The Legality of Body Armor

By Gordon Cooper, Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield
Recently, a Texas Law Shield member was arrested for the possession of body armor. Ultimately, the member was released from custody and no charges were filed. However, the episode generated a lot of questions, in particular: Am I legally allowed to have body armor?


Short answer: If you’re not a convicted felon, the answer is yes.

Federal Law

Body armor is discussed in one place in the United States Code: 18 U.S.C. § 931. Section 931 contains only one prohibition on the purchase, ownership, or possession of body armor. The law states that anyone who has been convicted of a violent felony (or its state equivalent) cannot purchase, own, or possess body armor. The law then carves out an exception:

If the defendant has written certification that it is necessary for the safe performance of lawful business activity and
The use and possession of the defendant are limited to the business activity

This means that if you are not a felon convicted of a violent crime (or if you are but fit into the exception), it is legal under the federal law to purchase, own, and possess body armor.

State Law

What does Texas law say about body armor? Essentially, the same thing as federal law.

The purchase, ownership, and possession of body armor generally is legal in Texas. However, Texas Penal Code § 46.041 prohibits the possession of body armor by anyone convicted of a felony (violent or non-violent).

To recap, if you’re a convicted felon, it’s illegal under state law to possess body armor. If you were convicted of a violent felony, it’s illegal to purchase, own, or possess body armor under federal law. If none of the above apply to you, then you are within your rights to possess whatever body armor you so choose.

Why then did our member get arrested? Because the officer didn’t know what you just read! At the end of the day our legal system is set up such that you go to jail for your ignorance of the law, and you go to jail for the officer’s ignorance of the law. As you can see, it’s very hard to stay out of jail.

If you ever have any questions regarding the legality of any weapon or armor, you can check out the Texas Law Shield blog by clicking here, and the Law Shield Archives here. Both are free. Or, click here to join a Law Shield social media outlet.

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27 Comments On This Article

  1. Arthur L. Brown Sr.

    I REALLY don’t mind suffering from MY ignorance!
    I have a REALLY HARD time accepting suffering from some body elses ignorance.

  2. “As you can see, it’s very hard to stay out of jail.”
    Really? In my 56 years, I’ve had one slight possibility of going to jail. It’s really pretty easy to stay out of jail.

  3. What about the arrested mans repayment of lost time and mistreatment ? shouldn’t he be allotted come sort of compensation.

  4. If you are looking for the law to do the right thing don’t be surprised if you don’t get it. usually the common man just gets the shaft in matters like this.

      • Didn’t take long for some moron to try and drag Obama into this… What in the HELL does he have to do with it? Get a grip guys!

        • Cause ,good ,bad ,or indifferent it is true that our President has an,unbelievable amount of influence on the day to day operations of all government agencies !
          Ask border control agents if their policies are affected by a presidents policies …Or a local policemen in a sanctuary city how his day to day actions are affected …Or a highway patrol officer when the 55 mph policies were in effect… Or 10 years old assault weapons ban unleashed by The last Clinton president… So , yes Obamas policies have something to do with lots of everyday things !!!

  5. This is another instance of written law in place of common sense . It is simply a device that can be put to a criminal use . Almost anything can be . When prehistoric man first used the rock he uses to crack nuts to crack his neighbors head , it began and has never ceased .

  6. That’s just about stupid. Body armor ownership should be unrestricted. Body armor is purely defensive gear. Some of the neighborhoods ex-cons are forced to live and work in, I wouldn’t enter without body armor.

  7. Seems like the guy that got arrested can do a lot of law suits for false arrest and imprisonment. If the arresting officer is ignorant of the law that is no excuse. Take everything the officer owns to settle.

    • How bout just getting his dumb ASS off the force before we read about his ignorant ASS shooting some poor backyard for j-walking with an assault umbrella!!

    • Suing the Officer will do very little. Lawyers know who has the “deep pockets”, they will name the officer, the Chief, the Mayor, and the City and eventually carve it down to the City who is ultimately responsible for this FUBAR. The officer will probably get a reprimand, maybe his supervisor but you can rest assured this will be included in all In-Service training in the future.

  8. Yea! Where’s the ACLU???NRA???Time 4 a REALLY GOOD LAYWER TO USE IN FEDERAL COURT FOR RIGHT INFRINGING AND FALE ARREST…POSSIBLE KIDNAPPING IF TAKEN TO JAIL….FALSE IMPRISONMENT????we have no freedoms left. Time to hunt for a new country this place……….is gone😢😢😢😢😯😰

    • Find a better country ? No such thing …America is the best country on earth …can we get better sure! But there’s none better ! Probably why every one on earth wants to come here !

  9. Just put a copy of the law in a Ziploc bag inside the pocket with the plates, when you get harassed, and they take it off, show it to them, or go through the steps and hope for a lawsuit.

  10. I think there is probably a great deal of fact and/or background missing here. It’s posted by a lawyer, who is obviously biased in there presentation of facts and is marketing a product in the post. I don’t trust lawyers, and find it hard to trust someone who profits off of individual misfortune by telling the best story regardless of truth. Pertinent details would include what the officer was basing their arrest decision off of. Was the person arrested for a felony but the final adjudication was deferred with no guilt. Was the initial charge a felony and the final conviction dropped to a misdemeanor. What jurisdiction did this arrest occurr in and why was it not dismissed at probable cause, that ultimately lead to the defendant retaining an attorney in the first place. Despite the legality, why did this person have the armor? Was the charge filed incidental to another criminal act? If a judge held probable cause existed then there is obviously something important being left out of this summary. Was it a mistake of law or fact by the officer?

    By the way, filing civil legal action (lawsuit) against a cop is nearly impossible and pointless if qualified immunity is granted which I would assume would attach in this case.

    I’m not an expert lawyer (or at all) but I did stay at a holiday in express last night.

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