Thursday, November 08, 2012


Sometimes our criminal law chews up folks who never meant to commit a crime. When someone inadvertently violates Florida law, Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys often are called too late, unable to prevent an arrest followed by a long tough journey through Florida's difficult Criminal Justice System.

So it was heartening to speak over the phone yesterday with the cheerful yet dignified man who in my mind's eye had the appearance of a Japanese Zen Master. Maybe our conversation will keep him from that ultimate pilgrimage to the Pinellas County Jail. Here's a recap of what he asked me:
Even a zen master could be in trouble in Tampa Bay Florida if a family member has a gun or firearm.
I'm a convicted felon. I haven't been in trouble since the conviction. I've successfully turned my life around. I have a good job, gotten married and have a great family. I've not yet had my civil rights restored. I know that I can't own a gun with the felony conviction. Will I get into trouble with the law if my wife buys a gun and keeps it for her protection?
The answer is yes, you'll likely get in lots of trouble. Clearly the Florida Criminal Statute he wants to avoid violating is Felon in Possession of a Firearm, plus there could be an additional violation of the Federal Criminal Statute with a possible fifteen year minimum mandatory sentence. Here's a short excerpt of the Florida Statute:
790.23 Felons in possession of firearms, ammunition, or electric weapons or devices:
(1) It is unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been:(a) Convicted of a felony...
Anyone in Florida who has a conviction for a Felony from any jurisdiction should he be concerned if a family member wants to bring a gun (or even just ammunition or an electric weapon such as a taser) into his home or car because if the firearm is found to be in his "care, custody, possession or control..." he is in violation of the law. The language of the statute is very similar to that of the Florida Drug Statutes which equates possession with knowledge and close proximity with possession. It means that it wouldn't much matter who technically 'owns' the firearm, what matters is who has knowledge and the ability to control the gun. Based on this information he wisely told me that his wife won't be keeping any firearms in their home.
In speaking further with him we talked about the process of how to have his rights restored and obtaining a pardon or clemency under Florida Law so that he could legally possess a gun in the future and commended him on calling a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer before bringing the firearm into his home risking an arrest.