Robin Fuson
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Weapon Charges In Tampa – What Are The Consequences?

Criminal Defense

No matter what you believe about the gun control controversy and the right to bear arms, every person in Florida should know this state’s gun and gun ownership laws. You are about to read a general introduction to Florida’s complex gun laws, but if you find yourself charged with a specific weapons crime in this state, you will need the legal advice and representation that a knowledgeable and experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney can offer.

Although your “right” to own firearms is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, each state nevertheless regulates by law, to a greater or lesser extent, the possession and use of firearms and other weapons. Laws governing firearms in the state of Florida are complicated and highly technical, making it easy for someone to get confused and inadvertently end up facing an arrest on a firearms charge.

Stiff penalties are imposed in this state on defendants who are convicted of firearms violations. The legal penalties of a firearms violation can include time behind bars, fines, probation, and a restriction on your right in the future to possess or use firearms. The extra-legal penalties can also be considerable. If you hold a professional license in Florida, a conviction on a weapons charge could lead to a license suspension or revocation, and if you work for law enforcement or private security, you conceivably might even have to find other employment.

The law in Florida recognizes two distinct categories of firearms crimes, “offenses” and “enhancements.” Firearms offenses are the crimes that are strictly concerned with the firearm itself and its purchase, possession, and use. Firearms “enhancements” are the penalties that can be applied when a firearm is employed in the commission of another crime like an armed robbery, an aggravated battery, or an aggravated assault. Explained below are the most frequently-charged firearms crimes in our state and the penalties that are imposed for convictions.

1. CARRYING A CONCEALED FIREARM

Without a license to carry a concealed firearm, someone who carries a concealed firearm in this state is committing a third-degree felony punishable upon conviction by up to five years in a state prison, five years on probation, and a fine of as much as $5,000.

However, there are several exceptions that may allow you to conceal a weapon briefly, such as driving to or from a commercial gun show. If you’re charged with carrying a concealed weapon in Central Florida, an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney can protect your legal rights and fight the charge on your behalf.

2. CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON

Carrying a concealed weapon is the charge when the concealed weapon is something other than a regular firearm: something like brass knuckles or a tear-gas weapon, for example. Carrying a concealed weapon in this state is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by as much as a year in a county jail, a year on probation, and a fine of as much as $1,000. Non-lethal stun guns, pepper sprays, and regular-style pocket knives are not classified in this state as concealed weapons.

3. POSSESSION OF A FIREARM BY A CONVICTED FELON

A convicted felon’s possession of any firearm is considered a serious felony in the state of Florida. A conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by up to fifteen years in a Florida state prison and by a fine of up to $10,000.

In Florida, like most states, convicted felons may not knowingly possess, own, have control over, or use a firearm in any circumstances. Anyone charged with this crime can expect to be aggressively prosecuted and will need experienced defense representation.

4. IMPROPER EXHIBITION OF A DANGEROUS WEAPON OR FIREARM

In Florida, when someone carries and exhibits a hazardous firearm or weapon in a careless, threatening, or angry manner in front of one or more witnesses, the charge is the improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon or firearm, a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction on this charge is punishable by as much as a year in county jail, up to a year on probation, and a fine of $1,000. In many of these cases, self-defense is offered to dispute the charge. Anyone lawfully carrying a concealed firearm may briefly and openly display the firearm to the ordinary sight of another, unless the firearm is intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner.

5. POSSESSING OR DISCHARGING A WEAPON AT A SCHOOL-SPONSORED EVENT

This is essentially the same crime as the improper exhibition of a hazardous firearm or weapon, except that when it happens on the premises of a school or at an event sponsored by a school, it is charged and prosecuted as a third-degree felony.

A conviction for possessing or discharging a weapon at a school-sponsored event is punishable by up to five years in a Florida state prison, up to five years on probation, and a fine of as much as $5,000.

6. ALLOWING A MINOR UNDER THE AGE OF 16 TO ACCESS A LOADED FIREARM

From 2010 through 2015, according to the Miami Herald, firearms killed 475 children in this state. If someone in the state of Florida allows a minor who is below 16 years of age to have access to any loaded firearm, that individual can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor under Florida law. A conviction on the charge is punishable by up to sixty days in a county jail and by a fine of $500.

WHAT ABOUT FIREARMS “ENHANCEMENTS” IN FLORIDA?

Florida imposes a minimum mandatory prison sentence on offenders convicted of certain violent crimes who discharged, carried, or otherwise involved a firearm in the commission of the crime. The most-frequently applied firearms enhancement – called “10-20-Life” – works this way.

If a firearm is carried during a violent crime’s commission, the penalty upon conviction is a minimum of ten years in prison. If a firearm is discharged during a violent crime’s commission, the penalty upon conviction is a minimum of twenty years in prison. If anyone is shot or killed during a violent crime’s commission, the penalty upon conviction is 25 years to life.

Gun violence has been and continues to be a top law enforcement concern in Florida. The state’s gun laws are designed to protect the innocent from violence committed with guns and to reduce the number of gun violence victims. If you are charged with any violation of any gun law in Central Florida, you will need trustworthy legal advice and aggressive defense representation. You’ll need the help of an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney.

Robin Fuson
By Robin Fuson