The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution unequivocally states that Americans are afforded the right to bear arms. While the Supreme Court has held that individuals have the right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes such as self-defense, there are significant restrictions on who may possess firearms and where and how they may be used.

On March 9, 2018, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Public Safety Act, which tightens gun control in several ways. First, it raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18. It also bans the sale or possession of bump fire stocks and it gives law enforcement greater authority to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit. The legislation allows a law enforcement officer who is taking a person into custody for an involuntary examination under the Baker Act to seize and hold a firearm or ammunition from the person for at least 72 hours, or until the person appears at the agency to retrieve the firearm or ammunition.

The statue also creates a process for law enforcement officers or agencies to petition a court for a “risk protection order” to temporarily prevent people who are at high risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms. The orders can last up to a year, but can be vacated or extended by a judge. Factors that could contribute to a judge granting a risk protection order against an individual could include acts or threats of violence, the existence or violation of a previous risk prevention order, evidence the respondent is abusing controlled substances or alcohol and evidence of the individual being seriously mentally ill or having recurring mental health issues.

Charges Involving Firearms

Firearms-related charges can stem from the unlawful use of a gun or from the use and possession of a gun by a prohibited person. The former charge can include any of the following criminal infractions:

Carrying a Concealed Weapon: Civilians are required to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Persons caught transporting a concealed firearm or other deadly weapon likely face felony charges unless certain defenses apply, such as inadvertent expired license or failure to renew;

Possessing a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony: If you were arrested for a separate felony offense and were found to be carrying a firearm at the time, you could face charges for the separate offense of possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony, even if the weapon was not used. This charge is often classified by degrees and may carry more serious penalties depending upon the nature of the underlying felony.

Possession of a Firearm in Prohibited Areas: There are a number of laws prohibiting the possession of a firearm near a school, playground or other area where children are present. It is generally not a defense that you did not know you were near a prohibited area, however certain other affirmative defenses to this charge are available and your defense attorney can devise an appropriate defense strategy in your case.

Possession of a Firearm by Prohibited Persons

  • Your defense attorney can also help you if you were found in possession of a firearm and are classified as a person prohibited from owning or possessing deadly weapons. In Florida, a convicted felon who has not had his civil rights restored is not entitled to possess a firearm.

If you are facing a recent weapons charge, including those involving the unlawful use or possession of a firearm. For instance, was the firearm seized in connection with an illegal search? And, could that search be illegal because it resulted, for example, from an illegal traffic stop, or an illegal search warrant? And if it involved a search warrant, was there anything defective in law enforcement’s affidavit for the issuance of a search warrant that would invalidate the search warrant? A Board Certified Criminal Defense attorney can help you not only reduce or defeat your charges but safeguard your right to protect yourself and your home.