As Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida, it is important to remind all U.S. LawShield members of the firearm laws that may apply to them as they prepare to evacuate their homes and head to safety.

Carrying a Firearm During a State of Emergency

In 2015, Governor Scott signed into law an “Emergency Concealed Carry” bill.

Essentially, the law (found in Florida Statutes 790.01 (3)(a)) states that the law which makes it illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a license does NOT apply to:

(a) A person who carries a concealed weapon, or a person who may lawfully possess a firearm and who carries a concealed firearm, on or about his or her person while in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to chapter 252 or declared by a local authority pursuant to chapter 870. As used in this subsection, the term “in the act of evacuating” means the immediate and urgent movement of a person away from the evacuation zone within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered. The 48 hours may be extended by an order issued by the Governor.

It is important to note that the law does not go into effect unless two things have happened:

  • The Governor or local authorities issue or declare a state of emergency; and
  • There is a MANDATORY evacuation order issued.

If both of the above conditions have been met, then a person who is evacuating within 48 hours of the order of evacuation may carry a concealed weapon during evacuation. The 48 hours may be extended by order of the Governor. This applies to anyone with or without a CWFL or recognized out of state license/permit to carry concealed, as long as they are not otherwise prohibited.

Carrying a Firearm while evacuating to a border state

Many people may be considering evacuating to a surrounding state. Both Georgia and Alabama recognize Florida’s CWFL. However, the emergency evacuation law is not recognized and only CWFL holders or other permit holders with reciprocity may lawfully carry concealed in these states, subject to their laws and restrictions.

Both Georgia and Alabama allow those without permits to carry in their vehicles as long as they are not a person prohibited from carrying by law (felony, under 21, etc.). Georgia allows the carrying of a loaded handgun in a vehicle occupied by any who would qualify for a permit. Alabama only allows non-licensed individuals to carry an unloaded handgun, cased and secured in the trunk or rear storage area. So, if you are headed to Alabama, make sure to properly secure your unloaded firearm before you cross the state line.

Defending against Looters

A question many people may have on their minds is, “Can I defend my property against looters?”

The answer isn’t black and white, and here is the reason why: In the State of Florida, there is statutory protection offered by the Castle Doctrine. This law stems from the old saying that a man’s home is his castle and he should, therefore, be allowed to protect it with no duty to retreat.

If someone has unlawfully and with force entered your dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or is attempting to enter unlawfully and by force, the law presumes that you—as the defender—hold a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm if you use, or threaten to use, defensive force that is intended to or likely to cause death or great bodily harm. However, deadly force may NOT be used to stop them from getting away with your property after a robbery, aggravated robbery, burglary, or other forcible felony.

But if the looter is simply on your property or outside your residence attempting theft, you would not have the same legal presumption of reasonableness, and the Castle Doctrine would not apply. In fact, Florida law does not allow you to use deadly force to protect only your property. Florida law will offer you no protection if you use deadly force against someone committing a theft from outside a home. Even if the person is looting in the wake of a disaster, you should NOT shoot in this circumstance.

We are keeping our members and all Floridians in our thoughts and prayers as the storm approaches. We hope everyone stays safe. If you have any questions regarding Florida law, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.