Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Convicted Felons and Hunting

I understand how someone who has "paid their debt to society" may feel it's their right to hunt again. Indeed it may be, but be careful. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has posted Florida statute loud and clear in their proclaimation, as follows...  Use of Firearms by Felons - It is illegal in Florida for convicted felons to possess firearms, including muzzleloading guns, unless the convicted felon has had his/her civil rights restored by the state's Clemency Board or the firearm qualifies as an antique firearm under Florida statute 790.001(1). Properly licensed convicted felons may hunt with bows, crossbows or antique firearms per Florida statute 790 during hunting seasons when such devices are legal for taking game.

The 2005 Florida Statutes Title XLVI, Section, 790.001(1) states "Antique firearm means any firearm manufactured in or before 1918 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap or similar early type of ignition system) or replica thereof, whether actually manufactured before or after the year 1918, and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1918, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade." The fact that the firearm is an antique firearm is an affirmative defense that the defendant has the burden of alleging and proving. Williams v. State 482 So.2d 1051 (Fla 1986). Convicted felons should be cautious about being in a location where a firearm is present as they may be in constructive possession of that firearm. Constructive possession occurs when the person knows about the firearm and is in a position to exert dominion and control over that firearm. A felon who is riding in a truck with other hunters who have firearms with them may be in constructive possession of those firearms, depending on the circumstances.

In the May 2009 story, Can a Felon Possess a Firearm in Florida?, the author David M. Goldman relates a decision made by Florida's 5th District Court of Appeals (DCA) that the court agreed that he (the defendant) was able to own an antique firearm but disagreed that his firearm was an antique.  The court stated that Florida case law defines replica as a reasonably exact reproduction of the object involved that, when viewed causes the person to see substantially the same object as the original. The DCA found that (the defendant's) gun was not a replica because the original did not have a fiber optic sight that was present on his gun.  The court also stated that merely having an ignition system similar to that found on an antique firearm is not sufficient to render a firearm a "replica..."

If this story relates to you or someone you know, my advice is to check the laws again before you touch or get in the same proximity as a firearm, and (more than likely) plan on learning the great sport of archery.  If you take the Florida Hunter Safety class, be sure to advise your instructor of your situation before you begin the class.