Sometimes our criminal law chews up folks who never meant to commit a crime. When someone inadvertently violates Florida law, Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys often are called too late, unable to prevent an arrest followed by a long tough journey through Florida’s difficult Criminal Justice System.

So it was heartening to speak over the phone yesterday with the cheerful yet dignified man who in my mind’s eye had the appearance of a Japanese Zen Master. Maybe our conversation will keep him from that ultimate pilgrimage to the Pinellas County Jail. Here’s a recap of what he asked me:

Even a zen master could be in trouble in Tampa Bay Florida if a family member has a gun or firearm.

I’m a convicted felon. I haven’t been in trouble since the conviction. I’ve successfully turned my life around. I have a good job, gotten married and have a great family. I’ve not yet had my civil rights restored. I know that I can’t own a gun with the felony conviction. Will I get into trouble with the law if my wife buys a gun and keeps it for her protection?

The answer is yes, you’ll likely get in lots of trouble. Clearly the Florida Criminal Statute he wants to avoid violating is Felon in Possession of a Firearm, plus there could be an additional violation of the Federal Criminal Statute with a possible fifteen year minimum mandatory sentence. Here’s a short excerpt of the Florida Statute:

790.23 Felons in possession of firearms, ammunition, or electric weapons or devices:
(1) It is unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been:(a) Convicted of a felony…

Anyone in Florida who has a conviction for a Felony from any jurisdiction should he be concerned if a family member wants to bring a gun (or even just ammunition or an electric weapon such as a taser) into his home or car because if the firearm is found to be in his “care, custody, possession or control…” he is in violation of the law. The language of the statute is very similar to that of the Florida Drug Statutes which equates possession with knowledge and close proximity with possession. It means that it wouldn’t much matter who technically ‘owns’ the firearm, what matters is who has knowledge and the ability to control the gun. Based on this information he wisely told me that his wife won’t be keeping any firearms in their home.
In speaking further with him we talked about the process of how to have his rights restored and obtaining a pardon or clemency under Florida Law so that he could legally possess a gun in the future and commended him on calling a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer before bringing the firearm into his home risking an arrest.


Your Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer was asked yesterday how to obtain a sealing or expungement of criminal records in Florida. Today we’ll look at how to obtain a pardon for a criminal act in Florida; but if, and only if, you promise that you won’t go committing a rampage of criminal acts just because I’m showing you how to obtain a pardon.

a successful pardon gives reasons why the Governor should grant it from Clearwater criminal lawyer Robert hambrick in Largo, St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Florida
Van Gogh, Self Portrait 

Obtaining a pardon in Florida is more difficult than sealing or expungement of criminal records, because a pardon is in its nature a political act. Therefore successful Applications for Clemency in Florida will show the decision makers in the Governor’s office and Cabinet why it is in their best interest to grant the pardon. Successful applications possess a political overtone based on a clear showing of the failure of the judicial process with a well defined change of heart demonstrated by the creative civic actions of the Defendant linked with a showing of simple fairness to address a wrong. 
A pardon restores civil rights that a Florida felony conviction takes away. The Governor and cabinet have great leeway under Florida to grant pardons. Upon taking office the Governor’s office issued a press release on the pardon procedure which would be followed during his term of office noting that “…civil rights will not be restored automatically for any offenses,” and delineating categories of crime that would require a hearing (aggravated felonies, drug trafficking, RICO, sexual battery) and which could be obtained without a hearing (simple felonies). A partial sample for the application for Clemency below shows the options available to begin the pardon procedure:

Check box for type of clemency desired. All applications must have the proper court documents attached.
Restoration of Civil Rights for Florida conviction
Restoration of Civil Rights in Florida for Federal, Military, or Out-of-State conviction
Restoration of Alien Status Under Florida Law Remission of Fine or Forfeiture
Specific Authority to Own, Possess or Use Firearms (Eligible 8 years after completion of sentence)
Full Pardon (Eligible 10 years after completion of sentence)
Pardon Without Firearm Authority
(Eligible 10 years after completion of sentence)
Commutation of Sentence (Use Form “Request for Review”)
If you have applied for a Full Pardon, Pardon Without Firearm Authority or Specific Authority to Own, Possess or Use Firearms and are determined ineligible due to not meeting the time requirement, you will be processed for Restoration of Civil Rights. If you have already received Restoration of Civil Rights, a Certificate for Restoration of Civil Rights will be mailed to you.

The Governor’s office has an application for clemency form (see above) which you send to the Governor’s office with the records of your criminal case from the clerk’s office as without the records some folks have been known to fib. 
For failures in the Florida criminal justice system there is the safety valve of commutation of sentence, which can be applied for in Florida criminal cases where the law has too harshly dealt with a given set of facts, for example where a harsh minimum mandatory sentence applies in a mere nonviolent hand to hand drug deal.  For a successful pardon in Florida contact a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney who will show the Florida Governor and Cabinet why justice demands that a pardon be granted.