Police in Florida Cannot Stop a Person Based on Tip That He Possesses a Concealed Handgun

In Florida, the police are not authorized under the Constitution to stop a person based merely on a tip that the person has a concealed weapon. Consider a criminal case that was decided recently where a person sees the defendant in a restaurant flashing his gun by lifting his shirt and showing the gun in his waistband. That person finds a police officer and tells him that the suspect is flashing a gun in public. The suspect was not, however, pulling the gun out, waiving it or threatening anyone. The police officer then proceeds to stop the suspect, seize his gun and arrest him for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Is this a valid arrest in Florida? No. The key to understanding why this was an improper stop and an improper arrest is the law that a person is allowed to carry a concealed gun or other weapon with a permit. Because of that law, the mere fact that a person has a gun in public does not mean he/she is committing a crime. Therefore, when an informant or police officer sees someone with a handgun in public, that is not evidence of a crime, assuming that person is not waiving the gun around or threatening anyone with it. Because there was no evidence of a crime, the police officer was not justified in stopping and arresting the suspect. If the police officer somehow knew before the stop that the suspect did not have a permit for the concealed gun or saw the suspect threatening someone with a gun, that would be evidence of a crime and a valid basis for a stop. However, mere possession of a concealed weapon is not evidence of a crime. It is not up to the suspect to prove he/she has a permit for the concealed weapon once he/she’s been stopped, it is up to the police to establish specific facts indicating a crime is taking place before he/she stops the suspect.

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