Get Caught with a Piece in Florida?
Due to the recent arrest of Pro-Bowl football player Marshawn Lynch on Felony Carrying a Concealed Weapon Charges in California, and Plaxico Burress’ “incident” in a nightclub in New York, Tampa criminal lawyer Jeffrey M. Rich feels it is important that Floridians be educated on our gun laws.
To understand the consequences of “getting caught with a piece,” you must first have at least a surface understanding of the gun laws in Florida. As you are aware, the United States Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to bare arms… Or does it? That depends! In Florida no state permit is required to possess or purchase a rifle, shotgun or handgun. However there are certain restrictions in place.
It is unlawful for:
- Any convicted felon to have in his or her possession any firearm, or to carry a concealed weapon.
- For persons to have in their care, custody, possession, or control any firearm or ammunition, if the person has been issued a final injunction that is currently in force and effect, restraining that person from committing acts of domestic violence.
- To sell, give, barter, lend or transfer a firearm or other weapon other than an ordinary pocketknife to a minor less than the age of 18 without his parent’s permission, or to any person of unsound mind.
- Any dealer to sell or transfer any firearm, pistol, Springfield rifle or other repeating rifle to a minor.
- A minor less than 18 years of age to possess a firearm, other than an unloaded firearm at his home, unless engaged in lawful activities.
Unless covered under the exceptions, it is unlawful to openly carry on or about the person any firearm, or to carry a concealed firearm on or about the person without a license.
- Persons having firearms at their home or place of business.
- Enrolled members of clubs organized for target, skeet, or trapshooting, while at, or going to or from shooting practice.
- Members of clubs organized for collecting antique or modern firearms while at or going to or from exhibitions.
- Persons engaged in fishing, camping or hunting and while going to or from such activity.
- Persons engaged in target shooting under safe conditions and in a safe place or while going to or from such place.
- Persons who are firing weapons for target practice in a safe and secure indoor range.
- Persons traveling by private conveyance if the weapon is securely encased, or in a public conveyance if the weapon is securely encased and not in the person’s manual possession.
- Persons carrying a pistol unloaded and in a secure wrapper from place of purchase to their home or to a place of repair and back.
- Persons engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing or dealing in firearms.
- Military, law enforcement personnel and private guards while so employed.
In Florida there are basically two different charges that can arise from possessing a firearm. The type of charges that you face will hinge on a couple factors. Initially the question is, were you a convicted felon at the time you were found to be in possession of the firearm? Also, did you have actual physical control of the firearm at the time you found in possession, or were you just in constructive possession of the firearm? Construction possession is when you don’t actually physically possess an object but you have the power to control and intent to control the object. Was the firearm in “plain view” or was it concealed?
So, if you are a convicted felon at the time you are found in possession, your type of possession will have a great impact on what consequences you are facing:
- Actual physical control of firearm: Can be charged with a felony and face a 3 year minimum mandatory sentence
- Constructive possession of firearm: You can be charged with a felony but constructive possession does not carry a minimum mandatory sentence.
- It does not matter if the gun was in plain view or concealed when you have been previously convicted of a felony and are found to be on possession.
Not a convicted felon at the time you are found in possession:
- Concealed and actually physically control firearm – You can be charged with a misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, unless you have a concealed weapons permit which you must announce immediately.
- Concealed and constructive possession – You can be charged with misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, unless you have a concealed weapons permit which you must announce immediately.
- Plain view and actually physical control – No charges unless there is some other legal circumstance that prohibits you from possessing a firearm.
- Plain view constructive possession — No charges unless there is some other legal circumstance that prohibits you from possessing a firearm.
**Possessing a firearm during the commission of any other crime can result in an enhancement of sentence for the underlying crime, in addition to charges for possessing the firearm.