Illegal Possession Of Guns And Weapons In Florida – Potential Charges And Defenses
Illegal gun possession is a hot-button issue in the Orlando area and across Florida, particularly as memories of mass shootings in Florida linger. Police officers take illegal weapons possession seriously and are aggressive in arresting those believed to be carrying guns unlawfully. Furthermore, many law enforcement officers believe these cases are easy to prove in court and obtain convictions.
However, individuals in Florida have certain rights under the Second Amendment and Florida law to legally carry firearms. If you feel these rights have been ignored and you are being wrongfully charged with illegal possession of a weapon, you should explore all possible legal avenues to protect those rights.
What Are Your Legal Rights to Carry Weapons in Florida
The Constitution gives individuals the right to keep (own) and bear (carry) firearms. States have the power to pass reasonable time, place, manner, and other restrictions on this right. In general, Florida lightly regulates carrying firearms and seldom regulates owning them. The Florida House of Representatives is even considering a bill to remove license requirements to carry firearms under most circumstances.
As a preliminary matter, obtaining a Carrying a Concealed Weapons license is not too difficult in Florida. According to state law, if applicants meet the minimum qualifications, the local law enforcement office shall issue a permit. Other states are may-issue states. In other words, the state retains a veto power over CCW licenses.
CCW holders may generally carry weapons on their person and in their vehicle. They may also possess weapons in most state parks. They need not inform officers that they are carrying guns if they are searched. Furthermore, those “no weapons allowed” signs which you see from time to time are generally unenforceable in Florida.
Penalties for Illegal Weapons Possession in Florida
Florida Statutes, Sec. 790.01, et seq., cover the charges and penalties involved with illegal weapons possession in Florida. Carrying a concealed weapon in Florida without a license, for example, is a 3rd degree felony punishable by:
- up to 5 years in prison
- up to 5 years of probation; and/or
- up to $5,000 in fines
For charges involving certain types of weapons, such as machine guns and short-barreled shotguns, Florida law can include heavier fines and severe criminal penalties, including potential mandatory/minimum sentences of up to 25 years and maximum potential sentences of up to life.
Punishments for lesser offenses involving concealed weapons can still carry penalties of up to a year in jail, probation, and thousands of dollars in fines and costs.
Penalties can also include other collateral consequences, such as inability to obtain or register other firearms, or issues applying for certain jobs.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
Police officers must have reasonable suspicion to detain individuals. Reasonable suspicion that the defendant is carrying a weapon isn’t too hard to establish. Reasonable suspicion that the defendant possessed a weapon illegally, however, is a different matter.
To prove illegal possession of a weapon in court, prosecutors must establish all the elements of possession beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Proximity: This issue often comes up in vehicle and real property possession matters. Usually, the contraband must be in the passenger area of a vehicle. Sometimes, the trunk counts as well. In real property cases, a gun in the same room usually suffices.
- Knowledge: The defendant must know that an illegal firearm was present. Knowing that there’s “something illegal” in the closet does not count. Knowledge is especially hard to prove if the defendant was a guest in the home or didn’t know other people in the car very well.
- Control: If the gun was in a locked container, like a glove box or safe, only the person with the key or combination can legally possess it.
Defenses to a Weapons Possession Charge
There are a number of potential defenses to a weapons possession charge in Florida, including:
- You were allowed to carry the weapon. You have the right under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution to keep and bear arms. This right is also contained in Article 1, Section 8 of the Florida Constitution regarding Florida’s right to bear arms. Technically speaking, you do not need a license or a permit in order to possess a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. If you had a CCW license, but were not able to show it at the time of the arrest, you may be able to present the license as part of your defense.
- You did not know about the gun. For example, if you were driving someone else’s vehicle and it had a gun in the backseat that did not belong to you, and you were not aware of, this could be part of a viable defense.
- You did not possess the weapon. If a gun was found in your proximity, but it was not yours and you had no control over it, law enforcement may still try to charge you with constructive possession of the weapon. A defense attorney can then make the argument that the elements of possession cannot be proven at trial.
- Law enforcement violated your Fourth Amendment rights. If law enforcement obtained the weapon in question without a proper warrant or reasonable suspicion to conduct a search, a motion to suppress evidence can be filed regarding the weapon, potentially ending the case against you.
Depending on the circumstances of your case and the manner in which your weapon was found, you may have a strong defense that can result in acquittal, dismissal, or reduction of charges. The experienced Orlando gun & weapon crime lawyers at Joshi Law Firm, PA routinely handle these matters throughout central Florida. As a result, we know all the relevant procedural court rules. That includes the unwritten requirements. So, we are well-positioned to obtain the best possible results under the circumstances.
Talk to an Orlando Defense Attorney to Discuss Bail and Bond Reductions or Release
At Joshi Law Firm, PA, we understand the potential consequences you may face when charged with illegal possession of a weapon, and we also know what the prosecution must be able to prove. Reach out to us today for help.