If you have never been in trouble with the law before, a DWI charge might not seem like a big deal. After all, a first-time DWI is only a misdemeanor offense. But what you may not realize is that even a misdemeanor conviction can have serious consequences for your civil rights going forward.
Houston Court Rejects Constitutional Challenge to Revocation of Handgun License
For example, conviction of a Class B misdemeanor–which includes a “plain vanilla” DWI without any enhancements–makes you ineligible to hold a handgun license under Texas law. More specifically, Section 411.172 of the Texas Government Code states a person may only carry a handgun legally if he or she “has not, in the five years preceding the date of the application, been convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor.”
This might come as a shock to many Houston-area residents who believe the “right to keep and bear arms” is a God-given–or at least a constitutionally protected–right. But just recently, the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston addressed the impact of a DWI conviction on a person’s gun rights.
In this case, Wells v. Texas Department of Public Safety the applicant–who represented himself without an attorney–initially obtained a concealed handgun license from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) back in 2013. Two years later, police arrested and charged the applicant with DWI. The applicant decided to plead guilty to that charge.
Subsequently, the DPS revoked the applicant’s concealed handgun license, as the Class B misdemeanor conviction rendered him ineligible. The applicant then challenged the DPS’ revocation in court, first before a local justice court and later before the Harris County Court of Law, and ultimately the 14th District. All three courts rejected the applicant’s demand for reinstatement of his license.
Before the 14th District, the applicant raised his constitutional argument. He noted the U.S. Supreme Court famously affirmed the existence of an individual right to own firearms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (and an analogous provision of the Texas state constitution.) But as the appeals court explained, the Supreme Court only said that the government could not impose a blanket “ban on handgun possession in the home.” The government may still “disqualify” an individual from holding a gun “on the sole basis of a DWI conviction.”
The 14th District also rejected the applicant’s claim that he was the victim of a retroactive law that changed the licensing rules for handguns after he was convicted of DWI. The appeals court said that was not the case at all. In 2016, the Texas legislature did enact several changes to the state’s gun laws. But these changes “did not create a new penalty for those convicted of a DWI offense.” Both the old and new versions of the law authorized DPS to revoke a handgun license upon a Class B misdemeanor conviction.
Speak with a Galveston or League City DWI Lawyer Today
Some people think they do not need a lawyer when charged with a DWI and simply enter a guilty plea without fully understanding the ramifications. Do not make this mistake. If you have been charged with drunk driving and need advice from an experienced Houston DWI defense attorney, call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.