Review of Firearm Laws and Defenses in California
Gun laws in California are notoriously strict, including more than 100 state laws that regulate everything from mandatory background checks to purchase guns and ammunition to outright firearm possession bans for individuals with criminal, drug abuse, or mental health histories that put them in "high-risk" groups.
In fact, the state's gun laws are some of the harshest in the nation, increasing the likelihood that you may get caught for a firearm related offense.
You could be face felony or a misdemeanor charges for your firearms offense in California, depending on the type of crime, intent, and prior criminal history.
A conviction for a violent firearm offense can have devastating consequences, resulting in a lengthy prison sentence.
Further, there are different types of sentencing enhancements that could apply, such as California's 10-20-life gun sentencing enhancement defined under Penal Code 12022.53.
This is commonly known as the "use a gun and you're done" law and applies to specific serious felony crimes, such as Penal Code 187 PC murder, Penal Code 215 PC carjacking, Penal Code 211 PC robbery, Penal Code 207 PC kidnapping, and other violent crimes.
For additional information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing an outline below.
Most Common Firearm Offenses in California
In California, laws regulating firearms primarily intend to stop individuals from owning guns in certain circumstances, as well as brandishing or shooting them, particularly when others may reasonably be harmed.
In general, some of the most common gun-related charges include:
Penal Code 25850 PC - carrying a loaded firearm in a public place or vehicle, which can lead to misdemeanor charges or even a felony if there are specific aggravating circumstances.
Penal Code 25400 PC - carrying a concealed firearm. A gun must be unloaded before you carry it on your person or transport it in your vehicle. Carrying a loaded gun in public can lead to additional penalties if you were near a school or government building.
Penal Code 245 PC - assault with a deadly weapon. This refers to any assault on someone else with a gun or other type of firearm, and the charges apply whether or not you were successful in your attempt.
Penal Code 26100 PC – drive-by shooting at a home, building, or vehicle – particularly if the dwelling or building was occupied. In a drive-by shooting, criminal charges apply whether you were actually the one firing the gun or the one driving the car while someone else fired.
Penal Code 417 PC - brandishing a weapon, which refers to displaying a firearm in a threatening way, such as pointing a gun at someone. Additional charges will apply if someone was injured.
Penal Code 26500 PC - illegal sale of a firearm, which could include dealing weapons without a license or illegally obtaining a weapon.
Penal Code 29800 PC - possession of a firearm by a felon, which is illegal in California. Individuals with certain misdemeanors are also barred from having a gun, as are individuals who are addicted to narcotics.
Additionally, the following weapons are never allowed in the state of California:
- machine guns and conversion parts,
- short-barreled rifles,
- unregistered firearms,
- assault weapons.
Levels of Firearm Crimes in California
When you're charged with a weapons offense in California, it may be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony (wobbler), depending on the circumstances of the crime as well as your criminal history and other factors.
Additional penalties may be assessed when gun enhancement laws come into play.
- misdemeanor weapons charges carry a punishment of up to one year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
- felony weapons charges carry a punishment of one to 20 years in a California state prison.
- gun enhancements refer to additional penalties that can be added to a sentence for a crime that involves a firearm, such as 10 additional years for having a gun, 20 additional years for firing a gun, and more than 25 years for a gun-related crime that resulted in injury or death.
In 2019, new state legislation gave judges the discretion to remove gun enhancements, when previously these attachments were mandatory.
Because your sentence – and the next 10 to 20 years of your life – could be determined based solely on the judge's opinion, this makes it even more imperative to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who has your best interests at heart.
Criminal Defense for Firearm Offenses in California
If you're charged with a gun-related crime in California, the consequences can be extremely serious and life-changing.
Before you appear in court, it is imperative to fully know and understand your rights and seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Because of the severity and complexity of firearm charges in California, you need a skilled attorney on your side to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
There are several common defense strategies we can use to fight the case, including:
- accidental firing of weapon,
- no criminal intent,
- lack of knowledge on weapon's presence,
- unlawful search and seizure,
- police entrapment.
If you were defending yourself, or another person, while having a reasonable belief you were in imminent danger of being killed, or suffer serious bodily injury, then we could use a self-defense argument.
In other cases, we might be able to argue you were unaware of the weapon's existence in your vehicle.
For example, perhaps you borrowed a friend's vehicle and were simply not aware there was a weapon under the car seat.
Maybe we can make an argument there was misconduct by the police, such as an unlawful search and seizure.
We could make a Penal Code 1538.5 motion to suppress evidence, which could make the evidence inadmissible in court.
It might be possible to negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges, or even prevent the filing of formal weapons charges through prefiling intervention.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm representing clients in all Southern California courtrooms.
We have a detailed understanding of the state's gun laws, as well as the legal experience necessary to help you build a strong defense.
We have two office locations in Los Angeles County, including our main office in the San Fernando Valley.
Contact our office for an immediate consultation at (877) 781-1570.