When is a Weapon Truly Concealed and Can I Carry a Weapon without a CPL?

by: Matt Newburg

04/23/2016 07:39 AM EST

The crime of carrying a concealed weapon contains two primary elements: first, that the weapon was knowingly carried, and second, that the weapon was concealed. Complete invisibility of the weapon is not required; concealment is found where the weapon cannot be easily seen by those who come into ordinary contact with the defendant. This standard can be tricky because it does not require that an observer actually see the weapon, only that a hypothetical person who came into ordinary contact with the defendant could, potentially, have seen the weapon easily.

This standard was put to the test in a case decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals where the defendant was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. In that case, the police were engaged in a raid of an illegal after-hours liquor store when the ironically-named Officer Booze met the defendant who he observed from 5 or 6 feet away to be holding and then throw an unknown dark object. The object glanced off Officer Booze’s head and only after picking the object up did Booze realize that it was a handgun. Another nearby officer testified that the area around the door was dark and he also could not clearly see or identify the object while the defendant held it. A jury rendered a guilty verdict and the defendant appealed. In overturning the jury’s conviction, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the officers’ inability to identify the gun as the defendant held it were inconsequential to the elements of the concealed weapons statute. Rather, they were a consequence of the surrounding circumstances which were not conducive to casual observation; casual observation being the operative standard. “. . . [T]he lumination available and the instantaneous nature of the observation are not factors which can be used to bolster concealment.” The court further observed that “part of a revolver . . . covered by its holder’s hand does not by itself constitute concealment.”

Michigan is an open-carry state.  That means, someone can openly carry a firearm without a Concealed Weapons Permit or CPL provided that individual meet certain requirements which are clearly articulated by Michigan Law.  A person without a CPL can legally open carry a pistol as long as the pistol they are carrying has been lawfully purchased in accordance with MCL 28.422 and is registered in their name and they are at least 18 years of age. Without a CPL you may NOT carry a firearm that belongs to and is registered to someone other than yourself.  MCL 28.422(1) states that “except as otherwise provided in this act, a person shall not purchase, carry, possess, or transport a pistol in this state without first having obtained a license for the pistol as prescribed in this section.”  As the above cited law states a person may not carry or possess a firearm without obtaining it in accordance with that particular law. Therefore if you have obtained a firearm in accordance with MCL 28.422 by receiving a permit to purchase or by purchasing a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer as the law dictates then you may lawfully open carry that pistol.

You must also be aware of the laws that govern transporting a firearm in your vehicle.  A person without a CPL is prohibited under MCL 750.227 (2) from possessing a pistol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle:

"(2) A person shall not carry a pistol concealed on or about his or her person, or, whether concealed or otherwise, in a vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business, or on other land possessed by the person, without a license to carry the pistol as provided by law and if licensed, shall not carry the pistol in a place or manner inconsistent with any restrictions upon such license."

What that means is that you cannot carry a pistol in your vehicle in Michigan without a CPL. Even if your pistol is not concealed, it still falls under the "otherwise" clause in the statute upon entering a vehicle.  There is an exception for transporting a firearm, however you need to be very diligent in making sure you are complying with all aspects of the law as it is very easy to slip and face felony charges for carrying a concealed weapon. Below will describe how you can transport your firearm safely and lawfully for open carry if you do not have a CPL.  

Unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon in Michigan is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $2,500 fine and governed by MCL 750.227.