conviction and the potential for jail time and monetary fines can be intimidating. Having a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side will help to level the playing field so that you can fight back as effectively as possible. Contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can aggressively advocate on behalf of your interests. Call (512) 991-0576 or reach us online to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
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