In Florida, once a person has been convicted of a felony crime (whether the prior conviction was in Florida or another state), that person is not allowed to possess a firearm. That person is also not allowed to possess ammunition. It is a serious felony crime in Florida to be charged with possession a firearm or ammunition as a convicted felon. But what happens when a convicted felon is found in possession of a firearm and ammunition at the same time?
In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was searched and found to have a handgun near his seat and bullets in his pocket. The state charged him with two separate felony counts- possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. The criminal defense lawyer did not argue that the defendant was not guilty of each charge; he argued that the state was not permitted to charge him with both charges when the defendant possessed the firearm and the ammunition at the same time. This violated double jeopardy.
The court agreed. Because of the wording of the statute, which prohibits the possession of any firearm or ammunition, the law does not allow the state to charge and convict a defendant of separate charges for possessing a firearm and ammunition at the same time.
This analysis also applies to a convicted felon possessing multiple firearms at the same time. Shorstein & Lasnetski had a criminal case in Jacksonville, Florida a few years ago where Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officers executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home and found five firearms and ammunition inside. The state charged him with six counts- five counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for each firearm and one count of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. We filed a motion to dismiss five of the six counts arguing that the state violated the double jeopardy clause by charging him with multiple counts for possession of multiple firearms and ammunition at the same time. The court granted the motion, and the defendant ultimately faced just one charge for all of the firearms and ammunition.
However, if a defendant possesses multiple firearms or firearms and ammunition at distinctly different times, the state could potentially charge him/her separately for each instance.