Texas is notorious for its strict driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws. State lawmakers take drunk and drugged driving very seriously, punishing offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Getting a DWI in Texas can mean thousands of dollars in fines, a jail sentence, and driver’s license suspension. What many Texans don’t realize, however, is the impact a DWI conviction could have on their 2nd Amendment rights – the right to bear arms.
A first offense DWI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.14 or less is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. A BAC greater than 0.15 (first offense) and second-offense DWIs are Class A misdemeanors. Third DWI offenses increase the charge to a third-degree felony. DWI with a child in the vehicle is a state jail felony offense. While most people know that earning a felony conviction will eliminate the right to own a gun under federal law, they aren’t aware that misdemeanors come with the same penalty in Texas.
Texas Code Section 411.172 lists the eligibility requirements for Texas citizens to carry handguns. The requirements include that the applicant is at least 21 years old, a legal resident of Texas for six months or longer, and has no felony convictions or Class A/Class B misdemeanor offense charges. This means that while misdemeanor DWI charges are pending, you cannot legally carry a handgun in Texas. Should the courts convict you of a Class A or B misdemeanor for DWI, you must wait at least five years to apply for a license to carry a handgun.
The gun ownership laws in Texas also bar people with certain drug-related convictions from obtaining licenses to carry. For example, a conviction for the possession of marijuana can result in a driver’s license suspension for 180 days and the loss of the right to carry a handgun for the next five years. You will have to answer “Yes” to the firearm dealer question: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana…or any other controlled substance?” This will automatically make you ineligible to purchase the gun.
Chemical or alcohol dependency can also bar a Texan from gun ownership. Receiving a DWI charge or conviction could be enough evidence to show that you have a substance dependency, making you ineligible to own or carry a handgun. You will have to wait at least five years before submitting an application to own a gun following a conviction of DWI as a Class B or greater misdemeanor in Texas. The same rule applies even if the courts dismissed the charges against you after you completed probation or deferred adjudication.
It does not matter if your DWI arrest came to nothing, or if the courts dropped the charges against you. You must still include the arrest on the application for gun ownership in Texas. The state needs to review all arrests so that it can conduct an accurate background check. You must include the type of offense, the year of your arrest, the location, and the final court decision. You may need to include copies of your DWI dispositions with your application. Failure to provide DWI arrest information could result in termination of your application.
A DWI can interfere with your ability to own a gun, vote, drive, practice medicine, get a job, or find housing in Texas. You don’t want a DWI conviction on your record. Retain an experienced defense attorney to minimize your odds of a conviction. A Houston defense attorney can also help you understand the gun ownership laws in Texas, including whether or not you qualify for a license to carry. The sooner you contact a lawyer after a DWI, the better.
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