Is it Against the Law to Have a Firearm in My Vehicle?

As most of us already know, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that every American has the right to own a gun.  This right does not cease when you enter your vehicle.

In Florida, it isn’t uncommon for drivers to have firearms in their vehicles.  Who hasn’t seen a truck with a gun rack in their window sporting one or more hunting rifles?

It is also legal to have a handgun in your vehicle depending upon where and how you store it.  Specifically, ensuring that your firearm is in plain sight – meaning, that it is not hidden – is essential to its legality.  According to Florida Statutes Section 790.001(2), “concealed firearm” means “any firearm…which is carried on or about a person in such a manner as to conceal the firearm from the ordinary sight of another person.”

It is legal in Florida to have a gun located on the passenger seat or unconcealed on the floorboard.  Keep in mind that Florida does not have an “open carry” law where you can carry a gun in a holster while shopping at the local mall.  Specifically, in accordance with Florida Statutes Section 790.053, “it is unlawful for any person to openly carry on or about his or her person any firearm….”

In Florida, it is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in a state penitentiary for possessing a concealed weapon.

To face concealed firearm possession charges, the gun must be “readily accessible for immediate use.”  What this means is that the firearm or other weapon is in close proximity to a person and in such a manner that it can be easily and quickly retrieved and used, or the weapon is actually being carried on the person.

If the firearm is securely encased, it is not deemed to be concealed for purposes of the statute.  Under Florida Statutes Section 790.001(17), “securely encased” means that the firearm is found in the “glove compartment, whether or not locked; snapped in a holster; in a gun case, whether or not locked; in a zippered gun case; or in a closed box or container which requires a lid or cover to be opened for access.”

The primary inquiry in ascertaining whether a firearm is “concealed” hinges upon whether a person, standing alongside of a vehicle in which the individual with the firearm is located, may, by ordinary observation, understand that the object in question is a firearm.

Notwithstanding, whether a firearm is “concealed” pursuant to Florida law depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.  For instance, case law in Florida has ruled that a weapon placed between the seats of a vehicle was concealed, however, a firearm that was unloaded and wedged between seats of the vehicle did not constitute a concealed firearm where the ammunition was not in the person’s reach. 

Specifically, in State v. Hinkle, 970 So. 2d 433 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007), the court held that a firearm that was covered with flowers on the seat of a vehicle was a concealed weapon.  In another vehicle case, the Florida Supreme Court in Dorelus v. State, 747 So. 2d 368, 371 (Fla. 1999) indicated a number of different variables that can help to determine whether a weapon was carried in a way that it would be hidden from ordinary sight, including whether it was concealed by another object (such as a towel), the location of the weapon in a vehicle, such as on a seat as opposed to a closed console, or whether the person concealed the weapon with his or her body.

If you are pulled over by law enforcement while possessing a firearm in your vehicle, you need to know what to do in this situation.  Specifically, it is highly recommended that when you hand over to the officer your license and registration, you should clearly and in a calm manner indicate to the officer that you have a gun in your vehicle.  The officer may instinctively draw his or her sidearm in this situation.  As such, it is critical that you comply with the officer’s instructions and listen to him or her very carefully.

There are certain restrictions what a person can do with a firearm while legally carrying it in his or her vehicle.

Specifically, you cannot show your firearm to other drivers in any way that could be considered threatening.  If any reasonable individual in that driver’s position is threatened by seeing your gun, even if it is not pointed at him or her – you could face charges of “aggravated assault with a firearm,” which is associated with a minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years.  

Moreover, if you are at a bar and an argument ensues where you feel physically threatened, you cannot, pursuant to Florida law, get your firearm from your car, return to the bar, and then use the firearm to defend yourself.  The threat is over once you leave the bar to go to your vehicle, where you had the opportunity to just leave.  Returning to the bar with your gun does not allow you to use Florida’s “self-defense” argument or avail yourself of the “stand your ground law.”  As for Florida’s stand your ground law, under Florida Statutes Section 776.013(3), “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Firearm violations in Florida are very serious.  Specifically, Florida has a law referred as the “10-20-Life” Law which means that if you brandish a firearm, you can face a minimum mandatory prison sentence of ten years.  If you fire a gun, that lands you in prison for twenty years.  If you cause bodily injury to another person with a firearm, you could be sentenced to life in prison.

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Weapons charges in Florida are not dealt with lightly. If you are convicted of such a crime, you could face serious consequences across multiple areas of your life and livelihood. If you or a loved one are facing such a charge, it is in your best interest to contact our criminal defense lawyers in Florida today. We have over 150-years of combined legal experience within our team of qualified attorneys and can provide expert defense against your weapons offense. Our attorneys thoroughly understand Florida’s state gun control laws, and we are not afraid to leverage the knowledge to best assist you in resolving your case. Because of our dedication to our clients and to excellent litigation services more broadly, we have earned an A+ rating from BBB® and are 10/10 Super Avvo Rated. Our firm was also positively featured on NBC News and Fox News. We offer a free, no-obligation initial case consultation to new clients, so don’t hesitate to contact our office today at (888) 484-5057 to determine how our legal services could best support you and your legal needs.

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