The United States Constitution gives us the right to bear arms via the 2nd Amendment. Over the years States have curbed that right by putting certain limitations on what we can carry, where we can carry, and when we can carry our firearm. Places like New York City and Chicago have seemingly done everything they can to eliminate an individual’s right to carry a handgun or concealed firearm through legislation that despite challenge, has survived Constitutional test. In Florida and many other states an individual who meets certain criteria can take a handgun course, apply for and receive a concealed weapons permit. This permit allows an individual to carry a handgun for personal protection in most places with the exception of courthouses, federal buildings, bars, amongst other common sense exceptions. One such common sense exception would be an airport. Most know and understand this. However, it seems three or four times a year someone either forgets they are carrying or doesn’t understand the parameters on their concealed weapons permit and try to go through airport security. Despite this being a simple mistake nine times out of ten, the penalty for this mental lapse could be potentially devastating on an individual through the criminal justice system. Not only does this happen at airports, many make the mistake of purchasing an handgun for personal protection and carrying it without obtaining their concealed weapons permit.
This appears to be the case with Michael James Shelton as he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in violation of Florida Statute 790.01(2) at the St. Pete/Clearwater Airport this past Thursday afternoon. Florida criminalizes carrying a concealed firearm without a concealed weapon’s permit by making it a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years prison in the Department of Corrections. Even if Mr. Shelton carries a valid Indiana permit he is still subject to the restrictions of United States and Florida statute. It appears in this particular situation Mr. Shelton violated Florida Statute 790.06(12)(a)(14) in that a concealed weapons permit issued in Florida DOES NOT permit an individual to carry a firearm in “[t]he inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft.” Rather than encase his 9mm handgun, notify TSA of its presence, and check it along with his other baggage, Mr. Shelton simply forgot about its presence and sent it through security with his carry on luggage. Despite the honest mistake that’s a HUGE no no!! By violating Florida Statue 790.06(12)(a)(14) he violated Florida Statute 790.01(2).
Unfortunately for Mr. Shelton it doesn’t appear he has a legitimate defense to the allegation. Due to there being no mental state requirement to this crime, Carrying a Concealed Weapon in Florida appears to be a crime of strict liability. With a strict liability crime proof of the act suffices for conviction without the requirement of proof of mental state. In all likelihood, depending on Mr. Shelton’s criminal history, the State Attorney’s Office will be understanding of the accidental nature of this crime and will offer a diversion program or will withhold adjudication should Mr. Shelton plea so as to avoid him being formally convicted of this felony. On the flip side, if an individual has a notorious record and/or the prosecutor handling the case has no sense of measure, this could lead to one becoming a convicted felon effectively altering their life as they know it. Hopefully this incident works itself out in a fair resolve for Mr. Shelton.
If you or someone you know has been charged with carrying a concealed firearm, contact the attorneys at The Mayberry Law Firm at 727-771-3847 immediately to investigate all the potential defenses to this allegation!