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Brandishing a Weapon Law in California - Penal Code Section 417

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Feb 22, 2018

Have you been accused of brandishing a weapon in Los Angeles, in violation of California Penal Code Section 417?

California Penal Code Section 417 criminalizes the act of someone drawing or exhibiting a deadly weapon in a rude or threatening manner in the presence of another individual. It does not matter if you intend to harm the individual, or if they even observed the weapon.

Brandishing a Weapon Law in California - Penal Code 417 PC
Penal Code 417 PC makes it a crime to draw or exhibit a deadly weapon in a rude or threatening manner in the presence of another person.

Under California law, you commit a crime the very moment you exhibit a weapon in an angry or threatening way. The terms “angry or threatening way” are often the key phrases that will be challenged in a brandishing a weapon case by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at our law firm.

Over our decades of criminal defense law practice, we have seen many cases where someone was just showing off their weapon, but someone nearby accused them of threats.

In basic terms, brandishing a weapon in California occurs when an individual exhibits, or bears a deadly weapon in a rude or offensive manner, or even unlawfully during a fight or brawl. California courts have defined a deadly weapon as any instrument capable of causing serious bodily injury.

This could include a large variety of items, including a baseball bat, brick, kitchen knife, blunt weapons, firearm, and shotgun, among many other items. Related crimes include Penal Code 12556 PC imitation firearms law, criminal storage of a firearm as defined under Penal Code 25100 PC, and Penal Code 247b PC shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building.

There are many situations where brandishing a weapon charges could apply, but the specific facts and circumstances are very important. In some cases, someone might be just attempting to defend themselves, but there were no rude or threatening gestures when their weapon was displayed.

Again, there is no legal requirement of intent to harm the other person; it's the act of showing the weapon in an angry manner that is the focus of the Los Angeles County prosecutor. Therefore, the legal defenses will typically challenge this critical element of the crime.

If you have facing allegations of brandishing a weapon in Los Angeles County, you need to call a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP. If you get a phone call from a police detective, just politely decline to answer their questions until you have the chance to speak with a lawyer.

You don't want to unintentionally make incriminating statements that will certainly be used against you later. Remember, police detectives are well paid to put together a criminal case against you in order to make an arrest. Let's examine more closely the crime of brandishing a weapon in California.

Brandishing a Weapon - Elements of the Crime

In order to be convicted of brandishing a weapon, the prosecutor has to be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, all the “elements of the crime.” These elements include:

  • (1) You were in possession of a deadly weapon defined by law;
  • (2) You exhibited the deadly weapon in the someone's presence in an rude, angry, or threatening manner, or;
  • (3) You unlawfully used the weapon during a fight or quarrel, and:
  • (4) You weren't acting in self defense.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will thoroughly review every element of the crime while preparing a defense strategy. If the LA County prosecutor can't prove every single element above, you should not be guilty of a brandishing a weapon offense.

What is a Deadly Weapon?

As stated above, a deadly weapon is any instrument that is capable of causing great bodily injury or death. By law, “great bodily injury” means significant or substantial physical injury. There are literally a countless number of items that could be considered a deadly weapon, including:

  • firearms,
  • rifles,
  • brass knuckles,
  • hammer,
  • pipe,
  • razor.

Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at our office for more detailed information.

Brandishing a Weapon – Legal Penalties

If convicted of brandishing a weapon with other than a firearm, it's a misdemeanor crime that can carry 30 days in the county jail.

Other offenses are called “wobblers,” meaning it can be criminally filed as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.

This decision is typically based on the circumstances of your case and criminal history.

If convicted of drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner or during a fight, you could face a 30 day jail sentence. If convicted of brandishing a firearm with a pistol or revolver in a public place, you could be sentenced to 3 months to 1 year in a county jail, along with a $1,000 fine.

Brandishing a Weapon – Legal Defenses

Our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm could use a wide range of strategies on your behalf, based on the specific facts and circumstances. These legal defenses include:

Self defense - If sufficiently threatened, under certain situations, it can be justified to use a weapon in self defense. This is why it's critical to sit down and thoroughly review exactly what happened to develop a realistic game plan on your behalf. Our highly experienced criminal defense lawyers may be able to successfully argue you were lawfully acting in self defense because your had a reasonable belief you were about to suffer imminent harm, and you used no more force than was necessary to defend against the danger.

Display was not threatening or angry – In some cases, our criminal lawyer might be able to present a successful argument that when you displayed the weapon, it was not in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, which is an important element of the crime to obtain a criminal conviction. We could argue you were just showing off your weapon, or it was just a prank.

False accusation – Our lawyers might be able to prove the brandishing weapon allegations are simply false. Our lawyers have seen cases where false allegations are made out of anger or jealously from a vengeful person. This is why we need to sit down with you to figure out exactly what happened.

Call our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm

Facing criminal charges of brandishing a weapon? Call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin to go over the details.

There are numerous legal strategies we could use on your behalf. In some situations, we may be able to negotiate a lesser charge or even obtain a dismissal. We are skilled negotiators and have been successful in preventing formal charges from being filed through pre-filing intervention.

Additionally, there are diversion programs and alternative sentences options foe individuals who qualify.

Our goal is to obtain the best possible outcome to protect your future.

Early intervention into your brandishing a weapon case by our lawyers can prove to be critical to the outcome. Contact our law firm at 877-781-1570. Eisner Gorin LLP 1875 Century Park East #705 Los Angeles, CA 90067 310-328-3776. 

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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