Many Texans choose to exercise their right to carry firearms and other weapons on their person or in their vehicle. However, many people may not realize that carrying a weapon, even if doing so lawfully, may constitute a criminal offense if you have it while violating the law in another manner. In particular, a person may be charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon if they have possession of a weapon while committing the offense of driving while intoxicated.
If you’ve been charged with unlawful possession or carrying a firearm or weapon in connection with a DWI arrest, turn to the Law Offices of RJ Harber for experienced legal representation dedicated to defending your rights and interests. Being arrested for DWI already represents a stressful situation, so facing an additional charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon can come as a surprise.
As a former prosecutor, RJ Harber has extensive knowledge of Texas criminal law and deep background in how the state builds and prosecutes cases. This makes him particularly qualified to mount an aggressive defense against the charges you face.
Contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation initial case evaluation to learn more about how a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you. Our goal will be to protect your freedom and future if you’ve been charged with unlawful possession of a weapon following a DWI arrest.
Carrying Handguns in Texas
In Texas, all registered and licensed handgun owners may lawfully “open carry” their firearms in public. The Texas Motorist Protection Act also allows any Texan who may lawfully possess a handgun to carry, in a concealed manner, a loaded handgun inside a vehicle they own or operate without needing to obtain any permit, including a license to carry.
However, to enjoy the Motorist Protection Act’s benefits, an individual may not be actively committing any offense above a Class C traffic misdemeanor. The grading for a charge of driving while intoxicated starts at a Class B misdemeanor.
Why Carrying a Weapon Is Illegal When Driving Under the Influence?
Under Texas law, it is considered a separate criminal offense to be carrying a firearm or other weapon while committing another criminal offense, even if you are otherwise legally carrying a weapon that you lawfully own and possess. If someone is arrested for a crime while in possession of a gun, they can be charged with both the underlying crime as well as the offense of unlawful possession or carrying of a firearm or weapon.
In Texas, driving while intoxicated is also considered a criminal offense and may constitute a predicate offense that can support a charge of unlawful possession of a weapon if you are found in possession of a gun or other weapon when you are arrested for DWI.
A charge of unlawful possession of a weapon or firearm represents a serious criminal offense in Texas. You may be facing a charge of a Class A misdemeanor, in addition to the underlying charge for DWI, although under certain circumstances, you might be charged with a third-degree felony for unlawful possession.
What Is the Penalty for Unlawful Possession of a Weapon?
If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for unlawful possession or carrying of a weapon, you may face a sentence that can include up to one year in county jail and a potential fine of up to $4,000.
Your charge may be upgraded to a third-degree felony if you are found in possession of a firearm while outside of your vehicle in any one of the locations designated under the statute, including
- Bars and liquor stores
- Any school or educational institution
- Any designated polling place during voting hours
- Any court or government office
- The secured area of any airport
A conviction on a third-degree penalty may result in the imposition of a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, along with a potential fine of up to $10,000.
Other Consequences of Being Convicted for DWI and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
Of course, if you are convicted of DWI and unlawful carrying of a weapon, you may face longer-lasting consequences, in addition to a potential jail or prison sentence and fines.
Having a criminal record can impact your success in applying for employment, housing, or educational opportunities. If you are convicted of felony DWI or felony unlawful carrying, you will lose your right to own or carry a firearm for at least five years.
Potential Defenses to a DWI/Unlawful Possession Charge
If you are charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with a DWI charge, you may have two potential avenues of defense to the unlawful possession charge. First, you can defend yourself on the underlying DWI charge. Possible defenses to a DWI charge can include:
- Proving that you were not operating a motor vehicle at the time of your arrest.
- Proving that your vehicle was not located on a “public road” at the time of your arrest.
- Challenging the reliability of the results of field sobriety testing, including by showing that the tests were conducted under inadequate conditions or that the conducting officer lacked sufficient training to perform the tests.
- Challenging the reliability of the results of breath or blood alcohol testing, including showing that a breath test was improperly conducted or that the testing equipment was not properly calibrated.
If your DWI charge is dismissed or if you obtain an acquittal, then you cannot be convicted on the unlawful possession charge since you were not committing a crime while in possession of your weapon.
In addition to defending yourself against your DWI charge, you can also raise defenses to the unlawful carrying charge. For example, you might be able to challenge the legality of your initial traffic stop, or the legality of a subsequent search conducted by police, if officers lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the stop or search. You may also be entitled to raise one of the statutory defenses to an unlawful carrying charge, which includes:
- Persons traveling through Texas, under certain conditions
- Fishermen and hunters
- Valid license-to-carry holders
- Court officials and law enforcement officers
- Certain active-duty military personnel
- Certain security officers authorized to carry weapons
- Certain animal control officers
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney If You’ve Been Charged with DWI and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
If you’ve been arrested for DWI while in possession of a firearm or weapon, you may be facing potentially serious criminal charges and penalties. Contact the Law Offices of RJ Harber or call us at (214) 389-1189 today for a free, confidential consultation. We’ll discuss your rights and options and aggressively defend you against the charges you’re facing.