The Florida Statute prohibits the use of firearms in the commission of a crime. An individual who breaks this provision can be charged with misdemeanors and felonies, which can lead to hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment.
However, if you believe you have been wrongly accused of a crime involving weapons, a reasonable and solid defense can help you. Read on to learn more.
Understanding Weapon Charges in Florida
In Florida, weapons charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies. The most prevalent types of crimes include the unlawful possession or discharge of a firearm, illegal sale of a weapon or firearm trafficking, manufacturing of firearms, carrying a concealed firearm, and possessing a stolen weapon.
Under this statute, “weapons” can comprise guns, tasers, tear gas guns, brass knuckles, dirk, knives, slingshots, or any other deadly device. Generally, the Second Amendment and the Florida State Constitution protect the right of any person to bear arms. However, it remains illegal for minors under the age of 16, convicted felons who have not restored their civil rights yet, and individuals with drug addiction and mental incompetence to own or possess firearms.
Penalties for a Weapons Charge in Florida
While there are different weapons charge types, each criminal act has its corresponding penalties. For instance, allowing a minor under 16 years old to access a loaded firearm is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and 600 days of imprisonment. Other penalties include:
Possession of Weapons By a Convicted Felon
It is illegal for a convicted felon in Florida to possess, own, or control any weapon or firearm. Thus, this crime is one of the most severe weapon offenses in the state. As a result, any person convicted of it shall be punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000, up to 15 years of imprisonment, and 15 years of probation.
Carrying a Concealed Weapon
Carrying a concealed weapon can fall under a third-degree felony if the person convicted for it has no license. This is punishable by a maximum imprisonment of five years, up to $5,000 fines, and five years of probation.
Meanwhile, if the defendant is accused of carrying another weapon other than a firearm, it will be a first-degree misdemeanor. In this case, he may be sentenced to a year in jail, a fine of $1,000, and a probationary period of one year.
Improper Exhibition of a Weapon
Any person who rudely, angrily, carelessly, or improperly exhibits a dangerous weapon or firearm shall be punishable by a first-degree misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the defendant faces up to a year in prison, one year of probation, and up to a $1,000 fine.
Possession or Dischargement of Weapons at a School Event
The court will punish any person caught carelessly displaying a weapon or firearm in a school-sponsored event or on school grounds with a third-degree felony. That person shall pay a maximum fine of $5,000, spend up to five years in jail, and have up to five years of probation.
Best Defenses Against a Weapons Charge in Florida
In the event that you are convicted of any crime involving weapons, you and your criminal defense lawyer should use legal defenses to reduce your prison sentence or have your case dismissed entirely. Listed below are some arguments you can use to formulate a strategy.
You are Permitted to Carry a Weapon
As mentioned earlier, the Second Amendment and the Florida State Constitution allow citizens to keep and bear arms. So, even if you do not have a license or permit to possess such weapons, you can never be convicted of a weapons charge. Nevertheless, the same provisions exclude machine guns, concealed possessions, convicted felons, drug addicts, and people with mental incapacity.
You Used the Weapon to Defend Yourself at Home or in Your Car
The Florida Statute §776.013 establishes the stand-your-ground law to permit any person to use non-deadly or deadly force if he reasonably believes such an act can prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Hence, your weapon usage can become justified if its purpose is to save your life or another person’s vitality inside your dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.
You Do Not Own the Weapon
Police officers can assume you own or possess a weapon if they see one in your vicinity. Thus, even if you do not physically hold it, they can arrest you for constructive possession.
In this case, you can ask a criminal defense attorney to provide adequate evidence to prove you did not possess or control the weapon. If the prosecutors fail to ascertain beyond reasonable doubt that it is yours, you can get absolved, and your case must be dismissed.
You are Unaware of the Weapon
For instance, your friend asked you to purchase something in a nearby supermarket using his car. If there is a checkpoint where law enforcement officers check the car and find a handgun somewhere inside the vehicle, they can charge you with illegal carrying of a concealed firearm.
Nevertheless, if you did not know there were weapons inside, you can argue that you unknowingly possessed them and that they are not yours.
The Weapon Was an Antique Firearm
Your ownership of a gun or any firearm will not fall under illegal possession if it is an antique item and not for the commission of a crime. Since the court will not consider it a deadly weapon, they cannot convict you for a weapons charge. However, antique weapons are only those manufactured or replicated on or before 1918.
Law Enforcement Officers Violated Your Rights
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution emphasizes your right against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. So, if a police officer did not have a warrant but insisted on looking for weapons inside your vicinity, they cannot use anything they found in your home to prove unlawful possession.
Need Legal Help to Fight a Weapons Charge?
Facing a weapons charge can be a scary experience, especially when you reasonably believe you did nothing wrong. Fortunately, hiring a criminal defense attorney can help you understand the complexities of your arrest and fight to protect your rights. If you need help, contact our attorneys at Hanlon Law Tampa today or visit us online to schedule a free consultation.
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