Altering or Removing Firearm Serial Number
This Florida statute contains two crimes: (1) the crime of altering or removing a serial number that is located on a firearm and (2) selling or delivering a firearm that has its serial number altered or removed. The reason behind a person removing a serial number on a gun is to prevent police from tracing the gun to previous locations or people. There is no real purpose other than to keep the possessor untraceable.What the State Prosecutor Has to Prove to Convict You of Altering or Removing a Firearm Serial Number
For the prosecutor to convict you, he must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) You knowingly altered or removed the serial number placed on the gun by the importer or manufacturer; and
(2) You altered or removed the serial numbers with intent to prevent the gun from being traced.
Guns are registered. If a gun is stolen by the defendant, then having the gun on him during a crime with a serial number linking him back to the owner he stole from ties him to two different crimes.What the State Prosecutor Has to Prove to Convict You of the Possession of a Firearm with an Altered or Removed Serial Number
The state prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) You sold, bought, or possessed a firearm;
(2) The serial number that the manufacturer or importer put on the gun was altered or removed; and
(3) You knew the serial number had been altered or removed.
There are some potential defenses to this crime. The defendant has to know that the serial number has been removed. There was one Florida case where the defendant was in possession of a firearm with the serial number removed, but the plate which had the serial number on it was missing. Therefore, the state prosecutor could not prove that the defendant knew the serial number was removed since there was no evidence that the plate had been removed.Possession of the Gun
There are two types of possession: (1) actual possession and (2) constructive possession.
Actual possession means the gun was (1) in the hand of the person, (2) in a container in the hand of the person, (3) or within ready reach and under the control of the person. Examples would be where the gun was under the seat of the car the person was currently driving, in the pocket of the person, or tucked in behind the belt of the person.
Constructive possession means the gun was in a place where the defendant had control or in a place that is concealed.
If a person has exclusive control over the gun, then the prosecutor can easily prove that the person had knowledge of the gun; however, if the gun is not in the defendant’s exclusive possession, the prosecutor will have a harder time proving the defendant had knowledge of the gun.
Two or more people can possess the gun at the same time.Punishment
Removing or altering the serial number is a third-degree felony which is punishable up to 5 years in prison with a $5,000 fine. The mere possession of a gun with an altered or missing serial number is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 365 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.Contact The Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A.
If you or your loved one has been arrested and charged with this crime, contact one of our lawyers today at The Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A. and we will get to work on the case. Our West Palm Beach Firearm Attorneys can explain your options as well as the legal defenses that are available. Call today to set up an appointment.