Although as an American citizen you have the right to bear arms, you must obey specific laws, rules, and regulations about the possession of firearms. Both Florida and the federal government have several statutes concerning unlawful gun possession. Thus, if you are prohibited from having such a weapon, have a gun in an area where it's banned, or have an unauthorized weapon, you could be charged with a state or federal crime. The jurisdiction your offense falls under depends on the nature of the case, specifically the conduct you engaged in and whether the crime crossed state lines.
In this blog, we'll discuss state and federal laws about gun possession.
Florida's Unlawful Possession of Firearms Laws
Florida's gun statutes include but are not limited to:
- Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon: Florida Statutes 790.23 provides that it's illegal for certain people to possess or control not only firearms but also ammunition or electric weapons or devices. The individuals the law applies to are those who:
- Have been convicted of a felony – whether in Florida or another state;
- Have were found to have committed a delinquent act whether in Florida or another state; or
- Have been convicted of a federal felony
The offense is a second-degree felony, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Unlawful carry of a concealed weapon: If a person does not have a concealed weapons permit, they cannot legally have a firearm hidden on them. Such conduct is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The law also prohibits the concealed carry of weapons or electric weapons or devices.
- Improper exhibition of firearms: Under Florida Statutes 790.10, it is unlawful for anyone to display a gun (or any other dangerous weapon) in a "rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner." A conviction for this first-degree misdemeanor is penalized by no more than 1 year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
Federal Laws Prohibiting Possession of Firearms
The U.S. Government has several laws on gun possession, which include:
- Possession by a prohibited person: A person under disability cannot possess any firearm that has been transported across state or country lines. Individuals subject to this prohibition include:
- Convicted felons – whether they were convicted in state or federal court;
- Fugitives from justice;
- Drug users or addicts;
- Individuals unlawfully in the U.S. or who are under non-immigrant visas;
- Dishonorably discharged military members;
- Individuals subject to a domestic violence restraining order;
- Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense; and
- Individuals under indictment for a felony
Violators may be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
- Possession of a firearm to further a drug offense or crime of violence: If a person uses, displays, or possesses a gun while committing a drug crime or crime of violence, they may face enhanced penalties upon conviction. The specific punishments a court can levy depend on the type of weapon involved and the way it was used. The prison sentence can range from 5 years to life.
- Possession of a stolen firearm: Federal law makes it illegal for any person to have or receive a gun they know or should reasonably know is stolen, or to steal a gun from a person or merchant. The offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
- Possession of a firearm in a school zone: Unless exempt, no person can have a gun in a place they know is a school zone. A conviction can result in imprisonment for up to 5 years.
- Possession of a firearm with an altered serial number: If a person has a gun that was transported across state lines and the weapon's serial number has been removed or altered, they can face 5 or 10 years in prison (the length of the sentence depends on specific circumstances).
- Possession of a machine gun: It is illegal for a person to possess a machinegun.
Firearm offenses, whether falling under state or federal jurisdiction, come with severe penalties. If you have been accused of such a crime, retain the services of a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible. Getting started on your defense right away is crucial for building a compelling case.