Common Issues In Weapons Possession Cases
Florida has a very broad concealed weapon law, but it does not apply in all cases. In fact, Section 790.01 infractions, the unlawfully carrying a weapon law, are some of the most commonly-charged offenses in Port St. Lucie.
Quite commonly, these cases start with vehicle searches. After just a few questions, officers often arrest everyone in the car for illegal gun possession. Officers often do not want to launch an intensive investigation over a misdemeanor. These dragnet arrests create issues for prosecutors when these cases go to court. These problems lead to openings that criminal defense attorneys can exploit.
The Initial Search and Seizure in Florida
The Fourth Amendment only allows reasonable searches and seizures. If officers have a proper warrant, their acts are presumed reasonable. This presumption also applies if their actions fall under a recognized exception. Almost all weapons possession cases rely on search warrant exceptions, like:
- Automobile Exception: At first blush, this exception seems to apply to any search that takes place in any car. But the purpose of this exception is to prevent defendants from driving away with evidence. That necessity is inapplicable in most Port St. Lucie weapons possession cases. Typically, the defendant is already “under arrest” because of a traffic violation.
- Consent: This doctrine, on the other hand, is used quite often. Officers can search any vehicle so long as the owner, or someone who appears to be the owner, gives permission. So, a passenger cannot give consent to search a vehicle, in most cases.
- Plain View: Another widely used doctrine gives officers the right to seize any contraband they see in their plain view. Problems sometime arise if the gun was only partially in view. For example, if an officer sees what appears to be a pistol grip, the item could be a handgun or a toy gun.
A few recent Supreme Court cases have given officers much more latitude in this area, but the fundamental rules still remain.
Establishing Possession in Port St. Lucie
It’s a well-established rule that proximity alone is not enough to establish possession. Prosecutors must also prove knowledge and accessibility.
While the defendant does not need to know specifics about the gun, such as the make and model, the defendant must know that the item is a gun and not just something illegal. Furthermore, the defendant must have ready access to the weapon. If the defendant is in the front seat and the gun is behind the back seat, there is arguably no access. The same thing applies if the gun was in a locked box or if someone else was holding the gun.
St. Lucie County prosecutors must prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Essentially, that means the evidence must be so overwhelming that jurors cannot possibly reach any conclusion other than guilty.
Rely On Experienced Lawyers
Unlawful gun possession cases are difficult to prove. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.