Hurricane brings the best and worst out of people

During the recent storms that struck Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, your attorney hotline has been busy helping members that have been forced to abandon their guns as they leave their flooded homes, who were worried about the threat of gun confiscation, or have had to defend their property from looters. Texas & U.S. Law Shield was there to help.

“Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma devastated the Texas and Florida coasts causing unprecedented damage. During difficult times like these, we tend to experience the best out of people, as seen in countless heroic images of neighbor helping neighbor.

However, these events can also bring out the worst out of people, seeking to take advantage when you are the most vulnerable.

From the moment rain and wind started, calls have been pouring into our attorney answered emergency hotline from members who were forced to abandon guns in their homes overtaken by flood waters as well as members who have had to protect their property from looting. Our member, John, was one of those callers after he was forced to use his gun.  Here is his story.

During Harvey, John and his son were combatting the water that continued to rise in their home. Suddenly, John noticed a truck driving up and down the street, creating wakes. Each time the truck passed, it pushed more water into John’s home.

As the truck was coming back around, John’s son went out to confront the driver and ask him to stop. John didn’t recognize the truck as being from the neighborhood and was worried the driver might be casing the street looking for an opportunity to loot empty houses. Responsibly and legally armed, he followed his son outside.

As John walked toward the truck, the bad guy started accelerating straight at his son. John, fearing for his son’s safety, fired a single shot in order to startle the driver and give his son time to move.

When police arrived, they intended to arrest John for Deadly Conduct. He called the LawShield emergency hotline and was immediately advised by his Independent Program Attorney. After the attorney talked to the police, they determined that a crime had not been committed because John acted in lawful defense of his son.

Thank goodness John is a LawShield member and knew exactly what to do when the police arrived.  We were there for John when he needed us most and we are here for you 24/7 with our attorney-answered emergency hotline.”

Protect Your Loved Ones - Shop Now

Can The Government Confiscate My Firearms During a Disaster?

firearms confiscation

During the recent disaster wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the impending landfall in Florida of Hurricane Irma, many of our members have been asking if the government can confiscate their firearms if the Governor or Federal Government declare a state of emergency.

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans police went door to door seeking people who rode out the storm in their homes to force them to comply with the forced evacuation ordered by the government. As part of the effort, the officers were also confiscating firearms.

This created an outrage among the law-abiding gun owners of the country and resulted in the passage of state and federal laws to prevent such confiscations from occurring in the future.

In 2006, Congress passed the DISASTER RECOVERY PERSONAL PROTECTION ACT OF 2006. The law was intended to prevent the government from seizing legally owned firearms during the time of a disaster. It was incorporated as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2007 and signed into law on October 4, 2006.

CAN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONFISCATE MY FIREARMS?

This law amended 42 U.S.C 5207 Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to add the following provision:

SEC. 706. FIREARMS POLICIES.

(a) PROHIBITION ON CONFISCATION OF FIREARMS- No officer or employee of the United States (including any member of the uniformed services), or person operating pursuant to or under color of Federal law, or receiving Federal funds, or under control of any Federal official, or providing services to such an officer, employee, or other person, while acting in support of relief from a major disaster or emergency, may–

(1) temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure of, any firearm the possession of which is not prohibited under Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal investigation;

(2) require registration of any firearm for which registration is not required by Federal, State, or local law;

(3) prohibit possession of any firearm, or promulgate any rule, regulation, or order prohibiting possession of any firearm, in any place or by any person where such possession is not otherwise prohibited by Federal, State, or local law; or

(4) prohibit the carrying of firearms by any person otherwise authorized to carry firearms under Federal, State, or local law, solely because such person is operating under the direction, control, or supervision of a Federal agency in support of relief from the major disaster or emergency.

(b) LIMITATION- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person in subsection (a) from requiring the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entry into any mode of transportation used for rescue or evacuation during a major disaster or emergency, provided that such temporarily surrendered firearm is returned at the completion of such rescue or evacuation.

Following the lead of the federal government, most state legislatures adopted their own version of this law.

TEXAS LAW ON FIREARMS CONFISCATION

In Texas, Government Code Chapter 418 (EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT) permits the Governor to declare a State of Disaster which suspends certain state laws and regulations to allow local authorities to conduct rescue and recovery operations.

However, it does not allow for the seizure of any legally owned firearms, with limited exception.

Specifically,

Sec. 418.003.  LIMITATIONS.  This chapter does not:

(5)  except as provided by Section 418.184, authorize the seizure or confiscation of any firearm or ammunition from an individual who is lawfully carrying or possessing the firearm or ammunition;

Sec. 418.184.  FIREARMS.

(a)  A peace officer who is acting in the lawful execution of the officer’s official duties during a state of disaster may disarm an individual if the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary for the protection of the officer or another individual.

(b)  The peace officer shall return a firearm and any ammunition to an individual disarmed under Subsection (a) before ceasing to detain the individual unless the officer:

(1)  arrests the individual for engaging in criminal activity; or

(2)  seizes the firearm as evidence in a criminal investigation.

To read Governor Abbott’s actual declaration, click here.

FLORIDA LAW ON FIREARMS CONFISCATION   

Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution permits the Governor to issue an Executive Order to declare a State of Emergency in times of a natural disaster, allowing him to enact provisions of the State’s Emergency Management Plan.

For Hurricane Irma, the Executive Order provides specific provisions regarding the activities permissible to state and local officials during the emergency, as provided for in  Florida Statutes beginning with Chapter 252.31  “State Emergency Management Act.”

In part, the Executive Order states:

Section 2. I designate the Director of the Division of Emergency Management as the State Coordinating Officer for the duration of this emergency and direct him to execute the State’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and other response, recover, and mitigation plans necessary to cope with the emergency. Pursuant to section 252.36(1)(a), Florida Statutes, I delegate to the State Coordinating Officer the authority to exercise those powers delineated in sections 252.36(5)-(10), Florida Statutes, which he shall exercise as needed to meet this emergency, subject to the limitations of section 252.33, Florida Statutes.

But those powers have certain limitations with regards to firearms. In particular,

Chapter 252.36(5)(h) states the Governor may:

(h) Suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustibles. However, nothing contained in ss. 252.31-252.90 shall be construed to authorize the seizure, taking, or confiscation of firearms that are lawfully possessed, unless a person is engaged in the commission of a criminal act.

FINAL WORD

So, there you have it. During our times of disaster, we can all focus on recovery and not have to worry about the authorities coming along and confiscating our firearms. The Second Amendment survives disasters.

Surprising Hurricane Harvey Heroes

 

[Addendum: Due inquiries from Members, this story was updated on Sept. 7.]

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS CONFISCATING FIREARMS

On Tuesday, the island’s Governor ordered the National Guard to confiscate weapons and ammo that may be required for them to carry out their mission.  What that specifically means is unclear. Also, the U.S. Virgin Islands IS NOT governed by the U.S. Constitution, but instead by the “Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands,” a federal law approved by Congress in 1954. The island does not have its own constitution yet.

The NRA has threatened to file a lawsuit, and here is their take:

In 1997, the chairman of the House Committee on Resources asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to clarify just how the U.S. Constitutional applies to various “U.S. Insular Areas,” including the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its findings were inconclusive and unsettling, especially to those now living under Governor Mapp’s orders. Said the report:

Under the Insular Cases and subsequent decisions, rights other than fundamental rights, even though they may be stated in the Constitution, do not apply to the territories or possessions unless the Congress makes them applicable by legislation. The Congress can by law extend the coverage of the Constitution in part or in its entirety to a territory or possession, and has done so with respect to some territories. In the absence of such congressional action, however, only fundamental rights apply.

Digging further, one finds that only parts of the Fifth Amendment are considered to be “fundamental” based on court rulings, and none of the Sixth Amendment applies. And nothing is said in the 75-page report about the Second.

If the NRA does sue and their position is sustained by the courts that people living on the island are U.S. Citizens with full protection of the U.S. Constitution, the issue will be settled. If not, or no suit is filed, those living on the island will be subjected to having their weapons confiscated by the National Guard.

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers in Florida: What You Need to Know

Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers (FWC Officers) are not like the police—they are the police, explains David Katz, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield in Florida. [Transcript continues below the video.]

 

 

FWC Officers Legal Role

By statute, FWC Officers are licensed Florida law enforcement. They are arguably some of the most powerful police in Florida. In addition, the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce, commission Florida FWC Officers with power to enforce federal fisheries and wildlife laws in Florida. FWC Officers have full police power to inspect, search, seize, and arrest. Note this police power is not simply for hunting or fishing violations. FWC Officers possess the full power to arrest for any violations of the law, hunting related or not. So, understand, when you’re dealing with an FWC Officer, you are dealing with a police officer. If you are caught breaking the law, he or she will perform their duties in enforcing the laws and appropriate restitutions.

FWC Officers and Searches and Seizures

We are all familiar with our Constitutionally guaranteed rights contained in the Bill of Rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Those hallowed words are memorialized in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

However, what do these words mean when you are confronted by an FWC Officer? What are their police powers to search you or your property? Does the Fourth Amendment have any meaning at all anymore? For many lovers of liberty, the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment have been largely chipped away and provide little real protection in real-life scenarios. This has been done by courts creating legal exceptions to the Fourth Amendment so broad as to allow a warrantless search, unreasonable, articulable suspicion alone.

The legal standards for an FWC Officer to search your property, including freezers, coolers, refrigerators, and other areas in cabins, shacks, homes, trailers, or vehicles, are contained in Florida Statute 339.3311, which provides that an FWC Officer may examine any person, boat, conveyance, vehicle, game bag… or other receptacle for wild-animal life, marine life, or freshwater aquatic life, or any camp, tent, cabin, or roster in the presence of any person stopping at such or belonging to such camp, tent, cabin, or roster, when such officer has reason to believe and has exhibited his or her authority and stated to the suspected person in charge the officer’s reason for believing that any of the aforesaid laws have been violated at such camp.

What is reason to believe? This issue has been left to the courts, and as such, almost anything seems to pass for a legal justification. Additionally, Florida Statute 339.3313 (2) states that an FWC Officer who has probable cause to believe that the vessel has been used for fishing prior to the inspection shall have full authority to open and inspect all containers or areas where saltwater products are normally kept aboard vessels while such vessels are on the water. Such as refrigerated or ice locations, coolers, fish boxes, and bait wells. Note that this applies to even law-abiding anglers. The only requirement here is that the FWC Officer have probable cause to believe you have been fishing.

FWC Officers and Stop-and-Board Powers

FWC Officers also have the authority to stop and board vessels which are not being used for fishing. Just being on the water gives an FWC Officer a right to stop you, without cause, to conduct a safety inspection. Further, Florida Statute 379.334 gives the FWC Officers the authority to board any vessel boat or vehicle or to enter any fish house or warehouse or other building exclusive of residence in which game, hides, fur-bearing animals, fish, or fish nets are kept and to search for and seize any such game, hides, fur-bearing animals, fish, or fish nets had or held there in violation of the law without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the fishing or hunting laws have been broken.fwc officers

FWC Officers Jurisdiction

The lesson is that FWC Officers have extensive search powers, and they will use them whenever it is necessary to perform their duties. Just as deer and other wild animals cross city and county lines, so does the jurisdiction of Florida FWC Officers. Although FWC Officers in Florida may have a home base, their jurisdiction is statewide. This means that an FWC Officer’s jurisdiction extends to every corner of the state, not only where wild animals and wildlife can be found. FWC Officers have power like other police officers to make arrests anywhere in the state where violations of the law are committed in their presence, but unlike other officers of the state, they may also make arrest for violation of the law not committed in their presence, if committed on lands under the supervision of the FWC commission, including state parks, coastal and aquatic managed areas, greenways, and trails.

 

 

Protect Your Loved Ones - Shop Now

Hurricane Irma: Evacuating from Florida with Firearms?

Hurricane Irma

As Hurricane Irma approaches Florida, we thought it important to remind our Members of the laws regarding firearms that may apply to them as they prepare to evacuate their homes and head to safety. In 2015, Governor Scott signed into law an “Emergency Concealed Carry” bill.

The new law is found in Florida Statutes 790.01 (3)(a) and in relevant part states that the law that 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” for Hurricane Irma 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.

Evacuation Ahead of Hurricane Irma

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

1) The Governor or local authorities issue or declare a State of Emergency
2) There is a MANDATORY evacuation order issued.

If both of the above conditions have been met for Hurricane Irma, then a person who is evacuating within 48 hours of the order of evacuation may carry a weapon concealed during evacuation. The 48 hours may be extended by order of the Governor. This applies to people with or without a CWFL who have a lawful right to possess a firearm.

Getting Out Ahead of Hurricane Irma

Many of our members may be considering evacuating to a surrounding state because of Hurricane Irma.

Both Georgia and Alabama recognize Florida’s CWFL, however, the emergency evacuation law is not recognized and only a CWFL holder 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 do not have a CWFL and you are headed to Alabama ahead of Hurricane Irma, make sure to properly secure your unloaded firearm before you cross the state line. —by David Katz, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield of Florida

 

An Open Letter to Our U.S. & Texas LawShield® Family

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

Self-Defense: Florida Driver Sues Uber Over Gun Policy

A Miami-area Uber driver has sued the popular ride-share company claiming its firearms policy violates his right to self-defense under Florida law.

Jose Mejia, 28, is a concealed-carry license holder who became an Uber driver in March 2016. But in 2015, the company banned guns in cars after an Uber driver shot and wounded a gunman attacking people in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago’s north side.

In his lawsuit, shared by the Courthouse News Service, Mejia claims Florida law ensures his right to carry a concealed firearm, while the Uber policy blocks it.

“My rights are being infringed on because I’m not able to lawfully carry my firearm,” Mejia told Miami’s Channel 10 News.

“I’m not able to protect myself or defend myself,” added the part-time student. “And remember we have regular cars—there’s not a divider between us and the passenger or nothing of that nature.”

The complaint didn’t list other members of the class-action lawsuit, but the document suggests tremendous growth potential. Uber says it’s now in 633 U.S. cities.

“While the exact number of members of the Class is unknown to Plaintiff (Mejia) at this time, based on the nature of the trade and commerce involved, Plaintiff reasonably believes that there are thousands of members in the Class,” the lawyers said in the complaint.

News outlets have asked Uber for comment about the lawsuit, but the company declined.

 

Jose Mejia. Photo from Facebook.
Jose Mejia. Photo from Facebook.

Uber and guns

San Francisco-based Uber transformed the vehicle-for-hire industry in 2009 with its ride-sharing smartphone app.

The mobile technology connects riders seeking better convenience and customer service with independent drivers trying to turn their cars into cash-generating machines.

Uber’s old firearms policy said drivers were expected to follow local, state, and federal gun laws while in service, which is what driver John Hendricks did in the April 2015 Chicago incident.

State prosecutors said Hendricks faced no charges because he was licensed to carry and acted in self-defense. The gunman, Everardo Custodio, pleaded guilty to weapons charges and went to prison.

The incident became a national story and, two months later, Uber issued a new policy.

According to the company’s website, “Our goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe and reliable ride. That’s why Uber prohibits riders and drivers from carrying firearms of any kind in a vehicle while using our app. Anyone who violates this policy may lose access to Uber.”

 

Florida self-defense law for cars

uber, david katz, florida
David Katz, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield®

David Katz, an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield®, reviewed the class-action complaint. Katz said Mejia’s lawyers based the case on a self-defense law passed by the Legislature in 2008.

“Its official name is the ‘Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008,’” Katz said. “That’s a long title, but what it says is people may have firearms for self-defense in their vehicles while on their bosses’ property. It also outlaws job discrimination resulting from gun ownership.

“The law’s ‘Legislative Intent’ affirms that people have—and I quote—a ‘constitutional right to keep and bear arms,’ and that ‘these rights are not abrogated by virtue of a citizen becoming a customer, employee, or invitee of a business entity.’”

 

Driver acted in self-defense

Mejia reminded Channel 10 about an incident last December when an Uber driver killed another man in self-defense in Aventura, about 18 miles north of Miami.

“Imagine,” he told Channel 10, “if he had not had his weapon—he wouldn’t be alive today, the passenger wouldn’t be alive today and then what’s Uber going to do? Issue a statement of apologies, and that’s it?

“What about his family?”

 

—By Bill Miller, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield® Blog

 

More news from Florida:

Legislative Update—Latest Laws Affecting Florida Gun Rights

Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Florida

 

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

Pro-Gun-Rights Bills Filed Early in Florida

gun rights legislation
Florida State Sen. Greg Steube

Undeterred by recent legislative setbacks, State Sen. Greg Steube has reintroduced legislation intended to boost gun rights and public safety in Florida.

In mid-August, Steube filed Senate Bills 120, 134, 148, and 152 for the Legislature’s 2018 session. The first three mirror gun rights bills Steube filed in 2017, but they got no traction.

“It’s not surprising Sen. Steube is rebounding with a roster of pro-public safety legislation,” said David Katz, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield®. “He has been a stalwart in the Legislature—first in the House, and now in the Senate—for protecting Floridians’ Second Amendment rights.”

SB 120 would require businesses that ban the carrying of concealed firearms, even by those with CCW permits, to be responsible for the safety of people who would otherwise legally be carrying a gun.

In comments carried by TheBlaze, via the Tallahassee Democrat, Steube said, “If a private business wants to prohibit guns in their location that’s fine. But if you’re prohibiting me from carrying, and I’m licensed to carry, then you’re assuming the responsibility to have adequate security in place to protect me.”

Under SB 134, people with concealed-carry licenses would be able to keep their guns all the way up to a courthouse security checkpoint, and temporarily surrender them there, instead of leaving them in their vehicles.

SB 120 copies 2017’s SB 610, which, along with other pro-gun bills from Steube, died while stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee when the session adjourned.

Steube, a Sarasota Republican, is the chairman of that committee.

Other Steube bills that died there tried to legalize concealed carry at airports (SB 618), school or college athletic events (SB 622), local government meetings (SB 626), career training centers (SB 640), and public meetings at the Legislature (SB 620).

Also dead in the Judiciary Committee was Steube’s bill that would have legalized concealed weapons license holders to carry handguns openly (SB 644).

The same thing happened to another gun rights bill that intended to clarify that it’s not a crime to temporarily reveal a gun that started out concealed (SB 646). That bill also would have authorized Florida Cabinet members to carry concealed firearms if they are licensed to do so and don’t have full-time security from the Department of Law Enforcement.

Also for 2018, Steube filed SB 148, which revives key parts of SB 646. The new bill provides that “a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm does not violate certain provisions if the firearm is temporarily and openly displayed, etc.”

The fourth new gun bill, SB 152, would allow the electronic handling of payments or transmittal of processing fees for criminal history checks on potential gun buyers.

Steube’s 2017 bills drew opposition in the Judiciary Committee by four pro-gun-control Democrats and one Republican, State Sen. Anitere Flores, Katz explained.

Flores is considered the second most powerful Republican in the Senate, but she doesn’t agree with Steube on his gun legislation, Katz said.

“Consequently,” Katz added, “Sen. Steube’s bills had no chance of getting out of committee, and that’s where they died when the session adjourned.”

Steube’s SB 616, the original “courthouse bill” won the Senate’s approval with a 19-15 vote. Flores did not vote either way on that issue, Senate records show. But the House never considered it, so it died too.

“Look, these are high-profile issues with strong supporters and opponents on both sides,” Katz said. “They’re bound to be contentious, and that’s why it’s important that people like Greg are still fighting. He fully understands-self defense and the Second Amendment.”

The Legislature reconvenes Jan. 9, 2018, although committees, including the Senate Judiciary, start hearing bills in mid-September, according to official schedules.

— Bill Miller, Contributor, Texas & U.S. LawShield® blog

 

 More news from Florida:

Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Florida

 

 

 

 

 

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

Legislative Update—Latest Laws Affecting Florida Gun Rights

Legislative update from Florida by Independent Program Attorney James Phillips.

 

 

Legislative update: In 2017 there was a extremely important change made to the law regarding self defense that everyone should be aware of.

This is in regards to our immunities statute, which is found in Florida Statute 776.032. Prior to July, a defendant in a criminal proceeding wanting to claim immunity from prosecution had to show by a preponderance of the evidence in a pretrial hearing that he or she was entitled to immunity. This was one of the only times a defendant in a criminal case ever had a burden to prove anything.

Now a defendant only has to make an initial showing that he or she was justified in using defensive force, and then the government must show by clear and convincing evidence that the party claiming immunity was not justified.

Not only did this law change take the burden off the criminal defendant and place it on the government, but it also made the government’s burden to rebut the defendant’s claim of self-defense higher.

legislative update, james phillips
Independent Program Attorney James Phillips

In July of this year, the new version of the immunity law made national news after a circuit court judge in Miami ruled that the new version of the law contained unconstitutional changes. The judge did not find that the language of the statute was unconstitutional, but rather declared it unconstitutional because the legislature did not have the two thirds, or super majority, votes needed to make the procedural change.

On August 11, 2017, a second Miami circuit court judge found the new version of the immunity law unconstitutional for the same reason.

It is important to know that both of the circuit court judge’s rulings were not made in appellate case, but in cases that originated in their courtrooms.

So what does that mean to you and I?

These two decisions have no binding effect anywhere in the state of Florida except in those two judges’ courtrooms. Ultimately this issue will probably be fleshed out by the Florida Supreme Court.

Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Florida

 

 

Protect Your Loved Ones - Shop Now

Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Florida

Back to School

Do you have kids heading back to school in the Sunshine State? Let U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney David Katz explain the laws in Florida regarding guns and schools:

 

 

The possession of a firearm on school grounds is generally illegal with few exceptions.

Florida Statute 790.06 contains several subsections that explicitly prohibit the carrying and possession of a firearm on school grounds.

Firearms are not allowed at any school or college athletic event not related to firearms.

Florida law broadens this prohibition by applying it to all school-sponsored events and school property.

A person may not possess a firearm or other weapon at a school-sponsored event or on the property of any school, school bus, or school bus stop, subject to the exceptions explained below, found in Florida statute 790.115.

This includes the grounds of any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building and career centers.

Florida does not allow for the concealed or open carry of firearms on university or college campuses.

However, if an individual is a registered student, employee, or faculty member of the college or university, they may carry a stun gun or non-lethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes, if it does not fire a dart or projectile. Further, recent court decisions have approved having a firearm securely encased in one’s vehicle on a college or university property.

As mentioned previously a person may carry under one of the few exceptions laid out in Section 790.115(2)(a).

A firearm can be carried in a case to a firearms program, class, or function that has been approved in advance by the principal or chief administrative officer of the school, as a program or class to which firearms may be carried or carried in a case to a career center having a firearms training range.

What about parking lots? Or when you pick up your kids or drop them off at school?

Concealed firearms can be carried without a license in a vehicle under Florida law as long as the person is 18 or older and the firearm is securely encased or otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use.

This extends to the carrying of a firearm in a person’s vehicle on the grounds of a school or at a school activity.

However, school districts are free to adopt written and published policies that waive this exception for purposes of student and campus parking privileges.

This means that while firearms in vehicles on school parking lots are legal under state law, and an individual school may have a policy that makes it illegal to have one on the lot. Further, even in a parking lot of a school that does not have a policy prohibiting firearms on the property, firearms still may not be taken out of the vehicle or into a school building.

Finally, it is important to remember that under the federal Gun Free School Zone Act unless you have a CWFL, you are committing a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison if you carry a firearm within a thousand feet of a gun-free school zone.

So if you are not a concealed weapons and firearm licensee, avoid driving in or near school zones in Florida.”

Florida Moving Forward On School Carry Proposals

In Florida, Judge Rules Against Guns in Campus Housing

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law to Face Legal Test

Stand Your GroundThe Stand Your Ground self-defense law in Florida has seen its share of legislative battles; now, it’s facing a legal test.

In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that declared the state, and not the defense, has the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings to decide if the stand your ground defense is appropriate at trial.

But on July 3, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled in a court order that the legislature overstepped its constitutional authority to pass the bill. Hirsch made the ruling in a case involving Liletha Rutherford, a Florida woman charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and grand theft.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch challenges Stand Your Ground ruling
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch

David Katz, an independent program lawyer for U.S. Law Shield of Florida, explained that Rutherford sought the Stand Your Ground immunity. But, Katz added, Hirsch asserted in his 14-page order that the state’s constitution empowers the Legislature to make “substantive” laws such as the laws against criminal activity and their corresponding punishments.

Katz said the judge believes the constitution says the rules for court procedures are “procedural” and it’s up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide those, not the Legislature.

The judge wrote, “Because questions of burden of proof are procedural rather than substantive, however, I necessarily find the demised legislative changes to be unconstitutional.”

Katz said the judge’s order and the law itself face more battles in the state’s appellate courts and the Florida Supreme Court.

Katz also told us that “it is important to realize that Judge Hirsch’s ruling only has effect in his courtroom.  Although some Judges may look at is as persuasive, it is not binding in any Courtroom but Hirsch’s.  In effect, other Judges in the same courthouse have disagreed with Hirsch’s ruling and given the new law full effect in their courtroom.”

A spokesman for the governor said “the office is studying Hirsch’s ruling,”   Further, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi said that her “office is getting ready to appeal the order.”

The Stand Your Ground law in Florida states that a person is not obliged to retreat in the face of danger and can use deadly force as self-defense. It became law in 2005; seven years later, George Zimmerman used the defense to get an acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Critics say the law could cause more violence with a “shoot first” way of thinking among Floridians who choose to arm themselves for self-defense.

But prosecutors especially didn’t like the pre-trial burden of proof placed on them because they had to show clear and convincing evidence that someone did not act in self-defense. They said the rule essentially forces them to try a case twice: once at the self-defense hearing, and again at the actual trial.

Supporters praised the bill’s signing. They said that the burden of proof is always on the state in criminal proceedings, and a pre-trail hearing should be no different.

“Today’s Miami trial court ruling attacks the Legislature’s role in defining and protecting our individual rights,” State Sen. Rob Bradley, a sponsor of the bill, wrote on Twitter.

A sponsor of the House version, State Rep. Jason Brodeur added, “So judges should make laws? This whole time, I have been so confused…what do I do as a legislator again?”

—By Bill Miller, U.S. and Texas LawShield® blog contributor

Related:

 

In Florida, ‘Bretherick’ Makes Self-Defense Harder

Protect Your Loved Ones - Shop Now

Florida: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Law Shield Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Welcome members and fellow gun owners. In the last Members Voice video our member Tyler witnessed a criminal breaking into his car. Tyler drew his gun and the bad guys ran away.

The legal questions started pouring in, and members, you wanted to know your legal rights in your state. So here’s your U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney to give you insight on what the law says.

U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney James Phillips:

You’re sitting in your house watching your favorite TV show, and you hear glass breaking in your driveway. You look out the window. You see someone still in your brand-new car. What do you do? What can you do?

We are frequently asked this question by U.S. Law Shield Members. Several areas of the law are involved in this answer.

Under Florida Statute 776.013, which is commonly known as the Florida Castle Doctrine, you might believe that you have the right to use deadly force to keep someone from stealing your car.

776.013 does allow the use of deadly force against another, when the person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed, or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.

The key here, is that the law allows the use of deadly force if the vehicle is occupied. Which is not our example. Further, Florida law allows the use of deadly force to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, and it lists burglary as a forcible felony.

However it is unlikely that deadly force will be found to be reasonable and necessary to protect only an unoccupied vehicle. When your car is parked outside of your home and no one is in it, it is just another piece of property and the use of force law covering the protection of property apply.

These laws can be found in Florida Statute Section 776.031, which in relevant part reads “A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on or criminal interference with, either real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threaten to use such force.” Note that the law only allows the use of force, and not the use of deadly force. Deadly force can not be used to protect solely property in Florida with very limited exceptions.

Should you choose to use deadly force to protect your car sitting in the driveway, your attorney and the prosecutor will argue about how the law should be interpreted. And a jury will likely decide your fate. Therefore if you’re in your home, and you notice someone’s stealing your car, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1 and be the very best witness you can be.

Law Shield Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Educating you is the cornerstone of U.S. Law Shield. Thank you for being a part of our family.

 

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now