Although it is legal to own a gun in California, gun owners are subject to various restrictions. Our duty at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney is to help you fight gun-related charges among other criminal charges you may be facing in Los Angeles, California. In this article, our defense attorneys explain everything you need to know about gun offenses and how you can contact us for legal advice and representation.
California Laws on Gun Possession
Pursuant to Penal Code 29810, you must relinquish your firearm to the authorities if you are convicted of crimes such as murder, assault, or poisoning. Once you are prohibited from owning a gun, you should not also hold any ammunition. If such a restriction does not apply to you, you may get a firearm or ammunition. However, civilians are prohibited from owning armor piercing ammunition.
Concealed Firearm Permits
Penal Codes 26150 and 26155 highlight the guidelines on permits needed for carrying a concealed firearm. A concealed firearm permit allows you to own a revolver, pistol or any other gun that is capable of being concealed. You must also comply with the conditions and terms outlined in the permit. Chief of police or local sheriff departments issue civilians these permits provided that they meet the following requirements:
- They have a good moral character
- They have a good cause for obtaining the license
- They are residents of that city
- They have completed a prescribed course on firearms training
When is Carrying or Possessing a Firearm Considered an Offense in California?
California's gun possession laws may not work in your favor if you are carrying or in possession of an illegal firearm. You will also face criminal penalties for illegally carrying or possessing an otherwise legal firearm. Under Penal Code 29800, you may be subject to criminal prosecution for owning or acquiring guns when you are a felony offender, misdemeanor offender or narcotic drug addict.
Penal Code 25400 makes it illegal to carry a concealed firearm when any of the following conditions is true:
- Carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle that is under your control when the gun is capable of being concealed
- Causing the concealed gun to be carried in a car in which you are an occupant
- Carrying a concealed weapon that is capable of being concealed on your person
- Carrying a firearm openly in a belt holster.
Carrying a Loaded Firearm in Public
Pursuant to Penal Code 25850, it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm in public or in your car (other than carrying it in a locked container or a trunk). A loaded firearm has an unexpended shell or cartridge attached to it. The shell or cartridge may include a clip, magazine or firing chamber attached to a gun. Though it may seem unfair, prosecutors may charge you for violating PC 25850 even when the firearm is inoperable.
The only exception you have towards facing a PC 25850 charge may be based on your lack of knowledge about the loaded gun. Note that carrying a concealed firearm (punishable under PC 25400) is different from carrying a loaded firearm. If your firearm is both concealed and loaded, California prosecutors will charge you under both laws. You may have the charges dismissed if you hold valid carry permit.
Possession of a Gun on School Grounds
Penal Code 626.9, which is known as the Gun-Free School Zone Act, considers the act of bringing or carrying a gun on school grounds as a crime. You will be charged for this offense provided that you were within 1,000 feet of the school. The charge is still applicable to you if you discharged or attempted to discharge a gun within a school zone by recklessly disregarding other people's safety.
Bringing a Loaded Firearm into a Government Building
Carrying a loaded firearm to a government building is a crime pursuant to Penal Code 171c. Examples of government buildings include any legislative office, the State Capitol, Assembly or Senate hearing rooms, California State Capitol and the Governor's office. You will only be permitted to bring the firearm in a government building if you hold a valid license and you are permitted by the building's authorities to carry it.
Possessing a Weapon Within a Passenger Vessel Terminal or an Airport
Knowingly carrying a firearm, gun or any ammunition within a sterile area, a passenger vessel terminal or an airport is a crime under Penal Code 171.5. A sterile area is a designated area in an airport meant for screening property and people. You will face a PC 171.5 charge if you do not have a valid permit for carrying the weapon within these premises. Expect to be arrested by a peace officer duly appointed to serve in the sterile area, passenger vessel terminal or airport.
California Laws on Using a Gun
Using a firearm illegally can attract severe penalties just like carrying a gun without a valid permit. Examples of illegal use of firearms include drive-by shooting, inflicting bodily injury while brandishing a gun and assault with a firearm.
Brandishing a Gun in a Threatening or Rude Manner
Penal Code 417 considers the act of brandishing a firearm or weapon angrily or rudely as an offense. Prosecutors will still charge you for this crime even if you did not intend to cause harm or you were not acting in self-defense. Brandishing, in this case, refers to the drawing, exhibiting or using a weapon angrily or rudely. Such a crime may be punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the crime scene.
In the event a PC 417 violation causes serious bodily injury, you may face either a felony or misdemeanor charge depending on the severity of the injury. The charge will be prosecuted pursuant to Penal Code 417.6. The types of injury highlighted under this law include bruises, impairment of a body organ, bone fracture, concussion and loss of consciousness.
A drive-by shooting can be defined as the act of discharging a firearm from a car under Penal Code 26100. You will be charged for a drive-by shooting whether the motor vehicle was static or in motion at the time you committed the crime. For you to be convicted under PC 26100 for this offense, the following conditions must be true:
- Knowingly allowing someone else to bring a loaded gun into a car you are driving or a car that you own
- Willfully and maliciously firing a gun at someone else within a vehicle
- Knowingly allowing someone else to shoot a gun within a car you are driving, or own
- Willfully and maliciously firing a weapon while in a car
As the owner or driver of the motor vehicle, you may face up to six months in a county jail or pay up to $1,000 in fines for a misdemeanor PC 21600 violation. A PC 21600 felony violation will attract up to $10,000 in fines and a state prison sentence, which ranges from 16 months to three years. The same penalties will apply to the shooters for the misdemeanor or felony PC 21600 violations.
Assault with a Gun
Assaulting someone else with a gun is a crime punishable under Penal Code 245(a)(2). You do not have to impose bodily injury on the person for you to face this charge. You may face up to 12 years in the California state prison for using firearms such as a .50 BMG rifle or a semi-automatic pistol to commit this crime. The prison sentence might be limited to eight years if you directed the assault towards school employees or a peace officer.
Penalties for Gun Offenses in California
Owing, possessing, purchasing or receiving a gun when you have a criminal felony record in California is a crime under PC 29800. Penalties for these crimes include having your gun rights revoked for more than ten years. As a juvenile, a conviction for such an offense may prohibit you from owning a gun until you are 30 years of age.
Penalties for Carrying a Concealed Firearm
Carrying a concealed firearm in violation of PC 25400 is punishable in various ways. Your charge may be punished as a felony if you have a previous felony conviction in your criminal record or if you are prohibited from owning a firearm. Expect it to qualify as a felony if you stole the gun or knew or had a reasonable belief that the gun was stolen. You may face a felony charge for violating PC 25400 if you were an active participant of a criminal street gang during the time you were arrested.
If you were convicted for committing a crime against any property or person, the penalty for a PC 25400 violation is imprisonment as outlined under PC 1170. In such a case, PC 1170 makes it mandatory to attend restorative, rehabilitative and educational programs in the course of your imprisonment. If you are not listed as the registered owner of the firearm, you may face a county jail imprisonment sentence not exceeding one year or pay up to $1,000 as a fine. You may also be asked to serve the imprisonment sentence and pay the fine for the offense.
You may face county jail time ranging from three to six months if you violated PC 25400 with a prior misdemeanor conviction. If the judge grants you probation for violating PC 25400 when you had a prior misdemeanor or felony charge, your county jail sentence will be less than three months. A peace officer may arrest you for failing to comply with the terms of your misdemeanor or felony probation.
Penalties for Carrying a Loaded Firearm
Under Penal Code 25850(c), you may face a misdemeanor or felony charge for carrying a loaded gun in public. If the charge is a misdemeanor, you will pay a fine not exceeding $1,000, go to jail for not more than a year or face both penalties. Your charge will only be considered as a felony if the following circumstances are true:
- You have a felony conviction record
- The gun had been stolen, and you had a reasonable belief that it was stolen
- You are an active participant in a particular criminal street gang
- The firearm does not legally belong to you
In California, penalties for a felony charge may include a fine not more than $10,000, or an imprisonment term in state prison or county jail. A California judge may also sentence you to formal probation to have you rehabilitated and enable you to lead a law-abiding life. Some of the conditions for felony probation emphasize community service and searches on your property with/without a warrant.
Penalties for Bringing a Gun on School Grounds
Under PC 629.9(f), carrying a firearm near or in a school for kindergarten or grade 1 to 12 children is a crime punishable by an imprisonment term ranging from two to five years. The imprisonment term may range from three to seven years if you acted in disregard of other people’s safety. You will also be punished pursuant to PC 1170 if you had a prior felony or misdemeanor conviction.
Penalties for Bringing a Gun into a Government Building
You may be subjected to either a felony or misdemeanor penalties for violating PC 171c. For a misdemeanor violation, the penalties include a maximum fine of $1,000 and a county jail sentence of up to one year. Consequently, the penalties for a felony violation include a county jail sentence ranging from 16 months to three years.
Penalties for Carrying a Gun in an Airport, a Sterile Area or a Passenger Vessel Terminal
You may spend a maximum of six months in local county jail when you are found guilty of violating PC 171.5. A California judge may ask you to pay a fine not exceeding $1,000 for committing such an offense.
Penalties for Possessing, Manufacturing or Selling Assault Weapons
Guns that qualify as assault weapons under Penal Code 30600 include Uzis, Colt AR-15 series semiautomatic rifles and Uzis. PC 30600 imposes a ban on over 50 types of guns that are deemed as assault weapons. Carrying, selling or manufacturing these prohibited weapons without a permit is a crime punishable under this law. A misdemeanor violation of this law attracts up to one year sentence in a county jail while a felony violation attracts a county jail sentence that ranges from 16 months to 3 years.
Legal Defenses to Fight Charges on Gun Offenses
The legal defenses to use when facing gun charges depend on the offense you are accused of committing. Your lawyer can prepare suitable defenses for the charge you are facing. Some of the defenses are as follows:
- You have a valid license to carry the gun
The prosecutors will dismiss any accusations against you if you had a valid permit or license for carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to Penal Codes 26155 and 26150. Being in possession a gun will also be legal if you are licensed as a firearms dealer. For this defense to be effective, you have to produce a valid license.
- You did not have the ability to inflict harm on anyone
Such a defense may be suitable for an "assault with a gun" charge. One of the requirements for an assault charge is the ability to inflict force that is likely to cause bodily injury on someone else. The assault charge can be dismissed if your attorney proves that you did not have the mental or physical ability to inflict bodily harm on another person.
- You carried a gun in self-defense
Arguing that you carried a gun for self-defense may help you fight gun charges such as "assault with a gun" and "carrying a concealed firearm." At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our firm belief is that such a defense is only admissible in court if you had a reasonable belief that your life was in grave danger. You may have also carried the gun to cope with someone else's threats that justify the basis for a restraining order.
- The police found the gun during an unwarranted search
For the police officers to search you or your property, they must have your consent and a probable cause for the search. They also need a valid California search warrant. A gun obtained during an illegal search is inadmissible in a California court.
- You were not aware that you were carrying a gun
Prosecutors use "knowledge" as one of the prerequisites for building a case on a gun offense. You may be innocent of carrying a concealed firearm if you did not know that the gun was in your possession. It is possible for someone else to hide the weapon in your backpack or car without your knowledge.
Seek Help on Gun Charges from a Defense Attorney Near Me
As diverse as gun charges tend to be, they may have negative consequences on your life when you are convicted of any of these offenses. Seeking legal advice and representation is your best hope to fighting these charges. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Law Firm offers expert legal assistance across Los Angeles, CA. Call our Los Angeles criminal lawyer today at 424-333-0943 for an initial consultation.