Can the Police in Florida Seize Your Vehicle for Possession of a Concealed Weapon?

The Florida Contraband Act allows the state to seize and forfeit any property that is used in any way to commit certain crimes or that represents proceeds from certain crimes. The forfeiture law certainly covers motor vehicles used to facilitate any crime referenced in the forfeiture statute.

In a recent case just outside of Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was stopped for having excessively tinted windows. The driver gave the police officer consent to search his car, and the police officer found a concealed firearm in a pouch attached to the driver’s seat of the vehicle. The driver, who did not have a concealed firearms permit, was arrested for possession of a concealed weapon. The police officer went on to seize the car based on that crime, and forfeiture proceedings were initiated by the state.

A person commits the crime of carrying a concealed weapon in his/her vehicle if he/she has the firearm out in the open in a place that is easily accessible. In other words, if the firearm is securely in a case or somewhere out of the driver’s reach, i.e. in the trunk, it is not a crime.

In this case, the handgun was concealed, was not secured in a case and was within the driver’s reach. Because the driver did not have a concealed weapons permit, he was guilty of carrying a concealed firearm. The next question is whether his car can be forfeited as a result of the crime. Carrying a concealed weapon or firearm is a crime that can result in the forfeiture of property under the Florida forfeiture law. However, the state still must prove the vehicle was used to facilitate the crime. It is not enough to prove that the concealed firearm was in the vehicle. The state must prove the vehicle in some way aided in the commission of the crime. In this case, the court found that the vehicle could be forfeited because the gun was hidden in a pouch that was part of the car. In that way, the car was used to facilitate the crime. If, however, the gun was found in a duffel bag or under some papers, it is unlikely the state could meet its burden to forfeit the vehicle.

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