Improper Handling

What is improper handling in Ohio?

  • There are five general ways to get charged with improper handling in Ohio
    • A person knowingly discharges a firearm while in or on a motor vehicle.
    • A person knowingly transports or has a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle where the firearm is accessible without leaving the vehicle.
    • A person knowingly transports or has an unloaded firearm in a motor vehicle in one of the following ways
      • Not in a closed package, box, or case
      • Not in a compartment that can be reached only by leaving the vehicle
      • Not in plain sight and secured in a rack or holder made for that purpose
      • Not in plain sight, with the action open, and the gun is less than 24 inches in length.
    • A person knowingly transports or has a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle and they are under the influence of alcohol or a drug of abuse.
    • A person has a concealed handgun license or is an active duty member of the armed forces, is carrying a loaded firearm in motor vehicle, and is stopped by law enforcement as a result of a traffic stop, cannot do one of the following
      • Fail to notify the law enforcement officer about the firearm before the officer asks
      • Fail to notify an employee of the motor carrier enforcement unit before they ask about the firearm
      • Fail to remain in the motor vehicle while stopped or knowingly fail to keep their hands in plain sight at any time after any law enforcement officer begins approaching the person while stopped, unless the officer directs otherwise.
      • Knowingly touch the loaded handgun with hands or fingers at any time after the law enforcement officer begins approaching and before the officer leaves, unless the officer gives directions to touch the firearm.
      • Knowingly disregard or fail to comply with any lawful order of any law enforcement officer while the motor vehicle is stopped.

What are the levels of charges for Improper Handling in Ohio? (References the above sections)

  • A violation of number 1 is a 4th degree felony.
  • A violation of number 2 is a 4th degree felony.
  • A violation of number 3 is a 4th degree misdemeanor.
  • A violation of number 4 is a 5th degree felony. If the loaded handgun is concealed on the person, it’s a 4th degree felony.
  • A violation of 5a or 5b is a 2nd degree misdemeanor.
  • A violation of 5c or 5e is a 1st degree misdemeanor. If the person has a previous conviction for 5c or 5e, then the charge will be a 5th degree felony.
  • A violation 5d is a 5th degree felony.

Are there exceptions for improper handling in Ohio?

  • Yes, there are numerous exceptions to each one of the above sections. An example of some of these are driving a car on your own private property or shooting out of a vehicle while hunting for particular animals.
  • It’s important you contact an attorney to make sure that your situation doesn’t fall into one of these many exceptions.

Does the firearm have to be operable to be charged with improper handling?

  • Yes. In Ohio, the firearm has to be able to fire before you can be convicted of improper handling.
  • The police will not test fire the weapon at the scene of the crime. Therefore, this will not prevent you from getting charged.
  • The police will take the weapon into evidence and test fire it at their firing range.
  • If the police witness you firing the weapon, that can be used as evidence that the firearm is operable.

Can I expunge / seal my record for an improper handling conviction in Ohio?

  • Yes. An improper handling conviction is eligible to be sealed in Ohio.
    • NOTE – This depends on your prior record. See the record sealing page to determine if you may be eligible.

Does Ohio’s new concealed carry law, which was enacted in June of 2022, affect improper handling charges?

  • Yes. The new law allows people to carry a concealed weapon without getting a permit. Therefore, many people will now fall into the section that relates to having a concealed carry license. This section states that you can have a loaded firearm. You just have to remember to notify the police officer that there is a firearm in the vehicle. This change will minimize most charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.

What will happen to me if I’m charged with improper handling in Ohio?

  • Improper handling ranges from a 4th degree misdemeanor to a 4th degree felony in Ohio.
  • Some courts will offer diversion programs for this charge. It may require you to take a gun safety course and do some community service.
  • Because most of these charges begin with a traffic stop, it’s important to have an attorney review the evidence to see if there are any evidence suppression issues.
  • Contact Meis Law to schedule a free consult.

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