A number of legal situations may affect your right to own a firearm in Florida. If you are charged with a crime in this state, your right to own a firearm may be at risk along with your freedom. If that happens, you will need the advice and services of a Miami criminal defense attorney.

The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, but as you may already know, a number of federal and state laws can affect your right to own a firearm in Florida. You are about to read a brief introduction to those laws and your firearm rights.

If a firearm is used in the commission of a crime in Florida, the charge is almost always more serious. And even if no additional crime has been committed, the mere possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is considered a serious offense in this state.

Who may own firearms in Florida? What criminal charges and convictions can pose a risk to your gun rights? What can happen if you own a firearm illegally in this state? Keep reading this brief discussion of gun rights in Florida, and you will find some of the answers you may need.

What Does Federal Law Require?

Federal law sets a number of standards for owning a firearm. If you have been convicted of a domestic violence-related misdemeanor or any felony, unless you receive clemency for that conviction, you may not use, purchase, or possess a firearm in Florida or any other state.

Court orders arising from a domestic violence situation or a severe mental condition may also prevent certain people from using, buying, or owning a firearm in Florida. Federal laws provide merely a baseline for the states, which may impose additional and more precise limits on gun purchases and ownership.

Who May Not Own a Firearm in Florida?

In the State of Florida, you may not use, purchase, or possess a firearm in any of these circumstances:

  1.  You have been convicted for a felony.
  2.  You are under age 24 and you were convicted as a juvenile of a crime that is a felony for an adult.
  3.  You are a “violent career criminal,” as that term is defined by Florida law.
  4.  You have been “adjudicated mentally defective” or “committed to a mental institution,” as those phrases are defined by Florida law.
  5.  You are under age 21 and do not have a parent’s or guardian’s consent to own a firearm.
  6.  If a court has issued a restraining order against you, and that order currently is in effect, the court may or may not require you to surrender your firearms and ammunition.

Can Your Right to Own a Firearm Be Restored?

A felony conviction in Florida means that you will automatically lose your right to use, own, or possess a firearm. That right cannot be restored by sealing or expunging your criminal record. It may only be restored if you obtain a clemency that specifically restores your gun rights.

If you were convicted of a felony in a Florida court, you may seek clemency from the Office of the Governor. If you were convicted of a felony in a federal court, you may only receive clemency from the President after applying through the U.S. Office of the Pardon Attorney.

If you are charged with a felony, you must be advised and represented by a South Florida criminal defense lawyer. That lawyer will work to help you avoid a felony conviction and retain your firearm rights. If you have a felony conviction, ask your lawyer about the clemency process.

What is the Law Regarding Domestic Violence and Firearms?

Florida law authorizes the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to prevent anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence-related misdemeanor from passing the background check required for a gun purchase in Florida.

FDLE also prevents persons who have had an adjudication of guilt withheld or an imposition of sentence suspended for any domestic violence misdemeanor from passing a background check unless three years have passed since the conditions imposed by the court have been met.

A Restraining Order May or May Not Require the Surrender of Your Firearms

If a protective order against domestic violence or stalking – a restraining order – is issued against you, it is a violation of that order to refuse to surrender your firearms and ammunition to the authorities if a court orders you to do that.

However, the law in Florida does not require a court to order the surrender of firearms when that court issues a restraining order, and it does not authorize the court to order police officers to seize someone’s firearms and ammunition when a restraining order is issued.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Florida’s Gun Laws?

In Florida, a convicted felon may not knowingly possess, have control of, or use a firearm in any situation. The possession of any firearm by a convicted felon is a serious felony in this state and is punishable upon conviction with a lengthy prison term and a costly fine.

The violation of a restraining order is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, and a conviction may be penalized with jail time and a fine. Anyone who is charged with one of these crimes may expect to be prosecuted aggressively and will need effective defense representation.

For most firearm violations in Florida, it isn’t possible to know in advance exactly what penalties will be imposed for a conviction. When determining the penalties, a criminal court will consider both the severity of the violation and the defendant’s previous criminal convictions (if any).

What Else Should You Know About Firearms and Your Rights?

If you are charged with a firearms violation in this state, but the police violated your constitutional rights during a search, an interrogation, or an arrest, your South Florida criminal defense lawyer will seek to have the charge against you reduced or dismissed.

Florida’s firearm laws are aimed at preventing gun violence and protecting the general public from gun violence. However, the state’s gun laws can be complicated and quite technical, so it is easy to misunderstand the law – and to end up facing a weapons charge.

What you have read here only touches the surface of this state’s extensive gun laws and regulations. Gun crimes and firearms violations are a constant challenge for Florida’s law enforcement authorities.

If you are charged with a firearms violation in South Florida, you must consult a Miami criminal defense attorney at once. Your attorney will develop an aggressive and effective strategy for your defense.