Lawfully Carrying a Weapon Can Turn Unlawful in a Hurry

Last month, former Texas Longhorns Running Back (and recent Houston Texans draft pick) D’Onta Foreman, was arrested for two criminal offenses: 1.) Possession of Marijuana; and 2.) Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon. Initial reports were that he was licensed to carry a firearm which, begged the obvious question: if indeed licensed to carry, how was he charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon?

Certainly, someone with a Concealed Handgun License (“CHL”) may lawfully possess a firearm.  Additionally, in Texas, even those who are not licensed may lawfully carry a firearm if they are:

1.) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control; or

2.)  inside of, or directly en route to, a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control.

So, if Mr. Foreman was indeed inside of his “motor vehicle” as reported – whether licensed or not – how was he charged with unlawfully carrying his weapon? The answer is because, in Texas, weapons laws are such that a lawful carry can (almost instantly) turn unlawful.  

The Law

Specifically, if a person is in lawful possession of their firearm but at the same time is engaged in criminal activity (other than a traffic ticket), they are then unlawfully carrying their firearm.  In fact, the Texas Penal code even includes a specific charge titled Unlawful Carry by a License Holder. For example, someone with a CHL who is accused of Public Intoxication while carrying their firearm, is subject to the additional (and serious) charge of Unlawful Carry by a License Holder.

Here, the allegation that Mr. Foreman possessed marijuana is the “criminal activity” that – in an instant – made his otherwise lawful carry, suddenly unlawful.

Weapons charges in Texas can be confusing, and carry with them extreme consequences. If you, or someone you know, has recently been charged with a weapons-related offense, please contact my office immediately for a free consultation.  The sooner your attorney begins to work on your case, the greater chance there is for a favorable result.

Alexa, did you just call the cops?

Smart home devices are becoming more and more popular with homeowners. They can assist with a grocery list, update you on the weather, and play your favorite music. But could they also call the police in certain situations?

Recently, in New Mexico, police reported that a smart home device intervened in a domestic violence incident by calling 911. When Eduardo Barros asked aloud, “Did you call the sheriffs?” as he threatened his girlfriend, the device interpreted it as a request to call emergency services. As a result, a dispatcher overheard the altercation and notified the police, who arrived on-scene and arrested Barros.

Obviously, advancements in technology are moving at remarkable speeds. Equally as obvious, is that the law does not. As a result, law-enforcement and judges all over the country are often working through these extremely complicated questions of legality “on-the-fly.” This is all happening as you bring more voice recognition technology into your home, thereby increasing the risk of words and actions being misinterpreted.

Criminal investigations can become highly technical and can involve many complex rules of evidence. It is essential to have a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer handling your case to be certain that your rights are not violated during an investigation or prosecution of your criminal case.

Fourth of July DWI or BWI – Immediate Assistance Required

Whether you are celebrating in Addison at Kaboom Town, McKinney at Red, White & Boom, Rockin’ the River in Fort Worth, or actually on Lake Lewisville; if you land in jail as a result of a Driving (or Boating) While Intoxicated charge over the holiday weekend the consequences will be serious. You could be jailed for an extended time and face hefty fines. Additionally, a conviction will be on your record forever. Importantly, a record that any potential employer, landlord, or bank could will be able access easily. If you find yourself under arrest for DWI or BWI, immediately contacting a criminal defense attorney is vital.

Obviously, a holiday weekend will see an increased presence of law enforcement on the roadways (and lakes – where a Boating While Intoxicated charge is as equally painful as a DWI). Without immediate assistance from a criminal defense attorney, you will likely spend an extended weekend in jail. And with the legal holiday falling on a Tuesday this year, local courts may be running with a less-than-full staff – or no staff at all – until the middle of next week. This means that if you are arrested over the Fourth of July weekend, you may not see a judge for 48 hours – thereby significantly delaying your release from custody.

Do not delay in retaining a legal defense. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your family if you are arrested for Driving (or Boating) While Intoxicated is to consult with a criminal defense attorney about your case right away. I, or any Rosenthal & Wadas attorney, can assist with immediate release from jail, then carefully guide you through the legal process that will be ahead of you. Our office is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 972-369-0577.

What Does It Mean to Plead No Contest in Texas?

When you are arrested in Collin County and charged with a criminal offense such as DWI, you are brought before a judge and asked to enter a plea. Typically, a person pleads either “guilty” or “not guilty.” But there is a third option: a plea of “nolo contendere,” or no contest.

A Criminal Record, But No Admission of Guilt for Civil Purposes

Texas law permits defendants to enter a plea of no contest in any misdemeanor or felony case. By pleading no contest, the defendant neither admits nor denies guilt but chooses, for whatever reason, not to take the case to trial. A no contest plea effectively ends the case.

In terms of criminal law, a no contest plea has the same “legal effect” as a guilty plea. For example, say you are charged with DWI and enter a no contest plea. The judge can still sentence you the same as if you had pleaded guilty. The DWI will also become a part of your criminal record.

So why then would anyone plead no contest? For one thing, since there is no admission of guilt, the no contest plea cannot legally be used against you in any civil suit arising from the same underlying act. To continue the above example, suppose your DWI involved an accident with another vehicle. The other driver files a personal injury lawsuit, claiming your negligence–i.e., drunk driving–caused the accident. If you pleaded guilty to the criminal DWI charge (or were convicted after pleading not guilty), that conviction could be used as evidence against you in the civil case. But a no contest plea has no such effect; the other driver would still have to prove that you caused the accident.

Negotiating a No Contest Plea

Even if you are not worried about potential civil liability, a no contest plea may simply allow you to get on with your life. Some people want to avoid the time, expense, and public exposure of a trial. And in many cases, especially first-time DWI offenses where nobody was injured, defendants may be able to secure a favorable sentencing agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a no contest plea.

For instance, former University of Texas and NFL quarterback Vince Young entered a no contest plea earlier this year to a DWI charge. The judge did not order any jail time, but fined Young $300, ordered him to perform community service, and required him to attend a DWI Education class and use an ignition interlock device on his car for nine months.

Now, there is no guarantee you would get similar treatment if charged with DWI. But if you have been charged and need help understanding all your legal options–including the benefits and risks of entering a no contest plea–you should speak with an experienced Collin County criminal defense attorney right away. Call Eddie Cawlfield today at 972-369-0577 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.

Did You Forget That Firearm in Your Carry-On?

Unlawful Carry of a Weapon – AIRPORT

Many of us have found ourselves in an airport security line and realized – after it is too late of course – that we left our large bottle of shampoo, new toothpaste tube, and a way-too-expensive bottle of skin lotion in our carry-on bag. A completely honest mistake with the “punishment” being either running it all the way back to your car, or seeing it dumped into the nearest garbage can.

But what if someone makes a similarly honest mistake and forgets that their lawfully owned handgun (whether loaded or not) is also in their carry-on baggage. Unfortunately, while the gun will be confiscated just like the shampoo, this mistake will also result in the person being charged criminally.

Certainly, readers in north Texas will recall that in 1997, Barry Switzer – while the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys – found himself in this exact predicament.

The Law

Specifically, Section 46.03(a)(5) of the Texas Penal Code states that: a person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm…in or into a secured area of an airport. Importantly, this means that even if you “just forgot it was in there,” you will still be charged with the commission of this crime. In Texas, this offense is a 3rd Degree Felony, which means it is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and an additional $10,000 fine. So, obviously, it must be handled with extreme care and attention to detail.

Section 46.03 also makes it clear that it is not a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor possessed a handgun and was licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.

Importantly though, in 2015 the Texas Legislature created a provision that allows Concealed Handgun License (“CHL”) holders to potentially avoid a felony arrest if found in this situation. Specifically, the law now states that:

it is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(5) that the actor:

(1) possessed, at the screening checkpoint for the secured area, a concealed handgun that the actor was licensed to carry under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code; and

(2) exited the screening checkpoint for the secured area immediately upon completion of the required screening processes and notification that the actor possessed the handgun.

(e-2) A peace officer investigating conduct that may constitute an offense under Subsection (a)(5) and that consists only of an actor’s possession of a concealed handgun that the actor is licensed to carry under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, may not arrest the actor for the offense unless:

(1) the officer advises the actor of the defense available under Subsection (e-1) and gives the actor an opportunity to exit the screening checkpoint for the secured area; and

(2) the actor does not immediately exit the checkpoint upon completion of the required screening processes.

Stated more plainly, if a CHL holder has a firearm in their carry-on, law enforcement shall notify the person that the firearm is in the bag, and give the person the opportunity leave the area without being arrested. For CHL holders, this is obviously great news. Obviously though, for people who do not possess a CHL and forget that the gun is in their bag, they will be arrested for a Felony.

Successfully defending these charges is subject to a number of variables, oftentimes resulting in the reduction of the charges to a misdemeanor, or an even more favorable outcome. If you, or a loved one, ever “accidentally” find yourself in this predicament, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

*Edward “Eddie” Cawlfield is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For specific legal advice about any case please schedule a free consultation at 972-369-0577.