Unlawful Carry of a Weapon, or UCW, refers to offenses involving the illegal possession of a handgun, illegal knife, or club in Texas. This is generally a Class A misdemeanor in Texas although as explained below, it can become a third degree felony under certain circumstances. This article focuses on UCW cases involving handguns. This is covered under Penal Code Section 46.02. This article also discusses UCW cases that can be filed against individuals who have a license to carry. Generally, a person without a felony conviction can carry a handgun:
For purposes of the Unlawful Carry of a Weapons Charges, premises includes:
An individual is prohibited from possessing a handgun while they are committing an offense (other than an offense punishable by a traffic ticket) – even if they are in a generally permissible place to lawfully carry even without a license.
For example, imagine you put your handgun in your car where the handle is still visible, go to work, and after work you head to happy hour. Now imagine you get stopped and charged with DWI. Under Texas law, the officer can charge you with UCW because you were committing an offense other than a Class C traffic offense. So while you may have never intended to commit the offense of UCW, by possessing a handgun while committing an offense other than a traffic ticket, the officer can charge you with UCW.
Another exception to the ability to carry a handgun in Texas is inside airports or other prohibited places. Learn more about Airport UCW cases in Texas.
Penal Code Section 46.035 applies to individuals who have a license to carry. This section prohibits displaying a handgun in a public place unless the handgun is in a shoulder or belt holster. The holster exception does not apply if otherwise excluded – such as on the premises of a high school or a college or university. It’s important to note that although campus carry is legal, open carry on a campus is not legal.
License holders cannot carry handguns in areas designated as gun free zones on campus. License holders cannot carry a handgun into a business that gets 51% or more of its income from alcohol, or into government meetings generally, if the license holder is intoxicated, in a correctional facility, in a hospital, in a church, or in an amusement park.
In general, illegally carrying a handgun without a CHL in Texas is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. However, this punishment range is increased to a third-degree felony if you illegally carry a handgun on any premises licensed or issued a permit by this state for the sale of alcoholic beverages. If charged as a felony, the range of punishment is 2 to 10 years in the penitentiary and up to a $10,000 fine.
In order to open carry in Texas, you must obtain a license to carry. Click here for an in-depth discussion of Open Carry in Texas.
Public universities are required to allow handguns in college campuses and dorms. However, college presidents have been given authority to create gun free zones within the campus. Private colleges in the state may opt out of Campus Carry.
If you are arrested or charged for Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon, call our team of criminal defense attorneys for representation at 817-203-2220 or contact us online. As former prosecutors, our lawyers understand the position that District Attorney’s Offices often take on these types of cases and how to best evaluate your options. Our Board Certified Criminal Lawyers will work through the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence against you and work to negotiate the best possible outcome.