In regard to use of firearms by felons: It is illegal in Florida for convicted felons to possess firearms, including muzzle loading guns, unless the convicted felon has had his/her civil rights restored and firearm authority restored by the state's Clemency Board or the gun qualifies as an antique firearm under Florida statute 790.001(1). Properly licensed convicted felons may hunt with bows or crossbows during hunting seasons when such devices are legal for taking game.
A general restoration of civil rights does not include the restoration of the right to own, possess or use a firearm. In order to restore firearm authority, an application is required and there is a waiting period of eight years from the date sentence expired or supervision terminated. For more information on the clemency process and eligibility requirements, go to the Florida Parole Commission Web site.
Section 790.001(1), Florida Statutes, states, "'Antique firearm' means any firearm manufactured in or before 1918 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar early type of ignition system) or replica thereof, whether actually manufactured before or after the year 1918, and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1918, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade." The fact that the firearm is an antique firearm is an affirmative defense that the defendant has the burden of alleging and proving. Williams v. State 482 So.2d 1051 (Fla 1986).
Convicted felons should be cautious about being in a location where a firearm is present as they may be in constructive possession of that firearm. Constructive possession occurs when the person knows about the firearm and is in a position to exert dominion and control over that firearm. A felon who is riding in a truck with other hunters who have firearms with them may be in constructive possession of those firearms, depending on the circumstances.
Convicted felons, as well as any hunter, may use a bow or crossbow during the hunting seasons where allowed.
Hunters who are on probation, should consult with their probation officer before hunting.