By James D. Phillips
One of the most frequent questions that our attorneys are asked at seminars is, “What do I do if I am involved in a Traffic Stop While Carrying a Firearm?” Sometime, what you are required to do by law, and what we recommend you do differ. The first paragraph below discusses what you MUST do under Florida law if you are involved in a traffic stop while carrying a firearm, the second is our recommendation of how to handle a traffic stop while carrying a firearm, but is not required under Florida law.
WHAT THE LAW REQUIRES
Florida Statute 790.06(1) requires a CWFL holder who is carrying a concealed firearm to carry their CWFL with them while carrying a firearm along with valid identification, such as your driver license. If after you have been pulled over by law enforcement, the officer specifically asks to see your CWFL, then the law requires you to provide it to him or her along with your valid identification. If you fail to do so, then you will be committing a noncriminal violation and required to pay $25.00 to the clerk of the court. You are not automatically required to give an officer your CWFL upon contact with law enforcement, they must ask for it. Please keep in mind this is specific to the state of Florida as other states require you to notify the officer upon contact. Furthermore, there is no state or federal requirement to notify the officer that you have a gun on you or in your car, even if the officer asks you. What you are not allowed to do is lie if the officer asks you. Should you choose to, you are allowed to inform the officer that you are not going to answer any question, but you cannot lie.
Remember, just because you have the legal right to do something, does not mean it is the best course of action. How you handle a traffic encounter with law enforcement is ultimately up to you, but based on our experience with law enforcement, we advise people to be honest with law enforcement when it comes to being pulled over while lawfully carrying concealed. If you do not inform the officer that you have a gun on you or in your car and he or she sees it, you are likely to be staring down the business end of the officer’s gun. This is a situation most of us would like to avoid. We have found that the best approach when carrying a firearm on you or in your car lawfully, if pulled over, is to open all the windows and turn on the dome lights immediately. That way as the officer approaches, he can clearly see in the car and observe that you are not a threat. Once you have done so, it is best to put your hands on the steering wheel and leave them there. Passengers should also keep their hands empty and in plain view. When the officer approaches your window, calmly let them know you have a CWFL and a firearm on you. Ask them how they would like you to proceed and follow their directions.
USE THE WORD FIREARM, NOT GUN
You should not use the word gun but instead use the word firearm. Officers are trained to yell out “Gun” to other officers when they see one. This word triggers apprehension and reaction from law enforcement. Furthermore, by notifying the officer that you have a gun and showing him or her your CWFL, you are letting that officer know that you are not a convicted felon, but a lawful gun owner who is not likely a threat. Yes, it is true that by disclosing this information the officer may order you out of the car and temporarily seize you and your firearm for officer safety. They also may enter your vehicle to retrieve your firearm without a warrant or your consent. How the officer reacts to you providing this information depends on the officer and their experiences and training. They may disarm you as we discussed in prior posts. At the end of the day, both you and law enforcement want to go home safely. Remember, the paragraph above tells you what the law requires, the second is how we personally choose to handle such an encounter but is not required by law.
About James Phillips