Florida recognizes the people’s right to keep and bear arms, but the statute currently imposes some limitations on how a firearm can be kept or transported in a vehicle. In Florida, a person may possess a concealed loaded firearm in their car or other conveyance, without having a license, if:
- the person is 18 years of age or older, and
- the firearm is securely encased or is not readily accessible for immediate use.
That statement of the law may sound simple, but there are many different factors that separate scenarios in which a concealed gun is transported in a car legally from situations in which the firearm is illegally carried or kept in a car. Most of the questions arise from these two phrases:
- “securely encased,”
- “or not otherwise readily accessible for immediate use.”
What Does “Securely Encased” Mean?
Securely encasing the firearm is one method in which a firearm can legally be possessed in a vehicle without a license.
Florida Statute § 790.001(17) defines the term “securely encased” as follows:
“in a glove compartment, whether or not locked; snapped in a holster; in a gun case, whether or not locked; in a zippered gun case; or in a closed box or container which requires a lid or cover to be opened for access.”
The statute includes an unlocked glove compartment among things that qualify as a secure case, even though a gun would be easily stolen by a thief who breaks into a car when it was parked and unattended. Other legally protected and recognized objects include a closed box or another container that requires lifting the lid to get to the firearm. A snapped holster (not being worn) also qualifies, but where must the holster be placed to conform to the law?
Of course, the legislature can’t list every possible container in which a Florida driver keeps a handgun in their private vehicle. The key is whether the container in which the gun is placed requires some action beyond just reaching for the firearm. Opening the glove compartment, opening the lid of a box, and going into a zippered gun case, require enough preliminary movements that must be completed before the loaded firearm can be picked up and fired.
Note: This statute declares that “Nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize the carrying of a concealed firearm or other weapon on the person.” So, someone who does not have a license may not keep the handgun tucked in their belt, in their pocket, or anywhere on their person.
NEW LAW: On June 23, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, No. 20-843 (June 23, 2022) in which it struck down as unconstitutional a New York law which required a person to present special need to obtain a license to carry a firearm. The decision is not a sweeping change in the law as some people claim, but instead it is a clarification that licenses to carry or “bear arms” are subject to reasonable limits consistent with our nation’s history and traditions. Whether any part of our law in Florida will be affected by this U.S. Supreme Court ruling is uncertain at the time of this blog post (June 24, 2022).
Only with the immediate assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who represents and protects the Second Amendment rights as well as all other citizens’ rights will someone facing prosecution get the full benefit of the new Supreme Court ruling.
What Does “or Not Otherwise Readily Accessible for Immediate Use” Mean?
The second way a person can lawfully keep a firearm in their car or truck is by placing it in a location that’s not readily accessible for immediate use. F.S. § 790.001(16) reads as follows:
“(16) “Readily accessible for immediate use” means that a firearm or other weapon is carried on the person or within such close proximity and in such a manner that it can be retrieved and used as easily and quickly as if carried on the person.”
An unloaded gun with either ammunition or a loaded clip separated from the gun is not accessible for immediate use, right? Well, that depends on how close the clip and/or ammo is to the firearm. In the case of Ashley v. State, 619 So. 2d 294 (Fla. 1993), the Supreme Court of Florida held that a firearm cannot be readily available for immediate use if no ammunition is found in the vehicle.
But in a series of cases heard over the years, Florida’s courts have decided that keeping a loaded gun concealed under the driver’s or passenger’s seat is readily available and is, therefore, illegal. However, several fact patterns led the Supreme Court and lower courts to hold that if a person is outside of the car for a substantial time and unable to access the gun before the police discover the concealed firearm under the seat, then the firearm is not readily accessible to them.
Would a handgun in a snapped holster or zipped inside a gun case and placed under the driver’s seat be legal or illegal? The law directs that the rights of gun owners who possess guns for a lawful purpose be recognized where the statute might be read either way.
Learn More> Florida Weapons and Firearms Crimes
Gun Owner Wisdom and an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Will Prevent Mistakes
No responsible gun owner wants to flaunt the rules regarding safe gun use and storage. But people often become so comfortable with their firearms that they let their guard down and forget that their handgun is on the car seat next to them beneath some packages.
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we will continue to represent any gun owner who is accused of violating the law governing possession of concealed firearms in a vehicle.
Violation of Florida’s criminal laws by carrying a firearm on your person without a license can be punished by up to 1 year in jail or up to 5 years in prison, depending on the facts of your case.
Florida Firearms Defense
Contact the board-certified, experienced criminal defense law firm in Tampa Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law for any firearm-related crimes. We will defend your case. Call 813-280-1244.