Texas is seeing a spike in crimes committed with imitation weapons, partly because offenders believe they will receive a lesser sentence if they are caught.
It’s a perception that’s false in Texas. If the victim of a crime believes the weapon that’s pointed at them is real it’s sufficient to warrant a first-degree felony charge in the Lone Star state.
The rise in the use of imitation guns in Texas was noted in an ABC news report. Police in Texas told the channel more crimes are being committed with weapons such as BB guns. They believe the low cost of imitation weapons and the fact offenders believe they may receive lighter sentences if they are caught, are pertinent factors.
The article quoted Police Lt. Christopher Cook from Arlington who said his officers were being told by suspects they prefer imitation weapons to real ones. They can be purchased for as little as $25 and no background check is made. Arlington police have seen a spate of cases in which gang members were found to be in possession of a toy gun, a BB gun or another type of imitation weapon.
In some instances they have faced heavy sentences. If the victim of the crime believes a real weapon was pointed at them, the offender can face a maximum sentence of jail for life.
New Jersey has a similar law to Texas, although the punishment is not so severe.
Jodi Silva, a spokesman for Houston Police, also noted an increase in the use of imitation weapons in the city because they are cheap and accessible.
The fact many replica weapons are realistic in appearance means, a number of people who have used them during crimes have ended up being shot dead by police who believe they were carrying real firearms.
Federal regulators require bright markings on replica guns to differentiate them from real ones. Tragedies still occur. Last month, officials in Cleveland, Ohio, reached a $6 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought over the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was shot dead by a police officer while playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center. The boy was playing with a fake gun that was missing the orange tip required by federal regulators.
Lawmakers in Maryland launched a push to ban replica firearms after police shot a 14-year-old who was brandishing a replica firearm in Baltimore.
If you have been charged with an offense that used a replica firearm, you could be facing a first-degree felony under Texas law and should make sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.