Carrying a concealed weapon is a misdemeanor in the State of Florida, whereas carrying a concealed firearm is a felony.
Obviously, carrying a concealed weapon pertains to weapons that are not firearms.
The elements of carrying a concealed weapon are:
1) The defendant carried a weapon concealed on or about his person
2) from ordinary sight of another person.
What this means is that it is a crime to conceal, or hide, a weapon from the ordinary sight of another. "On or about" your person means that the weapon cannot be hidden on you (such as inside of your pocket or tucked into your waistband) or "about you" (meaning that it cannot be hidden beneath your car seat or stashed away inside of your purse or briefcase).
A concealed weapon, per Florida law, is "any dirk, metallic knuckles, sling shot, billie club, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon..."
Of course, there are exceptions to this law.
You may carry, in a concealed fasion, mace, pepper spray, or any self-defense chemical spray. Women (and men) are fully able to carry these devices inside of their pockets, purses, or even in the open (many people have small pepper spray canisters on their keychains.
You may also carry, in a concealed fashion, a non-lethal stun gun or dart-firing stun gun (a Taser) or other non-lethal electric weapon or device that is designed solely for defensive purposes.
You may not, however, carry these weapons or display them during the commission of a felony. If you commit a felony and you display, use, threaten to use, or simply carry a concealed weapon (including pepper spray, mace, stun gun, or Taser), you can be charged with a felony.
Exceptions under Florida's concealed weapons laws are intended for lawful self-defense and will only protect those engaged in lawful self-defense.
Also, you need not be carrying your weapon in a concealed fashion in order to be arrested and prosecuted. Improper exhibition, or "open carrying" of a weapon is a misdemeanor as well.
You can be charged and prosecuted for improper exhibition of a weapon if you carry and dirk, sword, sword cane, firearm, electric weapon or device, or other weapon in the presence of others in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner.
So, without a permit, you may carry pepper spray or a stun gun, but you cannot carry them in threatening or aggressive manner.
Regarding a firearm, if you have a concealed weapons permit as issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, you must carry your firearm in a concealed fashion. You may still be prosecuted for improper exhibition if you carry your firearm in the open. Only sworn law enforcement personnel may openly carry their firearms (such as on a holster that is exposed above the clothing). Concealed weapons permit carriers may holster their weapons, but the holsters must be covered by clothing.
A standard pocketknife (such as a Swiss Army Knife) is an exception to the carrying a concealed weapon law.
Anything above and beyond a pocketknife, such as a hunting knife, combat knife, or Bowie knife, requires a concealed weapons permit.
As a former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, I prosecuted thousands of weapons crimes.
As a Southern Florida criminal defense attorney who practices in Miami-Dade and Broward, I represent clients charged with an array of weapons offenses. As a proud concealed weapons permit holder myself, I strongly believe in your right to defend yourself and your family. Unfortunately, zealous prosecutors who do not understand Florida's weapons laws may feel differently. It is my job to make these prosecutors (and judges) aware of the law and defend my clients' rights to protect themselves.
The penalties for weapons offenses vary. For carrying a concealed weapon and improper exhibition of a weapon, you may be permitted to enroll in Pretrial Diversion (PTD). This may allow you to ultimately expunge the arrest from your record.
For felony-level weapons charges, you may be looking at prison time.
Lawful self-defense, and the carrying of a weapon for a lawful self-defense purpose, should not be a crime. But if you are arrested for a weapon-related charge, please call my office to discuss possible defenses and strategies.