Carrying a Concealed Weapon
Advocating for Responsible Gun Owners Charged with Violating Ohio’s Concealed Carry Law
As a traditional open-carry state, Ohio permits the legal owner of a firearm to publicly carry the same in accordance with federal and state regulations. These regulations often restrict the type of weapons you can bear in public, protect private businesses’ rights to prohibit firearms on their properties, prevent certain violent felons from owning a firearm, and forbid firearms in school zones. Ohio gun owners carrying legally-owned firearms in legally-permissible areas are further subject to additional limitations. The ways and means by which Ohio gun owners may carry legally-owned firearms are strictly regulated, and an unintentional violation of Ohio’s concealed carry restrictions may result in criminal firearms charges. Responsible gun owners do pay the regulatory price for the use and abuse of firearms by the criminally disturbed. At the Joslyn Law Firm, our experienced gun crimes defense attorneys know even the unintentional concealment of a weapon may result in gun crimes charges. A serious criminal firearms conviction may impact the rights and livelihood of responsible gun owners in Ohio. Understanding how Ohio’s concealed carry regulations limit your Second Amendment rights can help you to avoid gun crime charges, but this is a complex area of law riddled with exceptions, exclusions, and confusion for local firearms owners. Maximize your legal defense today by calling (614) 444-1900 or contacting Joslyn Law’s experienced Ohio firearms defense attorneys online for a free concealed carry defense consultation.
Information Center for Ohio Concealed Carry Violations
A qualified Ohio criminal defense attorney should analyze your firearms charges and review the specific facts of your case before recommending a personalized legal defense strategy. For questions concerning an individual case, contact the experienced gun crimes defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm directly. For all other questions, consult our information center for Ohio concealed carry violations.
- General Rights and Restrictions Applicable to Ohio Gun Owners
- Understanding the Second Amendment and D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)
- Difference Between Open and Concealed Carry in Ohio
- Ohio’s Concealed Carry License Law
- Requirements for Obtaining a Concealed Carry Permit in Ohio
- Concealed Carry Reciprocity
- Exceptions to Concealed Carry in Ohio
- Criminal Charges for Carrying a Concealed Weapon without a License
- Criminal Penalties for Carrying a Concealed Weapon without a License
- Affirmative Defenses to Ohio Concealed Carry Charges
- Concealed Carry Charges with an Expired Concealed Carry License
- Can I Lose My Right to Own or Carry a Firearm After a Concealed Carry Violation?
- Can I Lose My Right to Obtain a CHL if I’m Found Guilty of Carrying a Concealed Weapon?
1. General Rights and Restrictions Applicable to Ohio Gun Owners
The Ohio and United States Constitutions protect the right of American citizens to “bear arms for their defense and security.” This is commonly referred to as the right “to keep and bear arms” but is subject to reasonable regulation for public health and safety. In Ohio, gun ownership rights automatically vest in resident citizens at the age of 18 (21 in the case of handguns) but can be forfeited before or after the age of 18. In other words, able adults are entitled to keep a firearm in their homes unless a legal disability prevents them from owning one. Those under the following disabilities, as adjudicated by the appropriate authorities, may not own or carry a firearm in Ohio:
- Chronic alcoholics
- Violent felons and felony drug offenders
- Mentally ill or incompetent persons
The right to “bear” arms in public, i.e., not for the direct protection of your homestead, is more limited than the right to “keep” arms in your home. Ohio permits legal gun owners to publically carry firearms in plain sight unless the law states otherwise. For example, private citizens cannot carry a firearm:
- Into an establishment with a liquor license
- When intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
- In school zones
- On college campuses
- Into a courthouse or certain public buildings
- With altered or destroyed serial numbers (Ohio Code 2923.201)
Your rights to use, transport, and manage firearms are the most restrictive. You may not (absent legal authorization or just cause):
- Carry a concealed firearm in public without a concealed carry license
- Discharge a firearm into a residential dwelling, school, park, church, or other restricted areas (Ohio Code 2923.162)
- Discharge a firearm in a motor vehicle
- Transport a firearm in your vehicle without following proper storage procedures
- Lie to police about the presence of a firearm
- Possess a falsified or falsely obtained a concealed carry permit
- Alter or destroy a firearm’s serial numbers or identifying information
If you choose to carry a legally owned firearm off your property, you may be charged with any number of Ohio firearms crimes even if the violation was accidental. The primary charge is called an Ohio “concealed carry” violation.
2. Understanding the Second Amendment and D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)
Neither the Second Amendment nor the Supreme Court’s opinion in D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) protects you from criminal firearms and concealed carry charges. Despite the overwhelming political attacks aimed at extinguishing or limiting the exercise of your Second Amendment rights, most constitutional rights have never been “absolute” rights. They are subject to reasonable regulation to protect public safety and welfare. For example, despite having freedom of speech, it is illegal to make threats against another, incite violence, or deceitfully yell “fire” in a crowded room. The same principle holds true for your Second Amendment rights. Despite your right to keep and bear arms, the government may place reasonable limitations on ownership, possession, and use. The United States Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller held that certain laws, such as those banning all handguns, violated the Second Amendment because they were too restrictive. However, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of the states to legislatively regulate firearms.
3. Difference Between Open and Concealed Carry in Ohio
If you legally own a firearm in Ohio, you may carry that firearm within the state if it’s visible to the naked eye, and you are not in a restricted area. You don’t need a license to own a firearm or openly carry it in Ohio. You only have to meet the legal requirements for ownership and undergo a basic (sometimes instant) criminal background check. You are also permitted to transport unloaded firearms in motor vehicles under Ohio’s open-carry principle provided the firearms are stored separately from ammunition and in a container that cannot be reached without first exiting the vehicle, i.e., a trunk or roof rack. In Ohio, open carry includes carrying a handgun in a side or back holster provided it is not concealed by jackets or clothing. Any other full or partial concealment of a weapon, including concealment in a handbag, waistband, or glove compartment, is considered concealed carry. The general public may not carry a concealed weapon unless the weapon qualifies as a handgun, and the person has a valid concealed handgun license (“CHL”). This means concealed carry is not permitted for those under 21 unless a valid military or law enforcement exception applies. It is a criminal offense for private citizens to conceal deadly weapons or deadly ordinances in public. With limited exceptions for CHL holders, law enforcement, security, and military officials, no one many conceal any weapon in public. Permits are only issued for the concealed carry of handguns.
4. Ohio’s Concealed Carry License Law
Ohio Law 2923.12 criminalizes concealed carry unless you’re otherwise exempt from its provisions. It further criminalizes:
- failing to properly inform law enforcement officers of the presence of a firearm or dangerous weapon during a stop
- failing to keep hands in plain sight or follow the instructions of law enforcement when carrying a concealed weapon
- unloading, touching, reaching for, or removing the concealed weapon when being approach by law enforcement (even if you intend to hand over or reveal the weapon)
- failing to abide by lawful instructions, i.e., keeping hands up, when in possession of a concealed weapon
Ohio’s concealed carry law does not apply to everyone, and certain persons are permitted to carry and transport a concealed weapon or handgun with or without a license.
5. Requirements for Obtaining a Concealed Carry Permit in Ohio
Ohio residents and workers are tentatively eligible to obtain an Ohio concealed handgun license. To obtain a concealed carry permit in Ohio, the applicant must:
- Be over the age of 21
- Pass a criminal background test
- Complete mandatory firearms safety training with a certified instructor including at least 8 hours of training with 2 hours of live range training
- Pass a written test
- Pass a competency examination
- Not be addicted to a controlled or illegal substance or alcohol
- Not be subject to a civil protection order, i.e., restraining order
- Be a lawful permanent resident or citizen of the United States
- Not have had a permit denied in another state
- Must not be adjudicated mentally incompetent
- Not have been dishonorably discharged from the armed services
- Not be a felon or convicted of a domestic violence or drug charge
Applications must be submitted to your local sheriff’s department on the state forms provided during an in-person appointment. The applicant must bring the application and all requested documentation to the appointment, such as his or her training certificate, a passport-sized photograph, a valid I.D., and any other documentation requested by the local office. It is a crime to falsify information or documents on an application for a concealed carry permit in Ohio. Falsification will void a concealed carry license, and you may be subject to criminal charges for carrying a concealed weapon without a license.
6. Concealed Carry Reciprocity
Ohio is a full reciprocity state. This means it gives reciprocity to valid concealed handgun licenses (CHL) obtained in another state even if that state doesn’t provide reciprocity to Ohio residents. The issuing state or jurisdiction must have substantially similar or more stringent age, training, and background testing requirements, and to date, Ohio provides reciprocity for valid, active CHLs issued in all states provided the carrier is over the age of 21 and carrying a handgun. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office maintains a detailed map and database of Ohio’s current CHL reciprocity agreements by state. Always consult this map before traveling out of state with any firearm or weapon, especially a concealed weapon. For example, New York does not recognize out-of-state CHLs, and the open carry of firearms is illegal. You are permitted to drive through the state to reach another destination, but any interrupting in the trip would leave you open to prosecution for firearms charges in New York even with a valid CHL. Instead, Ohio residents driving to New England with firearms should consider traveling through Canada.
7. Exceptions to Concealed Carry in Ohio
The law prohibiting concealed carry in Ohio actually exempts the following persons from criminal prosecution, i.e., the following persons may carry a concealed weapon and/or handgun in Ohio:
- Persons with a valid concealed handgun license from Ohio or another state
- Active duty military members with a military I.D. and documentation of firearms training
- A federal or state employee/agent authorized to carry concealed weapons provided they are in the scope of their official duties
- A law enforcement officer acting within the scope of his or her official duties
- Certain specialized Ohio employees authorized to carry a concealed weapon within the course of their duties. Examples include peace offices, highway patrol officials, parole or probation officers, or university police officers
- Owners transporting a firearm in a motor vehicle provided the firearm is legally stored, and the transportation is for a lawful purpose, i.e., going to and from the shooting range
- Owners storing lawfully owned firearms in their homes
If you qualify for one of the above exceptions, Ohio’s general prohibition on concealed carry does not apply and any prosecution under that code section is likely invalid. Those who don’t qualify for an exception may still have a valid affirmative defense to concealed carry charges, but you have to raise this defense at trial.
8. Criminal Charges for Carrying a Concealed Weapon without a License
You may be “guilty of carrying concealed weapons” in Ohio if:
- You knowingly carry
- On your person or “ready at hand”
- A concealed weapon, dangerous ordinance, or handgun.
Those with a valid CHL are exempt from the provisions of the statute if the weapon was a handgun. Only those with a special exemption may carry concealed weapons or dangerous ordinances that do not qualify as a handgun. CHLs only authorize handgun concealment. In Ohio, a “‘[d]eadly weapon’ means any instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon.” This includes knives, hammers, throwing stars, or any concealed item readily capable of causing serious injury or death. Dangerous ordinances include explosive devices, sawed-off firearms, zip-guns, ballistic knives, blasting agents and chemicals, rocket launchers, firearm mufflers or suppressors, and/or a combination of the parts necessary to build these items. Illegally carrying a concealed weapon is chargeable as a first-degree misdemeanor but may be charged as a third-degree felony or minor misdemeanor. The facts and circumstances of your case dictate the offense level. You may be charged with a felony in the fourth degree if:
- This is not your first concealed carry offense
- You were previously convicted of a violent crime
- The firearm was loaded or ammunition was readily at hand
- The weapon qualified as a dangerous ordnance
Third-degree felony charges are levied for the successful or attempted carry of a concealed weapon aboard an aircraft. Lesser charges, such as a citation, are permissible if the offender had a valid CHL or military I.D. but were unable to produce the documents when stopped. If you didn’t knowingly carry the concealed weapon in a prohibited area, such as a school zone, reduction is also permissible. You must produce a valid-at-the-time CHL and/or military I.D. within ten days after a citation in order to qualify for reduced charges. Unintentional, first-time offenders often benefit from reduced charges. Those previously convicted of concealed carry, firearms, or violent offenses do not generally qualify for reduced charges.
9. Criminal Penalties for Carrying a Concealed Weapon without a License
Many offenders plead guilty to concealed carry charges. Before doing so, it’s important to understand the potential penalties associated with a concealed carry conviction. Ohio judges have broad discretion when sentencing, and it’s difficult to predict exactly what the penalties may be. First-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 6 months in prison and/or a $1000 fine. Misdemeanor penalties decrease accordingly, and whether an offender serves time depends heavily on the circumstances surrounding the case. Minor misdemeanors are only punishable by a $150 fine, and you are not subject to jail time for a minor misdemeanor conviction. Felony offenders often serve time in prison, but your sentence can range anywhere from 6 to 36 months. Those charged with a felony concealed carry offense, however, were likely charged with additional felony-level offenses. You should contact an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney immediately if you’ve been indicted on felony firearms charges.
10. Affirmative Defenses to Ohio Concealed Carry Charges
Ohio’s concealed carry statute contains affirmative defenses specific to a concealed carry weapons (not handgun or dangerous ordinance) charge, but this list is not exhaustive. Successfully asserting a statutory defense generally results in a dismissal of the charges. These defenses include:
- Transportation between your home and lawful place of work if reasonably necessary for defensive purposes due to the likelihood of a criminal attack. The owner of a jewelry or local convenience store, for example, may bring a legally owned rifle to and from work.
- For self or family defensive purposes, if engaged in lawful activity and with reasonable cause to fear a criminal attack. A family traveling with a weapon to a grocery store during a week of rioting or declared emergency could arguably carry a concealed weapon.
- Concealment in the home for lawful purposes, i.e., defense against intruders.
Experienced firearms defense attorneys know these exceptions and can determine if additional legal defenses are available in your case. Additional defenses often include lawful defense of a neighbor or rendering lawful assistance to a police officer.
11. Concealed Carry Charges with an Expired Concealed Carry License
Ohio’s concealed carry statute addresses those charged with a concealed carry offense because their CHLs expired. CHLs must be renewed every five years in Ohio. So long as (1) your CHL lapsed less than two years ago, (2) you renew your license within 45 days, (3) you present your license to the citing office, and (4) you plead guilty to the offense, you are subject to a reduced penalty of $500.
12. Can I Lose My Right to Own or Carry a Firearm After a Concealed Carry Violation?
Not usually, especially for first-time, misdemeanor offenders. You may lose your CHL, however, for failing to promptly cooperate with law enforcement officers during a stop or if additional charges are attached to the concealed carry violation. Your CHL is automatically suspended if you fail to promptly notify law enforcement that you are carrying a concealed weapon during a stop. Felony concealed carry offenders, however, may lose their firearms rights pursuant to federal or state law. The nature of the charges and specific facts of your case will determine the outcome of your firearms rights.
13. Can I Lose My Right to Obtain a CHL if I’m Found Guilty of Carrying a Concealed Weapon?
Not automatically, but obtaining your CHL requires a thorough background check and competency determination. Your local sheriff’s office may deny your CHL application under certain circumstances, but a misdemeanor concealed carry violation does not automatically prohibit you from obtaining a CHL. Consult with an experienced gun crimes defense attorney if you’re attempting to obtain a CHL after a firearms-related conviction in this or another state. Your Ohio firearms attorney may submit a statement and documentation explaining the nature of your conviction and increasing the likelihood you’ll be issued a CHL.