In Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) issues our Concealed Weapon and Firearm License (CWFL). Frequently and often based on erroneous information reported on their background check, an applicant will receive a letter from FDACS after applying for a CWFL notifying them that the processing of their application has been suspended. Other reasons one may receive this letter include: a mistake of information on the application, improper or unreadable fingerprints, and other similar errors. What FDACS is looking for in response to this notice of suspension, is documentation correcting the issue or showing that the criminal charge was not resolved in a way that would prohibit one from obtaining a CWFL.
It is important to note that a notice of suspension is different than a denial. This blog is focused solely on the notice of suspension. Before one applies for a CWFL, it is always a good idea to check the FDACS website and look over their list of reasons for ineligibility, which can be found here.
Once an application to obtain a CWFL is sent to FDACS, under Florida law, FDACS has 90 days to issue a CWFL, if approved. However, for one or more of the reasons stated above, instead, applicants often receive a letter in the mail with a notice of suspension instead of a license. The Notice of Suspension letter will contain the reason for the suspension and how it can be corrected. If the suspension is for a clerical error on the part of the applicant (not matching the driver’s license name with the name written on the application, answering a question incorrectly, etc.) or for fingerprints not being readable or in an acceptable form, the error must be corrected as soon as possible. The corrected application with explanation and any proof must be sent back to FDACS.
If the suspension is due to a criminal charge found during the background check, this will require a little more work on the applicant’s part. Typically, when it comes to a criminal charge on an applicant’s record, FDACS is looking for a certified copy of the disposition of the case. A letter from the applicant explaining what the situation was and how the case was resolved will not suffice. A check the FDACS website will likely show the status of the application indicating that FDACS is gathering more information. Unfortunately, in litigation with regarding the processing of applications we have discovered that little if anything is done by FDACS to gather additional information. Although FDACS is required by law to approve an application for a CWFL within 90 days if they do not have proof of disqualification, typically, they suspend processing until the applicant proves they are eligible for a license. If you are stuck in this unfortunate situation, it will be faster for you to get the information on their own and then forward it to the FDACS.
To obtain a certified copy of the disposition in a criminal case, a request must be made with the Clerk of Court in the county where the criminal charge occurred. This does not mean going to the Clerk of Court’s website and printing off whatever documents are publicly available. You must contact the clerk’s office and get certified copies. If the case is too old, the records may no longer exist. In that case, a certified letter from the Clerk of Court stating that they no longer have the record should suffice. The applicant then sends either the certified copy of the disposition or the certified letter to FDACS for review. It will most likely take more than the original 90 days to review this information and continue to process the application.
Along with the notice of suspension letter, there will be a form called an “Election of Rights” form. FDACS allows approximately 26 days to return that form, along with documents showing that one is not a prohibited person for the criminal charge causing the suspension of processing the application. Frequently, it is not possible to obtain the needed certified copy of the disposition or certified letter from the Clerk of Court within that timeframe. In our experience, there is no reason to stress about the 26-day deadline. If you miss the deadline, you will not be able to have a hearing, but FDACS will still process your application once they receive the requested or corrected documentation. Simply send the certified documentation that you received to FDACS with the application/reference number they provided. The applicant can always keep track of the status of his or her CWFL application through FDACS’s website.
COVID-19 Delays and Struggles
When the pandemic first hit in Florida, around the middle-end of March, many places closed their doors to the public, including State agencies like FDCAS. At the same time, civil unrest and protesting grew, causing a massive increase in applications for a CWFL. This in turn created an increase in the amount of people confused about the application process and with questions about receiving a Notice of Suspension from FDACS. Further, COVID-19 has made getting fingerprints difficult due to police agencies limiting or eliminating their fingerprinting hours. Although FDACS claims to be normally processing CWFL applications we have seen extended delays.
If you are struggling with the licensing process, we are here to help. Contact our office today and we will guide you through this frustrating and confusing process.