No, Florida’s Constitutional Carry Law Does Not Permit Open Shooting

October 5, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

The state of Florida has recently changed its requirements and eligibility regarding firearm possession. As of July 1, 2023, Florida became one of the several states to legalize the concealed carry of a firearm or weapon. While the amendments generated overall approval from Florida gun owners, it is important that they fully understand the law and its current requirements to avoid criminal prosecution. There are still ways that a person may be prosecuted for certain offenses even though concealed carry is now legal.

In one example case, a Florida man was so excited after learning of the concealed carry amendment passing that he started shooting into the sky at his apartment complex. And if we need to say it: No, this is not a legal activity. The specific case resulted in the defendant facing multiple gun-related offenses which we will give context to further below.

Example Case

On July 7, 2023, only six days after Florida’s Constitutional Carry law was amended, the Miami police responded to a call about a man in body armor who had allegedly fired off multiple shots from a gun.

The local report indicated that the responding officers heard gunshots fired off as they arrived at the scene. This led them to Christian Labaut, 37, who was fully dressed in body armor and holding a rifle, which neighbors claimed was an AR-15 style rifle.

“I heard a series of six or seven gunshots, and then 20 seconds later, I heard another six or seven gunshots, and about 20 seconds later, another round,” said Greg Johnson, one of the neighbors who lived at the same apartment complex. “So, there were three altogether, and um, it was extremely loud and just concerning.”

As one of the responding officers ordered Labaut to stop firing and to show his hands, the suspect took off running down the apartment complex hallway. The officer was then prompted to shoot at Labaut as he turned to open the door of an apartment unit. The officer’s shots struck Labaut “several times.”

The suspect was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center where he was initially listed as in critical condition. After spending two months in the hospital for his injuries, Labaut was transferred to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center where he is now facing charges for discharging a firearm in public, openly carrying a weapon, improper exhibition of a firearm, possession of a shot barrel shotgun, rifle, or machine gun, and resisting an officer with violence.

HB 543

This year was big for Florida gun owners. As of April 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 543 which allowed for a more lenient eligibility for lawful concealed carry.

It is important that we differentiate open carry and concealed carry, as the two concepts should not be confused. Concealed carry is the legal ability for lawful gun owners to carry a firearm on their person, which cannot be seen by the average observer. Open carry is when a person possesses a firearm in public that is fully or partially visible.

An example of concealed carry would be if a person has a gun locked up in the trunk of their vehicle. An example of open carry would be if a person has a gun in a holster that does not have clothing covering it. While concealed carry is now permitted in Florida, open carry is not.

HB 543 provides that a person eligible to own a firearm can legally carry their weapon in a concealed manner. The specific rules and requirements for lawfully possessing a firearm are codified under Florida Statute Section 790.06. In addition to the amendments under HB 543, the new legislation also removed the requirement of completing a firearm safety and training course before becoming eligible for legal firearm possession.

To find out more about HB 543, read our informative page here.

Charges for Improper Use of Firearm in Florida

Despite Florida’s seemingly lenient stance on gun possession, there are still criminal penalties a person may face for being accused of improperly owning or using a firearm or weapon.

The following provides the Florida laws and resulting penalties for the following charges listed in Labaut’s case:

  • Improper Exhibition of a Firearm – Florida Statute Section 790.10 explains that it is unlawful for any person to have in their possession or carry any of the following while in the presence of others while exhibiting behavior that is seen as rude, careless, angry, or threatening:
    • Dirk
    • Sword
    • Sword Cane
    • Firearm
    • Electronic Weapon or Device

A defendant accused of the improper exhibition of a weapon or firearm faces a first-degree misdemeanor, where a conviction carries up to a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail.

  • Discharging a Firearm in public – Florida Statute Section 790.15 explains that it is unlawful for any person to knowingly discharge a firearm in any public space or on the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street or over any occupied premises, or who recklessly or negligently discharges a firearm outdoors on any property used as the site of a dwelling. Unless the individual is lawfully defending life, property, or performing official duties, a person who discharges a firearm in public faces a first-degree misdemeanor. The charges may be enhanced to a third- or second-degree felony if the firearm was discharged from inside a vehicle.
  • Possession of a Short Barrel Shotgun – Florida Statute Section 790.221 explains that it is unlawful for any person to own or have in their custody, possession, or care, any short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, or machine gun which is, or may readily be made operable. A person who has a short-barreled rifle or shotgun in their possession that is not lawfully possessed or owned under provisions of federal law faces a second-degree felony. A conviction for a second-degree felony includes up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
  • Openly Carrying a Weapon – Florida Statute Section 790.053 explains that unless a person has a chemical spray, nonlethal stun gun or other nonlethal electronic weapon or device used for the purposes of self-defense, it is unlawful for any person to openly carry on or about their person any firearm or electronic weapon or device. Violations of this section can result in the defendant facing a second-degree misdemeanor, where a conviction carries up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

Important: It is not considered a violation of this section if a person carries a concealed weapon that is authorized under 790.01, if it is to briefly and openly display the firearm to the ordinary sight of another person. However, even a person with a concealed carry permit could be charged with the above offense if they display the firearm in any angry or threatening manner.

Pumphrey Law Firm – Firearms Defense Attorney

With the continuous amendments and new laws being passed in Florida, it may seem hard to stay aware of them all. For citizens who are not in the legal world, they just may not be aware of the specific changes, which may result in facing criminal charges. If this happens to you or someone you love, make sure you prioritize seeking legal guidance.

An experienced firearm possession attorney will be familiar with previous and current gun-related laws. They will be able to review your case details and establish a plan for defense. At Pumphrey Law Firm, our defense attorneys pride ourselves on giving our clients nonstop support and legal guidance. Contact our office today at (850) 681-7777 or leave a message to receive a free case evaluation. 

Written by Karissa Key

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