What to Do If I’m Pulled Over With a Legal Weapon in My Car?
The majority of Florida gun owners treat state and federal laws regarding their firearms seriously. With recent gun violence in schools and businesses, law enforcement and legislators have begun seizing lawfully owned guns more frequently to get weapons off the streets. Knowing your Second Amendment rights, especially in cases where you legally carry a gun in your vehicle, is essential.
Remember, if you plan to carry a gun while driving in Florida, have a plan in place to help you handle your interaction with law enforcement. Consider some of the below steps as part of your action plan:
- Be familiar with state laws before putting the gun in your car
- Turn on the interior light of your car
- Roll down your window
- Have your license, registration, and concealed weapon licence information already available in your hand
- Keep your hands in the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on your steering wheel
- Inform the officer that there is a firearm in your vehicle
- Listen and comply with the officer’s instructions
Florida Law Regarding Concealed Weapons
According to Florida Statute 790.06, gun owners can obtain a license to carry concealed weapons if they meet the necessary age, citizenship, training, and other legal criteria. This law does not mean you must have a permit to own a gun; it means that to carry it on your person in a concealed manner, you need a state-issued license. Your licensing does not grant open carrying in your vehicle either, and open-carry is mostly illegal in the state of Florida, except in instances where the carrier is:
- Other similar activities
Is It Legal to Carry a Firearm in My Vehicle?
Simply put, yes, though there are requirements you must meet under Florida law. However, there are a lot of nuances in the law that can result in you being in trouble! Also, your gun cannot be in plain sight or easily accessible. This guidance means that simply wedging it between your seats is not enough. It must be inside a secure container like a glove box, trunk, or locked carrying case, according to Florida Statutes §790.001.
State courts have also weighed in on these matters. In State v. Hinkle, a firearm concealed by flowers on a vehicle seat qualified as concealed. The Florida Supreme Court found in a case from 1999 acknowledge several scenarios that could determine if the gun were hidden or not, including:
- Concealing the weapon with objects, like the earlier mentioned bouquet
- Concealing a gun with one’s body
- The location of the firearm in the vehicle
To be clear, Florida has no requirement mandating you inform a stopping officer that you have a concealed weapon or firearm. Just be aware that if they have probable cause to search your vehicle and the way you stored your gun is not in compliance with the law, you could face additional charges.
Can Florida Law Enforcement Search My Vehicle and Seize My Weapon?
Before an officer can search your car, there must be a legitimate belief that illegal activity is taking place. On its own, having a weapon in your vehicle is not against the law, especially if you are carrying it legally and disclose that you have it. Things get murky if law enforcement has other reasons to search your car and later finds your undisclosed gun. This situation could lead to criminal charges.
What Factors Could Give an Officer Probable Cause for a Search?
As mentioned, if your gun is in plain sight of the officer when you are pulled over, that is against the law and can trigger a probable cause search of your vehicle. Other factors that could allow Florida police to search your vehicle include:
- Evidence of criminal activity
- Contraband or illegal drugs in plain sight
- A drug-sniffing K-9 detects the presence of illicit substances
- You give your consent for a vehicle search
If you are pulled over by a police officer in Florida, and they spot a firearm in plain sight, this discovery can lead to probable cause. If the gun is in plain sight, this is a violation of Florida’s gun laws, which can lead to the officer searching the rest of the vehicle. To prevent this from happening, ensure that you stow your firearm correctly before driving.
Penalties for a Conviction of a Firearm Offense
Possession of a concealed firearm is a charge that involves having a gun in your car that is easily accessible. This means that your access to it would be so quick it would be the equivalent of having it on your person.
If convicted of this crime, the severity of the charges may include any of the below consequences:
- Hefty fines
- Potential jail or prison time
- Suspension of driving privileges
- Driver’s license revocation
- Potential vehicle forfeiture
- Community service
- Forfeiture of property or assets
- Forfeiture of basic civil rights
It is vital that you have an experienced Orlando gun crimes defense attorney on hand to help defend you against such charges, especially because of the state “10-20-Life” law. Since previous criminal history and circumstances of the crime can impact sentencing, you may face a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Hire an Experienced Orlando Gun Crime Defense Attorney Right Away
Florida takes a serious stance against gun violations, regardless of whether it is a defendant’s first criminal offense. As former state prosecutors, The Umansky Law Firm understands what you have at stake and how the prosecution will attempt to prove their allegations against you. Rely on our over 100 years of combined experience as Board-Certified trial lawyers to help reduce or potentially dismiss the gun charges you are facing.
As recognized SuperLawyers, we have a proven case record in this area of legal defense. Call us today for a free consultation, or contact us online.