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Under Florida law, it is a felony offense for a person knowingly to carry around a concealed firearm without having a valid firearm license and concealed weapons permit. If you have been arrested for carrying a concealed firearm in Jacksonville, FL, contact an experienced Jacksonville criminal attorney to discuss your case and potential defenses.

Definition of Carrying a Concealed Firearm- Florida Law

Under Section 790.01(2), Florida Statutes, it is a third degree felony for an individual to “carr[y] a concealed firearm on or about his or her person” without having the appropriate license and permit.  As a third degree felony, this offense carries maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, and maximum fine of up to $5,000.  It is not a violation of this section for a person to carry for purposes of lawful self-defense, in a concealed manner a self-defense chemical spray, or a non-lethal stun gun or dart-firing stun gun or other non-lethal electric weapon or device that is designed solely for defensive purposes.

In Jacksonville and Duval County, the potential for substantial jail or prison penalties for concealed firearm conviction is real. Prosecutors in Fourth Judicial Circuit will frequently begin negotiations with offers that will range from 12 to 16 months Florida State Prison.  These offenses are taken seriously by the State Attorney’s Office, and, for this reason, it is critical to hire an attorney in the early stages of the case (immediately following arrest) so that proper negotiations can take place. A delay in presenting exculpatory or mitigating evidence before arraignment can make the difference between prison and a non-prison offer.      

Is Intent or Knowledge a Required Element of the Crime?

To prove the crime of Carrying a Concealed Firearm in Florida, there is no requirement that the prosecution establish that the accused intended to “conceal” the subject weapon. Rather, the accused’s knowledge of possession is required to sustain a conviction.

When is a Person in Possession of a Firearm?  

Possession of a weapon such as a firearm may be “actual” or “constructive.” Actual possession exists where an accused holds an object (or otherwise has an object on his person or within ready reach of his person) and has knowledge of such physical possession. Wilcox v. State, 522 So. 2d 1062, 1063 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988). If the object or instrument is on the accused’s person or is in the accused’s exclusive control, then knowledge of the weapon may be inferred or assumed.

By contrast, constructive possession means that the weapon was in a place where the accused exercised control or where the accused had concealed it.  To establish constructive possession, the State must prove that: (1) defendant knew that the firearm was within his presence; (2) defendant had the ability to maintain control over it; and (3) defendant knew of the illicit nature of the firearm. Id. If the property where the firearm is found is not in defendant's exclusive control, defendant's knowledge of the presence of the firearm must be established by independent proof.  Gonzalez v. State, 832 So. 2d 898, 899 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002).   

How is the Term “Concealed” Defined Under Florida Law?

In Florida, concealment of the firearm on or about one's person is an essential element of the offense of the unlawful carrying of a concealed firearm. The definitions of “concealed weapon” and “concealed firearm” used under Section 790.001, Florida Statutes, require that the weapon or firearm be carried “on or about the person in such a manner as to conceal the weapon or firearm from the ordinary sight of another person.”

The phrase “on or about the person” means physically on the person or readily accessible to him/her. This generally includes the interior of an automobile and the vehicle's glove compartment, whether or not locked. The phrase “ordinary sight of another person” means the casual and ordinary observation of another in the normal associations of life. Ordinary observation by a person other than a police officer does not generally include the floorboard of a vehicle, whether or not the weapon is wholly or partially visible.  See Ensor v. State, 403 So. 2d 349, 354 (Fla. 1981) (holding modified on other grounds).

To be “concealed” within the meaning of the statute, a firearm does not have to be completely invisible or out of view. Ultimately, the question of concealment will turn on whether an individual, standing near a person with a firearm or beside a vehicle in which a person with a firearm is seated, may by ordinary observation know the questioned object to be a firearm. Dorelus v. State, 747 So. 2d 368, 371 (Fla. 1999).  

Exceptions and Exemption from Florida’s Concealed Firearm Statute

There are several exceptions and exemptions to the Carrying a Concealed Firearm statute that may operate to insulate an accused from criminal liability.  Under Section 790.01(3), Florida Statutes, a person may carry concealed firearm if he or she has a valid license or permit for such carrying pursuant to the provisions of Section 790.06 (pertaining to concealed weapons licenses/permits).

Moreover, Florida courts have held that, under Section 790.25(3)(n), Florida Statutes, it is not unlawful for a person to carry a concealed weapon “at his or her home or place of business.” The phrase “at his or her home or place of business” refers to an individual's surrounding property as well as the buildings and structures situated thereon. Collins v. State, 475 So. 2d 968, 969 (Fla. 4th DCA 1985). If the firearm is possessed at a business, the business does not have to be owned by the defendant himself. The term “business” includes premises where the individual is employed by another.  State v. Commons, 592 So. 2d 317, 318 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991). However, the exception contained in Section 790.25(3)(n) does not apply where the defendant is in another person’s home. Florida courts have interpreted the exception to apply only to the accused’s own home. State v. Paulk, 588 So. 2d 60 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991).

Another well-known exception is where the concealed firearm or weapon is possessed in a private conveyance.  Under Section 790.25(5), Florida Statutes, it is lawful and is not a violation of Section 790.01 for a person 18 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon for self-defense or other lawful purpose within the interior of a private conveyance, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use.

If you are charged with the Offense of Carrying a Concealed Firearm in Jacksonville, FL, contact a criminal defense attorney at Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation. As demonstrated above, there are numerous potential defenses to contest this type of charge, and retaining an attorney is critical to exploring all of your legal options.