Michigan Gun Owners Can Be Charged With Violations For Honest Mistakes
Confusion over Michigan's gun laws and a surge in Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) arrests has many gun owners wondering how to legally transport firearms. The issue is especially pressing as hunting season ramps up.
Michigan is an open-carry state, but when it comes to transporting a firearm in your vehicle, the laws are quite restrictive. Unfortunately, too many gun owners end up facing serious charges for honest mistakes.
Manley & Manley is a Michigan criminal defense law firm that has more than 70 years of combined legal experience protecting the rights and freedoms of gun owners. If you are facing a "CCW" or other Michigan firearms violation, contact our gun charge lawyers for a free case consultation to learn more about the penalties you face and possible defenses.
In Michigan, who can legally transport a handgun in a vehicle?
The key question here is whether you have a concealed pistol license (CPL). While Michigan is an open carry state, you're required to have a license to carry a concealed weapon — and the law treats any weapon in a vehicle as concealed. There is no way to "open carry" in a vehicle. (And by the way, the law defines "vehicle" very broadly — not just cars, but also ATVs, golf carts, riding lawn mowers, even motorized scooters.) As such, in general, you need a CPL to have a handgun in your car.
If you don't have a CPL, then you are only allowed to have a pistol or handgun in your vehicle if it is properly stored:
- The weapon must be unloaded, meaning there is no ammunition in the firearm itself (a detachable magazine separated from the weapon is OK),
- The weapon must be stored in a closed case designed for carrying firearms, and
- The weapon must be stored in the trunk, or if the vehicle does not have a trunk, in another location out of the reach and control of occupants of the vehicle.
Of course, this only applies if you are legally allowed to possess a firearm in the first place. If you have lost your firearm rights due to a criminal conviction or mental health, then you cannot legally transport a firearm in your vehicle.
Can you drive around with a rifle in your car in Michigan?
There is no such thing as a concealed rifle license; a CPL only applies to handguns. As such, if you want to transport a long gun in your car, regardless of whether you have a CPL, the weapon must be unloaded and you must meet at least one of the following storage criteria:
- The weapon is taken down,
- The weapon is enclosed in a case designed for carrying firearms,
- The weapon is stored in the trunk, or
- The weapon is stored in a location inaccessible from the interior of the vehicle.
While the law doesn't require you to meet all of the storage criteria for long guns, the best option from both a safety and legal perspective is to do more than one of the above procedures. We recommend always transporting guns broken down, unloaded, enclosed in a case, and placed in the trunk or another inaccessible location.
Can you keep a loaded gun in your car in Michigan?
No. Under most circumstances, civilians transporting firearms must ensure that the guns are not loaded and that they are stored in a case in the trunk or are otherwise inaccessible to vehicle occupants.
What is the penalty for illegal transportation of a firearm in Michigan?
If you have a CPL, illegal transportation of a firearm is a misdemeanor that still comes with a stiff penalty. In most cases, you will face up to 90 days imprisonment.
If you do not have a CPL, improper or illegal transportation of a gun is a felony. A conviction may be punishable by jail or prison time.
Why have Michigan CCW arrests increased?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit Police launched a blitz against alleged CCW (conceal carry weapons) violators. The heavily criticized campaign has mostly arrested people for storing gun(s) in the wrong place while driving vehicles.
Does it matter where guns are stored in parked vehicles?
For the most part, no. Whether a vehicle is parked, stopped, or moving, on public or private property, Michigan gun laws still apply. The only exception is if the vehicle is parked on your own property, since it's always legal to carry concealed on your own property.
Do long guns need to be registered in Michigan?
No. Guns over 26 inches long do not require registration.
We will fight for your freedom
Manley & Manley firearm violation defense attorneys build strong cases that get results. We are based in Flint and serve Genesee County and all of Michigan. If you are facing a gun charge, contact us for a free case consultation to learn more about your legal options and how we can help.
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