Florida Court Dismisses Charge Against Man Carrying Gun in Union Hall Parking Lot – State v. Little

If you’ve read or watched the news recently, you are probably aware of the ongoing debate about guns in America. On the one side, are gun control advocates who would like to see many (or all) of the firearms currently available for sale in the U.S. banned. On the other, are the gun connoisseurs who see almost any regulation as an infringement of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In Florida, lawmakers have attempted to reach a happy medium. In State v. Little, the Fourth District Court of Appeal explains one of the major gun laws on the books in Florida – the concealed carry law – as well as one of its largest loop holes, the “place of business” exception.

Torrence Little was charged with possession of a concealed weapon in Florida after an unidentified person informed police that someone was carrying a firearm in a union hall parking lot. Officers observed Little carrying a gun tucked into his waistband and covered by his shirt when they arrived on the scene. Because he did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Little was arrested.

Following a hearing, the trial court granted Little’s motion to dismiss the charge, in which he argued that he was not covered by the law requiring a person carrying a concealed weapon to have a permit because he was carrying the weapon as part of his job. Under Section 790.25(3)(n), Florida Statutes, the ban on carrying concealed weapons does not apply to “[a] person possessing arms at his or her home or place of business.” Little was the union’s financial secretary and also responsible for providing security in the union hall and its parking lot, among other duties.

In 1991, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal ruled in State v. Commons that the “place of business” exception is not “confined to a place of business owned by the defendant himself. To the contrary, it includes . . . premises where the individual is employed by another.” Other courts, meanwhile, have said that the exception also extends to non-working hours.

Here, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s decision dismissing the charge against Little. The court rejected the state’s argument that Little had failed to show that he was actually being paid for his services to the union. This issue, according to the court, did not affect the determination of whether Little fell under the “place of business” exception.

Rather, the court noted that labor organizations are treated like businesses under Florida law. The Florida Supreme Court has defined “place of business” as “simply a location where business is transacted,” the court explained, quoting the Florida Supreme Court’s 1945 decision in McCall v. State. “The facts before us establish that Little’s place of business was the union hall.”

As this case shows, there is often a fine line between the “lawful” and “unlawful” possession of a firearm in Florida. Unlawful possession of a gun is a serious offense that can bring with it significant consequences, particularly when combined with other charges. The penalties for a weapons charge range from fines to imprisonment.

The South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are experienced in handling a wide range of criminal cases, including those related to gun possession, throughout the state. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation and discuss how Anidjar & Levine can aggressively defend your rights in court.

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