All you did was pull out your gun so your friends could check it out, and suddenly you were under arrest. What happened?The laws on improper exhibition of a weapon in Florida apply to several different weapons and carry stiff penalties. If you exhibit a weapon, such as a knife or gun, in a careless, angry, or threatening manner, you could be subject to the charge of improper exhibition of a firearm or weapon. If convicted, you may be forced to give up your weapon and spend up to one year in jail.In this post, we’ll explain the law, what’s needed to prove the charge, and what defenses you can use if you are facing charges.
Definition of a “Weapon” Under Florida Law
The statute prohibits any individual from “having or carrying any dirk, sword, sword cane, firearm, electric weapon or device, or other weapon.” It also prohibits an individual from exhibiting the weapon “in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, and not in necessary self-defense” in the presence of another person.The full definition of weapons from the Florida statutes includes “any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slingshot, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.” A firearm is defined as any weapon which is designed to use an explosive device to expel a projectile.A dangerous weapon in the Florida courts is defined as “any instrument which will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design and construction.” A deadly weapon is defined as having a primary use to cause great bodily harm, such as a firearm or sword.
Burden of Proof for Improper Exhibition
For the prosecution to prove that the crime of improper exhibition of a firearm or weapon occurred, three elements must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements include:
- The defendant carried or possessed a weapon, as defined by the statute;
- The defendant exhibited the weapon in a threatening, rude, angry, or careless manner;
- The defendant carried out the action in front of at least one other individual.
Note that a conviction does not depend on an actual threat being made. A conviction can be delivered for simply making an angry, careless, or rude exhibition. A single act of exhibition will not be prosecutable for multiple convictions, even if it occurred in front of more than one person.Improper Exhibition is typically a first degree misdemeanor offense punishable by one year in jail or 12 months on probation, along with a $1,000 fine. However, it is sometimes charged as a lesser offense paired with a charge of aggravated assault.
Defenses to Improper Exhibition
The following defenses may work in an improper exhibition case depending upon the specifics of your situation:
- The instrument does not qualify as a weapon or is an antique.
- The manner was not rude, threatening, angry, or careless enough to warrant a charge.
- The behavior did not occur in the presence of others.
- The defendant acted in self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property.
The best way to determine which defense strategy is most likely to work for you is to work with a knowledgeable Florida criminal lawyer. He or she may be able to reduce your charges to disorderly conduct, which comes with less penalties, or possibly even get the charges dropped or dismissed. Reach out today for a free case review, and we’ll help you understand what options you have for moving forward. About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.