Firearm crimes can be very serious offenses. However, not all firearm crimes are felonies. There are several misdemeanor offenses in Florida that involve firearms. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that felonies carry potential prison time while misdemeanors are only punishable by county jail time. Also, felony convictions can result in the loss of civil rights, such as the right to vote and the right to possess firearms, while misdemeanor convictions do not.
You should not take this to mean that gun-related misdemeanors are not serious crimes.
Florida Statute section 790.10 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, to carry or exhibit a firearm in a careless manner. This crime is called improper exhibition of a firearm.
Florida Statute section 790.053 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, to openly carry a firearm in public. This crime is called open carrying of weapons.
Florida Statute section 790.15 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, to discharge a firearm on a public street or over any occupied premises. This crime is called discharging a firearm in public.
Florida Statute section 790.151 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, to use a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Furthermore, it is a misdemeanor to carry a permitted concealed firearm into any place prohibited by Florida law. This would include places such as courthouses, police stations, schools, and airports.
At the misdemeanor level, prosecutors take firearm crimes very seriously and may even seek jail time if they feel that the offense is egregious enough. In some counties, you will not qualify for any diversionary programs if you are charged with a gun-related misdemeanor.
Eric Matheny can be reached at (305) 542-9491 for criminal matters in Miami-Dade and Broward.