Definition of Improper Exhibition
The offense of Improper Exhibition of a Firearm or other Weapon is defined under Section 790.10 of the Florida Statutes. The statute prohibits any person from “having or carrying any dirk, sword, sword cane, firearm, electric weapon or device, or other weapon” and, in the presence of another person, exhibiting the weapon “in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, and not in necessary self-defense.”
To prove the crime of Improper Exhibition of a Firearm or Weapon in Florida, the prosecution must establish the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant had or carried a “weapon;”
- The defendant exhibited the alleged weapon in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner; and
- The defendant did so in the presence of one or more persons.
A defendant may be convicted of improper exhibition for merely carelessly, angrily or rudely displaying a weapon. It is not necessary that the defendant make a threatening gesture with the weapon to be convicted of violating Section 790.10, Florida Statutes. Kase v. State, 581 So. 2d 612, 613 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991). It is also not necessary that the exhibition be carried out in an intentional manner. Mere “careless” display of the firearm or weapon is sufficient to subject the accused to criminal liability.
The act of improperly exhibiting a weapon can occur in the presence of one or multiple persons. However, a single act of exhibition in the presence of more than one person cannot result in multiple convictions. If the exhibition takes place as part of a single episode, a defendant can only be convicted of the offense once. See Vance v. State, 472 So. 2d 734, 735 (Fla. 1985).
Definition of Firearm or Weapon
To support a conviction for Improper Exhibition of a Firearm or Weapon in Florida, the instrument used by the accused must qualify as a firearm or other listed “weapon” under the statute. The definition of a “firearm” is straightforward. It means any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.
The definition of “weapon” is found under Section 790.001(13), Florida Statutes. It means “any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slingshot, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.”
In interpreting the term “weapon” under Section 790.001(13), Florida Courts have held that the definition applied only to those objects or instruments specifically listed in the statute (including firearms), or those objects or instruments classified as a “dangerous weapon.” If the weapon is not specifically listed, then it must qualify as a so-called “dangerous weapon,” or there can be no conviction.
Florida Courts have defined “dangerous weapon” as “any instrument which will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design and construction.” See Robinson v. State, 547 So. 2d 321, 323 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989). An object can become a deadly weapon if its sole modern use is to cause great bodily harm. R.V. v. State, 497 So. 2d 912 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986). In addition, an object can be construed as a deadly weapon because of its use or threatened use during a crime. Robinson, 547 So. 2d at 323.
Penalties for Improper Exhibition
Under Florida law, Improper Exhibition of a Firearm or Weapon is classified as a first degree misdemeanor. As such, the offense carries penalties of up to 365 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Improper Exhibition of a Firearm or Weapon is a permissive lesser-included offense of aggravated assault.
Defenses to Improper Exhibition
There are multiple defenses to contest a charge of Improperly Exhibiting a Firearm or Weapon. Some of the most common examples include the following:
- The instrument in question qualify as a “weapon” under applicable statutes;
- The manner of exhibition was not sufficiently careless, rude, or threatening;
- Defense of others;
- Defense of property;
- Witnesses not within the defendant’s “presence.”
Moreover, even though intent is not a required element of the crime, the absence of intent to exhibit can often be used as mitigating factor in negotiations with the prosecutor. In appropriate cases, an attorney can ask that the charge be amended to a less serious offense, such as disorderly conduct. This will spare the accused the long-term negative consequences of a weapons-related conviction.
If you have been charged with Improper Exhibition of a Firearm or Weapon in Jacksonville, Clay County, Nassau County, or St. Johns County, Florida, contact Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville criminal attorneys will examine the facts of your case and present legal options that may be available to you.