Michigan allows ordinary citizens to open-carry firearms when in public, subject to certain time and place restrictions. However, it is against the law to carry a concealed pistol on your person or in your vehicle unless that person is in possession of a lawful concealed pistol license or meets other statutory requirements. A person who violates this law can be found guilty of a felony that can lead to fines, probation or even imprisonment.
Whether a firearm was concealed depends upon the particular circumstances of the case and is a question of fact. Absolute invisibility is not necessary, as the Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld convictions where the butt of the gun was poking out of a pocket. People v Jones, 12 Mich App 293; 162 NW2d 847 (1968). Another instance of an affirmed concealed weapon conviction was a pistol being placed in the belt or waistband of trousers where a witness testified he “couldn’t see it plain”. People v Jackson, 43 Mich App 569; 204 NW2d 367 (1972).
An individual is guilty of carrying a concealed pistol, contrary to MCL 750.227(2), if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (Model Criminal Jury Instruction 11.1 and 11.1a):
IF THE PISTOL WAS CARRIED ON THE PERSON:
- First, that the individual knowingly carried a pistol. It does not matter why the individual was carrying the pistol, but to be guilty of this crime the individual must have known that he or she was carrying a pistol.
- Second, that this pistol was concealed on or about the person of the individual. Complete invisibility is not required. A pistol is concealed if it cannot easily be seen by those who come into ordinary contact with the individual.
OR IF THE PISTOL WAS CARRIED IN A VEHICLE:
- First, that a pistol was in a vehicle that the individual was in.
- Second, that the individual knew the pistol was there.
- Third, that the individual took part in carrying or keeping the pistol in the vehicle.
A person found guilty of carrying a concealed pistol receives a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00. MCL 750.227(3). In addition, the pistol will be forfeited to the State of Michigan. MCL 750.239(1). Also, if the offense occurs in a weapon free school zone, the judge can order up to 150 hours of community service and a fine up to $7,500.00 in addition to the normal penalties. MCL 750.237a(1).
MCL 750.227(2) DOES NOT apply to any of the following persons:
- “A peace officer of an authorized police agency of the United States, of this state, or of a political subdivision of this state, who is regularly employed and paid by the United States, this state, or a political subdivision of this state.” MCL 750.231(a).
- “A person who is regularly employed by the state department of corrections and who is authorized in writing by the director of the department of corrections to carry a concealed weapon while in the official performance of his or her duties or while going to or returning from those duties.” MCL 750.231(b).
- “A person employed by a private vendor that operates a youth correctional facility authorized under section 20g of the corrections code of 1953, 1953 PA 232, MCL 791.220g, who meets the same criteria established by the director of the state department of corrections for departmental employees described in subdivision (b) and who is authorized in writing by the director of the department of corrections to carry a concealed weapon while in the official performance of his or her duties or while going to or returning from those duties.” MCL 750.231(c).
- “A member of the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps or the United States Coast Guard while carrying weapons in the line of or incidental to duty.” MCL 750.231(d).
- “An organization authorized by law to purchase or receive weapons from the United States or from this state.” MCL 750.231(e).
- “A member of the National Guard, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States Coast Guard Reserve, or any other authorized military organization while on duty or drill, or in going to or returning from a place of assembly or practice, while carrying weapons used for a purpose of the National Guard, United States Armed Forces Reserve, United States Coast Guard Reserve, or other duly authorized military organization.” MCL 750.231(f).
- “A security employee employed by the state and granted limited arrest powers under section 6c of 1935 PA 59, MCL 28.6c.” MCL 750.231(g).
- “A motor carrier officer appointed under section 6d of 1935 PA 59, MCL 28.6d.” MCL 750.231(h).
- “To a person holding a valid license to carry a pistol concealed upon his or her person issued by his or her state of residence except where the pistol is carried in nonconformance with a restriction appearing on the license.” MCL 750.231a(1)(a).
- “To the regular and ordinary transportation of pistols as merchandise by an authorized agent of a person licensed to manufacture firearms.” MCL 750.231a(1)(b).
- “To a person carrying an antique firearm, completely unloaded in a closed case or container designed for the storage of firearms in the trunk of a vehicle.” MCL 750.231a(1)(c). “Antique firearm” means either of the following:
- A firearm not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898, including a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system or replica of such a firearm, whether actually manufactured before or after 1898. MCL 750.231a(2)(i).
- A firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. MCL 750.231a(2)(ii).
- “To a person while transporting a pistol for a lawful purpose that is licensed by the owner or occupant of the motor vehicle… , and the pistol is unloaded in a closed case designed for the storage of firearms in the trunk of the vehicle.” MCL 750.231a(1)(d).
- “To a person while transporting a pistol for a lawful purpose that is licensed by the owner or occupant of the motor vehicle… , and the pistol is unloaded in a closed case designed for the storage of firearms in a vehicle that does not have a trunk and is not readily accessible to the occupants of the vehicle.” MCL 750.231a(1)(e).
Carrying a concealed pistol for self-defense is NOT a valid defense to this charge if any of the statutory exceptions do not apply. People v Townsel, 13 Mich App 600; 164 NW2d 776 (1968). In addition, the innocent but momentary possession of a concealed pistol is also not a defense. People v Hernandez-Garcia, 477 Mich 1039; 728 NW2d 406 (2007).
Carrying a concealed pistol is a general intent crime, meaning that the prosecutor only has to prove that the defendant intended to carry the pistol on his or her person or vehicle. People v Lane, 102 Mich App 11; 300 NW2d 717 (1980). The prosecutor is NOT required to prove that the defendant was legally licensed to carry the concealed pistol, meaning that the burden of proof for this statutory exception falls on the defendant. People v Combs, 160 Mich App 666; 408 NW2d 420 (1987).
A charge of carrying a concealed pistol is no laughing matter and requires the expertise of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. If you or a loved one are charged with any firearm crime, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.