Have You Been Arrested for Carrying a Concealed Firearm at Tampa International Airport?

Arrested for Carrying a Concealed Firearm at Tampa International Airport?

Many years ago, when I was serving as an Assistant State Attorney in Hillsborough County, a case came across my desk that surprised me.  

A man with no criminal history whatsoever had been arrested at Tampa International Airport and charged with carrying a concealed firearm.  

According to the police report, the man was going through a TSA security checkpoint to board a flight.  The man put a backpack into a bin to be scanned, and as the backpack went through the scanner a TSA officer saw a gun in backpack on the scanner’s screen.  

The TSA officer asked the man if he was carrying a firearm in the backpack, but the man denied that the backpack had a firearm.  The TSA officer opened the backpack and took out a handgun.  

Law enforcement arrested the man, charged him with carrying a concealed firearm, and a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy transported the man to jail.

What Does it Mean to Carry a Concealed Firearm?

In Florida it is against the law for a person to carry a concealed firearm unless that person has a Concealed Weapons License.

To convict an accused of Carrying a Concealed Firearm, the prosecutor must prove:

  1. The accused knowingly carried on or about his person a firearm.
  2. The firearm was concealed from the ordinary sight of another person.

Importantly, for the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office to convict a person for carrying a concealed firearm at Tampa International Airport, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person knowingly carried the firearm.  

As both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I have handled many carrying a concealed firearm cases.  In my experience, in the vast majority of cases, people arrested for carrying a concealed firearm at Tampa International Airport simply did not know that their carry-on luggage contained a firearm.  

For example, in the case I mentioned at the start of the article in which the man with no criminal history was arrested at Tampa International Airport when TSA officers found a handgun in his backpack, it turned out that his man did not know the handgun was in the backpack.  What happened was that his roommate, who was in the military, had borrowed the backpack a week earlier and used it to transport the handgun to visit a shooting range.  After returning from the range, the roommate forgot to take the gun out of the backpack.  

After investigating the case and speaking with my supervisors at the State Attorney’s Office, I filed a document called a letter of nolle prosse, which ended the prosecution.  

This is just one example of a case in which a person has mistakenly carried a concealed firearm at the Tampa Airport.  In another case I recently handled, the accused simply forgot that he had left the handgun in one of the zipped pockets of his carry-on.   When the TSA officer pulled the handgun out of his carry-on, he was shocked.  

In yet another case handled, the accused owned two backpacks – one to carry his handgun to the shooting range and the other for travel.  Unfortunately, just before traveling by plane out of Tampa, he mistakenly put the handgun in his travel backpack rather than his gun range backpack.  When the TSR officer found the gun in his luggage, he could not believe it.  

What are the Maximum Penalties for Carrying a Concealed Firearm in Tampa Without a License?

In Florida carrying a Concealed Firearm is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of:

  • Five years of imprisonment
  • A $5,000.00 fine
  • 5 years of probation

The Federal Government may also impose civil penalties upon a person that is stopped attempting to board an aircraft with a firearm.  Those penalties may include fines, as well as loss of TSA PreCheck.

Under Florida Law, can a Person with a License to Carry a Concealed Firearm Bring a Firearm to a TSA Screening area?

No.  Under to Florida Law, there are certain places where a person with a license to carry a concealed firearm may not carry a firearm.  Examples of these places include a courthouse, a polling place, an elementary or secondary school, and the inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area (security screening area) of any airport.  However, a person may carry any legal firearm that is encased for shipment into the airport terminal (for purposes of checking the firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on an aircraft). 

Passengers may transport unloaded firearms in checked baggage if they are transported in a locked, hard-sided container with padding inside the container.   The firearm must be declared to the airline before traveling.

What do I do if I have been Arrested for Carrying a Concealed Firearm at the Tampa International Airport?

If you have been arrested for Carrying a Concealed Firearm at the Tampa International Airport, you need to hire an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney to handle your case.  

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former State prosecutor who now represents people that are accused of carrying a concealed firearm at the Tampa International Airport.  Attorney Hardy is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. 

Attorney Hardy can reach out to the State Attorney’s Office on your behalf and explain the circumstances that led to the TSA officer finding the firearm in your carry-on luggage, and request that the State Attorney’s Office dismiss any charges that have been filed against you.  

Attorney Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through this process and obtain the best possible results.  Contact Attorney Hardy for a free consultation.

Posted in Florida Criminal Defense

David C. Hardy

David C. Hardy

David C. Hardy is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Tampa, Florida. He is a former prosecutor that is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and The National Board of Trial advocacy as an expert in criminal trial law. He practices in the areas of federal criminal defense, Florida criminal defense, and Florida DUI defense.