Remember back in college all those years ago, the one time you were arrested? The charges were dropped, but you did not think to save your paperwork. Now you are trying to get your Concealed Weapon and Firearm License (“CWFL”) and you are being denied because of that arrest more than 20 years ago. You are not alone. Florida is a “shall issue” state, which means that anyone who qualifies for the CWFL must have it issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture, which has no discretion to deny a license to a qualified individual. Why, then, do so many Floridians get denied when applying for a license, and what can you do if you feel that you have been wrongly denied?
One problem is with the way the current program is being administered by the Department of Agriculture.
Although Florida law states that the Department of Agriculture shall issue the license within 90 days of a completed application being submitted, it also allows the suspension of that time limitation in the event that the department receives criminal history information with no final disposition on a crime which may disqualify the applicant, until receipt of the final disposition or proof of restoration of civil and firearm rights.
Instead of reaching directly out to the clerk of the court in the jurisdiction the criminal history information originates, the Department of Agriculture generally requires the applicant to provide documentation showing the final disposition of the case.
The second problem is that, in many instances, especially when the case is very old, it may be near impossible to get this information in a timely manner, if at all. In many places, court records are destroyed after ten years, so no record will exist.
Finally, it can be a very frustrating process to obtain old case records. Unfortunately, the process to obtain these records is often not an easy or quick process for an individual, even when it is their own case records.
Although some clerk’s offices offer records online and will provide certified copies with the click of a button and an online payment, other offices do not have websites. Some will not accept requests over the phone or the internet, but will only do so in person, which, of course, is a problem if the case occurred in a distant state. Other court clerk’s offices require a notarized letter to prove the requestor is the person whose records are being requested. As there is no uniformity of regulations to get old records, the only way to know what is required is to go online or call and ask.
Unfortunately, we have even run into some clerk’s offices that do not answer questions on the phone, and insist that all questions regarding the process be submitted in writing via email. If the records are available, the applicant will need to get certified copies of the disposition from the clerk of the court and provide those to the Department of Agriculture.
If the records no longer exist or never did exist, a letter from the clerk of court stating that after a diligent search no such records could be found will often suffice. Whether you are wrongfully denied a CWFL or your application processing is suspended until the Department of Agriculture receives more information, it is very important you carefully read the letter that you receive.
The letter plainly lays out your rights and the next steps you must take. It also informs you of any deadlines you may have to comply with to ensure your rights.
If you are having problems obtaining your CWFL in Florida, or have questions about the letter you have received from the Department of Agriculture, give U.S. LawShield a call and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney. We look forward to speaking with you.