What is Unlawful Carry of a Weapon?
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.
Who Can Open Carry in Texas?
Generally, Texans can carry in Texas if they meet the following requirements
– Be at least 21 years old
– Not have a prior felony conviction for which the punishment ended in the last five years and even after five years only at the person’s residence
– Not be a member of a criminal street gang
– Not have a conviction for family violence for which the punishment ended in the last five years
– Not be subject to a protective order
– Not be prohibited from carrying a firearm under federal law
– Not be intoxicated other than inside one’s residence or inside one’s vehicle. (If you drive while intoxicated, that is unlawful carry of a weapon.)
Can you open carry in Texas if you are 18-20?
In 2023, a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for Texas to prevent 18 to 20-year-olds from open carrying in Texas. Texas has decided not to appeal that decision, so although Texas law says you have to be 21 to open carry, 18-20-year-olds are not going to be prosecuted under the current state of the law.Fullscreen Mode
What are the Exceptions to Open Carry?
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.
Unlawful Carry of a Weapon – Airports
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.
Unlawful Carry of a Weapon – License Holders
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, hospital, or a church, or in an amusement park.
What is the Punishment for Unlawful Carry of a Weapon in Texas?
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.
Can I Open Carry in Texas?
Click here for an in-depth discussion of Open Carry in Texas.
Can I Carry a Weapon in a College or University?
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.