Jon H. Gutmacher, Esq.

Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer

Former Prosecutor & Police Legal Advisor,

Author: "Florida Firearms -- Law, Use & Ownership",

NRA Certified Firearms Instructor,

NRA Referral Attorney.

JON H. GUTMACHER, P.A.: Orlando Criminal Trial Attorney Services

Improper Exhibition Of A Firearm Or Other Weapon

Improper exhibition of a firearm and or improper display of a weapon are crimes governed by Florida Statute 790.10. This statute is officially titled as "improper exhibition of dangerous weapons or firearms", and the statute states that "if any person having or carrying any . . . weapon shall, in the presence of one or more (other) persons, exhibit the same in a rude, careless, angry or threatening manner, not in necessary self defense, the person so offending shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree".

The offense owes its roots to the common law crime of "brandishing". The case law on this crime is rather sparse, and what type of conduct the statute exactly prohibits is not made very clear by the wording of the statute, either. It is usually applied as a “lesser” of aggravated assault, and leaves the possibility of an aggravated assault being “plea bargained” down to this significantly lower crime. However, it can also be charged because a person displayed a firearm so carelessly that other persons in the immediate vicinity reasonably believed they might get accidentally shot, or displayed a weapon in a manner that was blatantly offensive to most reasonable people. From a defensive standpoint, what you should know about this crime is that whether you violate it or not will be determined on an "objective" basis rather a "subjective" basis. That is: would a reasonable person viewing your actions with the gun or other weapon consider such display as being done in an unreasonably offensive manner, or being done in a manner that creates an unreasonable risk of injury to other persons or property? If it doesn’t meet these qualifications – it shouldn’t constitute the crime. Likewise, use of a gun or other weapon in lawful self-defense is also a defense to the charge

As a criminal lawyer who has handled quite a few gun and weapon related charges – I’d repeat that the statute is most often applied as a lesser and/or alternate charge to aggravated assault. Where improper exhibition stops and aggravated assault begins is often a question that Florida case law states -- only a jury can answer. Thus, if I am representing a client in a gun crime situation where the charge is aggravated assault – I’ll almost always suggest that a plea to an amended or lesser charge of "improper exhibition" is a smart way to resolve the case if that's possible. It’s very difficult to complain that you plead to a misdemeanor when the alternative was to take a chance on going to trial on a felony that carries a three year mandatory minimum prison sentence if you lose.

The information contained in this section is not rendered as legal advice, and is only generalized information on the law. If you require legal advice on a specific matter you should first consult a lawyer.

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