Firearm | Weapon Crimes

When compared to other states, Florida has a higher number of valid concealed weapon permits. In fact, as of June 30, 2017, Florida had 1,784,395 law-abiding residents with a valid concealed weapons permit, more than any other state.

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has reignited the debate over gun ownership rights and the role that law enforcement officers should play while trying to prevent future acts of gun violence.

Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Florida has 12.6 firearm deaths per 100,000 people. In 2016, Florida has 2,704 firearm deaths including 1,672 suicides and 992 homicides.

The overall rate of violent crime in Florida was 430.3 per 100,000 people. Gun violence is not limited to mass shootings and other types of murder, but includes all forms of aggravated assault and battery.

Florida regulates all aspects of owning and possessing a firearm through the creation of hundreds of criminal offenses. Many of these crimes come with harsh penalties. For serious crimes that involve the use of a firearm, Florida law provides for mandatory minimum prison sentences.

Once you become the target of a criminal investigation, you should never make a statement to law enforcement, even if you are sure that your use of the weapon was justified.

Your criminal defense attorney is in the best position to present your side of the story to law enforcement. The attorney you hire should be knowledgeable about all aspects of firearm laws in Florida as well as the tactics used by the local law enforcement officers who are investigating the case.

Attorneys for Firearm / Weapon Crimes in Tampa, FL

The criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are focused exclusively on criminal defense. Our offices have been at the same location since 2008, just a few blocks from the courthouse in downtown Tampa.

We also have a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County across from the West Pasco Judicial Center.

The five criminal defense attorneys in our office are experienced in representing clients accused of firearms, export, or smuggling crimes. We take a scholarly approach to fighting weapon charges by filing all viable motions to suppress evidence illegally obtained or dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence.

We look for problems with the procedures and tactics used by the officers that investigated the crime and made the arrest. If you have been arrested for any firearm or weapon charge in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, or the surrounding areas, then call us to discuss your case.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.

Types of Firearm and Weapon Crimes in Florida

The criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, represent clients on a variety of weapon charges including:

  • Aggravated Battery with a Firearm;
  • Aggravated Assault with a Firearm;
  • Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon;
  • Carrying a Concealed Weapon / Firearm under § 790.01, Florida Statute;
  • Improper Exhibition of a Firearm under § 790.10, F.S.;
  • Discharging a Firearm in Public § 790.15, F.S.;
  • Airport Weapon Charges including Possession of a Concealed Dangerous Weapon;
  • Armed Robbery or Burglary with a Firearm;
  • Juvenile Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds;
  • Violation of Probation When the Underlying Offense involved a Weapon or Firearm;
  • Gun Trafficking;
  • Possession Without a License § 790.06, F.S
  • Persons Engaged in Criminal Offense Having Weapon §§ 790.07(1) and (2), F.S
  • Persons Engaged in Criminal Offense Having Weapon (Previous Conviction) § 790.07(4), F.S.
  • Throwing, Making, Placing, Projecting, or Discharging Destructive Device § 790.161(1)-(4), F.S.
  • Threats to Throw, Place, Project, or Discharge Any Destructive Device § 790.162, F.S.
  • False Reports of Bombing § 790.163, F.S.
  • False Reports of Bombing State-Owned Property § 790.164, F.S.
  • Furnishing Weapons to Minors § 790.17, F.S.
  • Dealer Selling Arms to Minors § 790.18, F.S.
  • Shooting or Throwing Missiles in Dwelling § 790.19, F.S.
  • Possession of Forbidden Firearms § 790.221, F.S.
  • Felons Possessing Weapons § 790.23, F.S.
  • Using a Firearm While under the Influence § 790.151, F.S.
  • Use of a BB Gun by a Person under 16 § 790.22, F.S.
  • Altering or Removing Firearm Serial Number/Sale or Delivery of Firearm with Serial Number Altered or Removed § 790.27, F.S.
  • Use of A Self-Defense Weapon § 790.054, F.S.

Criminal Laws for Firearms in Florida

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for an individual’s right to possess a firearm:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Florida Constitution has a specific provision dealing with the right to bear arms, Florida Constitution Article I, Section 8(a), which provides as follows:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.

Although these provisions sound simple enough, the Federal Government and the state of Florida have enacted a complex and comprehensive network of statutes and regulations concerning every aspect of gun possession and ownership.

Florida’s Castle Doctrine & Stand Your Ground Self-Defense Statute

On April 26, 2005, Governor Jeb Bush signed the “Castle Doctrine” Self-Defense Statute (Senate Bill 436) into law. Senate Bill 436 expanded self-defense protections in the State of Florida to provide for a more comprehensive and common-sense approach to explaining when deadly weapons, including firearms, can be used to protect yourself or another against a violent attack.

Prior to this legislation, such force was allowed only when the person using deadly force believed that no lesser force, such as retreating from the home or vehicle, would dispel the threat.

The new legislation applies to both the Use of Non-deadly Force in Self-defense and the Use of Deadly Force in Self-defense .

The Castle Doctrine in Florida

Under the provisions of the Castle Doctrine, a person may use deadly force against another person who enters a residence or occupied automobile with force and for an unlawful purpose. Deadly force may also be used against a person who is attempting to forcefully and unlawfully remove someone from a vehicle.

The provisions are intended to allow a victim to defend himself or another against an attempted carjacking or home invasion robbery without fear that a law enforcement officer or prosecutor could later second guess whether that decision was “reasonably believed to be necessary.”

Now, even if it was possible to retreat, no such retreat is required from the home or an occupied vehicle. Of course, the law does not protect a person using their vehicle or residence to commit a crime before the threat occurred.

Additionally, the self-defense provisions provide for common-sense exceptions, including the protection of persons who have a right to enter the residence or occupied automobile (unless they are subject to a protective order which would prevent such entry), disputes over a child’s custody, and police officers acting in accordance with their official law enforcement duties.

Using Deadly Force in Self-Defense in Florida

If the person using deadly force is outside of their residence or occupied automobile, deadly force may only be used when it is “reasonably believed to be necessary.”

Even outside of the home, a person who is lawfully in an area that they are entitled to be in has the right to use the force necessary, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent great bodily harm or death or to prevent the attacker from committing a forcible felony.

The new provisions go one step further and create a new “presumption” under the law that the person attempting to enter the vehicle or residence was presumed to have the intention of committing a forcible violent felony if they gained entry.

This new “presumption” is a powerful tool at trial that can be argued to the jury by the criminal defense attorney. Furthermore, a new standard jury instruction addressing this presumption can be requested at trial, so that the judge will read to the jury the rule about this presumption that the “alleged victim” was attempting to commit a forcible violent felony at the time of the incident.

Prohibitions Against Civil Liability

The new provisions also prohibit civil liability against any person who acts in compliance with the self-defense provisions. The castle doctrine can also be extended to a person in their place of business acting against an unlawful and forceful attack by another.

Even more importantly, law enforcement officers are not allowed to arrest a person unless they have probable cause to believe that the person using deadly force was not acting in compliance with this affirmative defense, making this affirmative defense unique among defenses in the State of Florida.

The information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice. Instead, it is merely a summary or overview of the law. Each case has particular facts and circumstances that make the case unique.

If you need legal advice about a firearm or gun / weapon criminal case, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your arrest in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, or Hernando County, FL.

10/20/Life Provisions in Florida

The Florida legislature recently enacted a 10/20/Life provision in an attempt to get tough on crimes involving firearms.

In the State of Florida, weapons charges can carry a minimum mandatory sentence, which means if convicted, you must serve a certain amount of your sentence day for day in Florida State Prison, including:

  • Ten (10) years for the actual possession of a firearm;
  • Twenty (20) years for the unlawful discharge of a firearm; and
  • Life in prison for wounding or injuring any person with a firearm.

Keep in mind that these sentences are the minimum mandatory sentence that will be imposed upon conviction, meaning that the court can not impose a lesser sentence.

The court still has the discretion to impose a sentence up to the statutory maximum allowed for the particular offense. The Court can not “withhold adjudication” nor suspend or defer the imposition of the sentence. The 10/20/Life provisions apply to the following offenses:

  1. Aggravated Assault (3 year min/man applies for actual possession of firearm);
  2. Possession Firearm by Felon (3 year min/man applies for actual possession of firearm);
  3. Burglary of Conveyance (3 year min/man applies for actual possession of firearm);
  4. Burglary;
  5. Robbery;
  6. Arson;
  7. Sexual Battery;
  8. Kidnapping;
  9. Escape;
  10. Aggravated Abuse of the Elderly or Disabled;
  11. Aggravated Child Abuse;
  12. Unlawful discharge of a destructive device or bomb;
  13. Carjacking;
  14. Home-invasion robbery;
  15. Aggravated Stalking;
  16. Trafficking in a controlled substance; and
  17. Murder.

Illegal Possession of a Firearm in Florida

Federal Law, 18 U.S.C. 922(g) and (n), sets minimum requirements that exclude certain groups of people from legally possessing a firearm. Including any person who meets one of the following criteria:

  1. Has been convicted of felony which is defined as any crime which provides for a possible punishment of imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is the subject of a court order that restrains the person from threatening, harassing, or stalking an intimate or domestic partner, former partner, or child of such partner;
  3. Has been convicted of any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, including domestic battery or domestic assault;
  4. Is a fugitive from justice in any jurisdiction;
  5. Has been committed to a mental institution or has been adjudicated as having a mental defect;
  6. Is addicted to any controlled substance or is an unlawful user of any controlled substance;
  7. Is unlawfully in the United States, is an illegal alien, or is an alien that entered the country with a non-immigrant visa;
  8. Has renounced his United States citizenship;
  9. Has been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces; or
  10. Cannot lawfully transport, ship, receive or possess a firearm.

In addition to the Federal laws that restrict firearm possession, each state has certain more restrictive legislation. Florida law legislation concerning the illegal possession of firearms include the following:

  1. If you have been convicted of a felony offense in the State of Florida or any other jurisdiction and your civil rights have not been restored;
  2. If you have been adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile of any offense that would have been a felony if you had been charged as an adult;
  3. If you are under 16, unless the gun is not loaded and is at home under parental supervision;
  4. If you have been found in certain proceedings to be a drug addict, vagrant or mentally incompetent; or
  5. If you are subject to an active domestic violence injunction or charge.

The punishment for illegal possession of a firearm can vary from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the possession.

Furthermore, under the Child Access Prevention Law, any gun owner can be prosecuted for not securing a firearm or other weapon in a location that is not readily accessible to children under 16 years of age. If a child under the age of 16 comes into possession of the firearm, the gun owner can be charged with a separate criminal offense for not properly securing the firearm.

It is also a crime under Florida law to provide a juvenile with a firearm, including delivering, giving or transferring the firearm to a person under the age of 18, except under very limited circumstances.

Discharging a Firearm in Public

The elements of Discharging a Firearm in Public or on Residential Property under Section 790.15, Fla. Stat., the prosecutor with the State of Florida must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • the Defendant knowingly discharged a firearm in a public place;
  • the Defendant knowingly discharged a firearm on or over the right of way of a paved public road, highway, or street;
  • the Defendant knowingly discharged a firearm over an occupied premises; or
  • the Defendant recklessly or negligently discharged a firearm outdoors on property when the property was used primarily as the site of a dwelling or zoned exclusively for residential use.

The most important defenses to the crime of Discharging a Firearm in Public or on Residential Property include:

  • lawfully defending life or property through self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property;
  • performing official duties requiring the discharge of a firearm;
  • discharging a firearm on public roads or property expressly approved for hunting by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or Division of Forestry.

The jury instruction for discharging a firearm in public was adopted in 1981 and was amended in 1989 [543 So. 2d 1205], 2013 [131 So. 3d 755], and 2016.

Additional Resources

What happens to my concealed weapon or firearm license after an arrest or formal charges? – Read more about the notice of suspension from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Licensing, Legal Section concerning Florida Statute Section 790.06(3) including your obligation to return your concealed weapons permit, additional charges for carrying a concealed weapon or firearm with a suspended license, eligibility for licensure, administrative complaint, revocation of the concealed weapons permit, the election of rights form, formal review hearing, informal review hearing, legal support section.

Check eligibility to carry a concealed weapon or firearm permit license in Florida – Use this checklist to determine preliminary eligibility for a concealed weapon or firearm license:

  • You are not eligible while felony, or misdemeanor charges are pending or if you are a fugitive from justice.
  • You are not eligible after being convicted or adjudicated guilty of any felony, “crime of violence” (including domestic violence) or any drug crime (including possession of marijuana).
  • You are not eligible after receiving a withhold of adjudication or suspended sentence for any of any felony, “crime of violence” (including domestic violence) or any drug crime (including possession of marijuana) unless three years have pasted after completing probation or until after the record has been sealed or expunged.

Concealed Weapon or Firearm Self-defense Program – The Division of Licensing, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides information on Florida Self-Defense issues related to firearm possession and carrying a concealed weapon.

Choosing a Tampa Attorney for Gun Crime Charges

If you have been arrested for any offense involving a firearm, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL, to discuss your gun crime case today.

We represent clients charged with firearm offenses in Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, and the surrounding areas throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.

From the improper exhibition of a firearm to more serious offenses for armed robbery, we can help you aggressively fight the charges. Contact us to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the facts of your case.

Call (813) 250-0500.

This article was last updated on Monday, July 3, 2023.