Charged with Brandishing a Firearm?
Let Our Florida Gun Attorneys Defend Your Rights in Fort Lauderdale
Most people are aware of the criminal liability that surrounds violent offenses that involve the use of a gun. However, many would be surprised to learn that in Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere in Broward County, Florida, a person may face a criminal charge and potential jail time even if he or she simply displays a firearm without firing it. State law specifically outlines the circumstances under which a person may display a gun in front of others.
A concealed carry state
Florida residents may carry a concealed firearm if they have obtained legal permission to do so. Gun owners must first obtain a Concealed Carry Permit, which is a state-issued license that allows individuals to carry a firearm in public as long as the weapon is not openly displayed. Visitors from other states may also carry a concealed firearm in Florida if they have a concealed carry permit issued by their home state and if the home state offers reciprocity for concealed carry. Some states offer an open carry permit, which does not require the firearm to remain concealed in public. Florida is not among the states that legally permit open carry for everyday civilians.
Improper exhibition of a firearm
State law clearly prohibits the public display of firearms outside of certain limited exceptions. Moreover, state law also prohibits the improper display of a weapon in private settings. If an individual shows a firearm to another person in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, he or she may be charged with Improper Exhibition of a Firearm, also known as brandishing a weapon. While the act of carelessly or aggressively displaying a weapon is enough to trigger the charge, people are often charged with Improper Exhibition of a Firearm in combination with another related offense like aggravated assault or attempted robbery. By definition, an individual who displays a firearm while committing an act of assault or while attempting to rob someone also commits the offense of improperly displaying a firearm in the course of committing the primary criminal act.
Proving improper display of a weapon
There are three elements that comprise the Improper Display of a Firearm offense. Therefore, in order to obtain conviction, the state must prove the following:
- The accused carried or otherwise had possession of a weapon
- The accused displayed the weapon in a rude, threatening, careless, or angry manner
- The accused improperly displayed the weapon in front of at least one other person
Prosecutors must prove all three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It is important to note that an accused person may be convicted for simply displaying the weapon in a rude or careless manner even if he or she did not actually threaten another person.
Penalties for improper display
If a person is convicted of improperly displaying a firearm, he or she may be sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Improper Display of a Firearm is sometimes a lesser offense of which defendants are convicted if the state is unable to fully establish a more severe crime like Aggravated Assault with a Firearm. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life statute, violent felony cases in which the defendant possessed a firearm are eligible for enhanced sentencing. According to 10-20-Life sentencing guidelines, the mandatory minimum sentence for cases of aggravated assault crimes that involve possession of a firearm is 10 years imprisonment. In some cases, a defendant may be offered a plea deal in which he or she may plead guilty of brandishing a firearm and, as a result, avoid the potential of being sentenced to the mandatory 10-year imprisonment.
Defenses to improper display
Florida makes an exception to some of its laws regarding display of a firearm for cases that involve self-defense. Therefore, a person who is accused of illegally displaying a firearm may argue the firearm was displayed because it was intended to be used in self-defense against a perceived threat. However, the self-defense argument is not permitted if the accused initiated a fight with the other person and felt threatened by his or her response. A defense attorney would also likely push the prosecutor to offer sufficient evidence to prove the manner in which the defendant displayed the weapon was actually rude, careless, or threatening. The approach the attorney takes in defending his or her client will depend heavily on the specific facts of the case.
Contact a Florida weapons charge defense attorney
Those who have been accused of brandishing a weapon in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in Florida should contact a weapons defense attorney who has a track record of prevailing against similar charges. It is particularly important that anyone who is being questioned in relation to brandishing a weapon, aggravated assault, or a similar situation contact an attorney prior to communicating with law enforcement, even if the police have requested a voluntary interview. Having an attorney present can help an individual avoid the perils of unintentional self-incrimination and ensure his or her constitutional rights remain protected. Gun-related charges are aggressively prosecuted in Florida, and the likelihood of severe sentencing and prison time is great. Therefore, people who are accused of gun-related offenses simply cannot afford to risk facing very serious charges without skilled legal counsel. Attorneys are available to provide a free, confidential case evaluation in addition to helping the defendant understand the potential consequences and explore all viable legal options for responding to a very serious criminal accusation.