As lawmakers discuss tougher gun-control measures in the wake of December’s shooting in Newtown, Conn, here is the program taking place in Florida that seems to be working.
City police are offering hundreds of dollars to citizens who provide tips that end with the seizure of a gun and an arrest of its user ( full details, source)..
Police see the Gun Bounty program as a way not only to have fewer weapons in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, but also as a way potentially to decrease random acts of violence.
A resident can anonymously call Crime Stoppers and report that someone is illegally possessing a gun. If that person is arrested and prosecuted, the tipster will receive $500 from forfeiture funds. Even if the person is not prosecuted and only arrested, the tipster will receive some compensation, said Capt. David Bernhardt, city police spokesman.
“People talk about the toughest thing to stop is a random act of violence, because it’s a random act of violence, but maybe this tool can be a step toward that,” Bernhardt said.
“Now in the city of West Palm Beach, you have 100,000 sets of eyes instead of the 250 officers that we have.”
The program has been around for years in the city and in police agencies across Florida. Some such as those in West Palm Beach and St. Petersburg are publicizing their programs in hopes of revitalizing them.
City police hope that with more technology available and a new mobile application coming soon, more residents will feel the urge either to text or call in a tip.
There are no rules about what information a tipster must have before calling in. A police officer will determine what needs to be done to see whether there is probable cause for an arrest. The anonymous tipster is assigned a number, which is how he or she will receive the money if the call leads to an arrest.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reports that the program has been successful in their area with 2,684 tips received from September 2006 through mid-January 2013. Deputies have made 305 arrests and have confiscated 332 weapons stemming from a gun bounty tip, which is worth a $1,000 payout.
While agencies in Palm Beach County have a gun buyback program, West Palm Beach police seems to be the only agency which has the bounty program. The city adopted the program about two years ago from Orlando police, who started their program in 2007 after seeing a spike in violent crime.
Since 2007, Orlando police have confiscated about 500 guns.
“It’s been extremely successful for us … getting those guns off the street,” Orlando Police spokesman Sgt. Jim Young said. “We’re not targeting innocent people with guns.”
So far city police have made one arrest stemming from the program. They are working on investigating a tip they received stemming from the program.
“If we save one person from this program, isn’t it worthwhile? Hasn’t it served its purpose?” Bernhardt said. “I think it has.”
Issuing A Gun License
Florida has no gun registration, the same goes for gun licensing requirements.
The Department of Agriculture shall issue a license if the applicant:
- Is at least 21 and a U.S. resident.
- Does not suffer from a physical or mental infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a firearm.
- Is not a convicted felon.
- Has not within a three-year period preceding submission of the application been convicted of a crime of violence or committed for drug abuse or been convicted of a minor drug offense.
- Has not been adjudicated guilty even with a suspended sentence for a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, unless three years has elapsed since probation or the record is sealed or expunged.
- Is not a chronic or habitual drunkard.
- Is not currently under any injunction restraining the applicant from acts of domestic violence or repeated acts of violence.
- States that he desires a legal means to carry a concealed weapon or firearm for lawful self-defense.
Outcomes Of Owning a Gun Without License
Each state is different, but in general the following will occur:
- The gun will be confiscated.
- You will questioned regarding why, how and what you are doing with a gun.
- You may have to attend a court hearing or a fine will be issued.
A $10,000 fine and a maximum sentence of up to five years are enforceable in some states. Depending on the severity of your case, the penalties will vary. For example, the type of gun you were carrying or your age will affect the judge’s order.
West Palm Beach Weapons Charges Defense Attorney
At the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A. in West Palm Beach, we represent people arrested on weapons charges, including:
- Carrying a concealed weapon
- Improper exhibition of a weapon
- Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
- Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon
- Possession of a weapon by a convicted felon
- Firing or shooting an object into an occupied building
In Florida, many weapons charges are subject to mandatory minimum prison sentences of at least three years. Even if you are not facing prison time, a conviction on a weapons charge could have a very negative effect on your life. Most employers do not want to hire an employee with a criminal record. Florida landlords conduct background checks of prospective renters, so a conviction could also affect your ability to rent an apartment.
Many weapons cases can be resolved without a criminal record if your lawyer has you immediately perform community service, complete a weapons class, and apologize to the victim (if there was one). It is essential that the state’s charging attorney understand who you really are, while providing evidence that shows you are much more than what the law enforcement agent makes you out to be.
If you are not guilty of the charge, lawyer Andrew Stine can attack the government’s case. There are many defenses an experienced lawyer can use in a weapons case, including self defense, false allegation, false identification, entrapment, and improper search and seizure of the weapon. In some cases, the act you are charged with may not even be illegal. For example, if the butt of a handgun sticks out of your pocket and is visible, you cannot be charged with concealing a weapon.
Being proactive in a weapons case can often make the difference between facing felony or misdemeanor charges, or whether any charges are filed at all.
Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.