Obligation to Inform Police Officers

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Understanding Ohio's Must Inform Law

The State of Ohio's concealed handgun law requires notification that you are armed and licensed to carry a firearm. This law has no known definitive case law that has ever defined what is or is not "promptly" despite some cases being thrown out, but there are some areas of confusion as to when you must inform. Prudence suggests you simply aggressively but calmly inform as soon as you realize you're being stopped for a law enforcement purpose.

Reference: 2923.126(A) - Duties of licensed individual

When do you NOT have to inform?

In each scenario outlined below there are three primary requirements that must all be met for you to have a legal obligation to inform:

  1. This only applies if you are a concealed handgun licensee (if you have obtained a CHL and are openly carrying you are still legally a licensee)
  2. This only applies if you are transporting or have a loaded handgun. (If you have no firearms or just firearms other than handguns, or they're not loaded, notification may not be required)
  3. This only applies if you are stopped for a law enforcement purpose, which should always be assumed during a traffic stop.

Technically speaking if all three elements are not met then the requirement to inform appears not to be required. Further, a person who is merely

The law makes reference to the phrase "promptly inform" - but there is absolutely no legislative definition of promptly, nor is there any case law that defines a time limit at which point one is deemed guilty of failing to "promptly" inform. There are anecdotal stories of police officers aggressively asking questions to "control" the situation and refusing to let occupants speak anything other than what they want to hear. It helps to practice how you intend to inform.

The reality is that any police officer who runs your driver's license or the license plates of a vehicle registered in your name will almost always be advised of your license status if not before they exit their vehicle to speak with you. It is a common opinion of many to simply inform and clarify that you are not carrying that day if that is the case and there is nothing wrong with this approach, however it is wrong to imply that this is required by law.

When stopped in any motor vehicle by law enforcement WHILE ARMED or TRANSPORTING a loaded handgun

At any time that you are stopped in a motor vehicle as the driver, or even as an occupant, as the result of a traffic stop or other law enforcement purpose, and if you are transporting OR have a loaded handgun in the motor vehicle at that time, you "shall promptly inform" the officer that you:

  1. Have been issued a concealed handgun license
  2. Currently possess a loaded firearm

The law further states that you shall not knowingly touch the firearm: "...and the licensee shall not knowingly have contact with the loaded handgun by touching it with the licensee's hands or fingers, in any manner... ...after any law enforcement officer begins approaching the licensee while stopped and before the officer leaves.

Reference: 2923.126(A) - Duties of licensed individual

When stopped in any motor vehicle by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Unit WHILE ARMED or TRANSPORTING a loaded handgun

This law also applies to anyone stopped by "the Motor Carrier Enforcement Unit" which is a unit of the Ohio State Patrol that stops commercial motor vehicles despite these "employees of the unit" apparently not being law enforcement officers.

Reference: 2923.126(A) - Duties of licensed individual

When stopped by law enforcement other than a motor vehicle stop

All of the qualifiers remain in place, however there are potential scenarios where a person licensed and carrying a firearm could come into contact with a law enforcement officer and not be required to "promptly inform" despite being armed. Some examples may include:

  • If you are in line at Subway and strike up a conversation with a uniformed police officer you have not necessarily been "stopped for a law enforcement purpose"
  • If you are walking to a festival and a police officer is manipulating the traffic light and you pass them YOU are not being "stopped for a law enforcement purpose"
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