The criminal law governing who can own, possess, or use a firearm in the state of Florida plays a role in more prosecutions and trials than most people imagine. Even in Florida, where the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is highly respected, the societal need to be safe from the irresponsible or criminal use of firearms and other weapons caused the state legislature to enact a long list of legal restrictions regulating guns and other non-firearm weapons.
Too many gun laws and weapon-related offenses are enumerated in our Florida statute to cover them all in detail in this brief blog post. Some of the less common laws include a prohibition against obliterating a firearm’s serial number, possessing a machine gun or a bump-stock.
Personal consultation with our board-certified criminal defense lawyer will answer all your questions.
If you are charged with violating any gun law in the Tampa area, you need the expert criminal defense team at Stechschulte Nell Attorneys at Law to defend your legal rights and to fight any prosecutorial overreach in your case. The gun laws are strong but so too are your possible legal defenses.
Firearms and Prohibited Weapons
In Florida, a firearm is legally defined as any “weapon (including a starter gun) which will, [or] is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; any destructive device; or any machine gun.”i
Notice that even just the frame of a gun or a silencer by itself is considered a firearm.
The law also identifies other weapons that are illegal to possess, display, or use under particular circumstances or in certain locations. For example, it is illegal for you to have a dagger, metallic knuckles, a slungshotii, a billie club or strap, a tear gas gun, any chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapons on school grounds. Florida also heavily regulates the possession and use of “electric weapons,” like stun-guns, tasers, and “dart firing guns.”
Who Cannot Own, Possess, Control or Carry a Concealed Firearm in Florida?
Florida criminal law prohibits anyone from possessing, or even having a firearm in their care, custody, or control if they were ever convicted of a felony in Florida, or if they have a felony conviction in another state, territory, or country that was punishable by more than one year in prison.
Delinquents Under Age 24
It is also illegal for anyone who was adjudged delinquent as a juvenile for some act that would be a felony for an adult, if the person is still under age 24.
Violation of this law carries substantial prison sentences and may include a mandatory minimum period of incarceration:
- A convicted felon in actual possession of a firearm faces a 3-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and may serve up to 15 years.
- A convicted felon found to be in possession or carrying a concealed weapon (not necessarily a firearm) can be sentenced up to 15 years in prison. Possessing ammunition also carries up to 15 years.
- A person who suffered a finding of delinquency for what would have been an adult felony and who is under 24 could also be sentenced to a prison term of up to 15 years.
What About Using a Firearm or Weapon in a Crime?
Using a gun or another weapon capable of causing injury is among the most serious crimes known to the law. Merely pointing a gun at another person can itself constitute an aggravated assault carrying a penalty of up to 5 years in prison. The crime can be committed even if the gun is unloaded.
Carrying a gun during the commission of a felony is another serious criminal offense in Florida. Again, merely having the gun with you during a felony, whether you show the gun to anyone or leave it in your pocket is a second-degree felony carrying up to 15 years in prison. A second offense is a first-degree felony and can result in a 30-year prison sentence.
If the felony is itself a violent crime, the penalty includes a minimum prison term of 10 years. Firing a gun during a violent crime means a minimum 20-year prison term, and actually injuring or killing another person by firing a gun during a violent crime can result in a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Career criminals and repeat offenders can also have enhanced penalties imposed by a sentencing judge following gun or weapons crime convictions, sometimes as high as mandatory minimum prison sentences of 30 years.
What Are Possible Defenses to These Firearm and Weapons Crimes?
Criminal defense lawyers examine every aspect of the prosecution’s evidence in every client’s case. Our team, led by board-certified criminal defense lawyer Ben Stechschulte, has devoted our professional lives to defending your legal rights and using the law to protect our clients from wrongful or unjust convictions.
Insufficient Evidence of “Knowing” Possession
If another person had access to the location in which the gun was located, can the prosecution prove that the defendant knew the firearm was present?
Is there enough evidence to prove the gun was ever in the defendant’s possession? Are there fingerprints, DNA, or was residue from firing a gun found on the defendant’s body or clothing?
Firearm Was Not Accessible
In one recent case in which a defendant was accused of carrying a concealed firearm after conviction of a violent felony, the defendant was observed by police leaving a car where a gun was located under the driver’s seat.
The courts decided that since the driver was arrested after he left the car, he could not have ready access to the gun and was therefore not guilty.
Unlawful Search or Seizure
Did the police need or have a search warrant? Was the affidavit supporting the search warrant application misleading?
Self-Defense (Stand Your Ground)
Was the defendant reasonably believe they were confronted with a threat of death or serious bodily harm?
Facing Firearms-Related Charges
We provide the highest quality criminal defense representation in the Tampa Bay area. For more information relating to any firearm or weapon-related charges, contact Stechschulte Nell Law today: 813-280-1244