You can legally purchase and own a gun in California unless you are a convicted felon. However, this right comes with restrictions. There are numerous and complex laws that dictate how you can use firearms. Acts like carrying a loaded firearm, brandishing a weapon, or using the gun to cause injury to someone else could attract an arrest and severe legal repercussions. Gun offenses are charges as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the specifics of your case.
If you are convicted of violating these gun laws, you risk facing a jail or prison sentence. Additionally, the conviction leaves a permanent criminal record that can ruin your life. Therefore, you must begin to fight the charges as soon as the arrest happens. A successful defense against a gun crime begins when you hire and retain a legal expert to help you understand your charges and help build a defense.
The right defense attorney can distinguish between a conviction and walking away with a dismissed case or not guilty verdict. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we work hard to protect your legal rights and guide you through building a solid defense against your charges. If you or your loved one faces charges for a gun offense in Los Angeles, California, you will require our legal insight.
Overview of Gun Offenses in California
California law allows most adults aged 21 or older to purchase firearms without a license. Unless you are a convicted felon or prohibited by the law, you can store the gun in your home or business. Additionally, you can legally carry it in your vehicle inside an enclosed container. However, California law has some of the most stringent gun laws that govern how you carry or use a firearm. Different statutes identify acts that constitute gun offenses, including:
Carrying a Concealed Firearm
Under PC 25400, carrying a concealed gun on your person or vehicle is a crime. The elements that constitute carrying a concealed firearm include:
- You carried a firearm on your person or within your vehicle. You bring a gun to your person if it is in your pocket or your purse. It is essential to understand that you can still be charged under this statute for allowing another person to hide a gun in your vehicle.
- The firearm was concealed. The prosecution must prove that the firearm in your possession was hidden. If you carry a gun in plain sight, you cannot be charged under this statute. Instead, you can face charges for a more severe offense or brandishing a weapon.
- You knew about the gun’s presence. You cannot be found guilty of something you know nothing about. Therefore, the prosecutor must prove your knowledge of the gun’s presence to probation a conviction in your case.
Carrying a concealed firearm can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on your criminal history and other case facts. If you have prior convictions for gun crimes in California, the prosecution will file felony charges. As a felony, conveying a concealed firearm will attract a prison sentence of sixteen months, two or three years. Additional fines of up to $10,000 could apply.
On the other hand, if the court finds you guilty of misdemeanor PC 25400, you risk spending a year in county jail. Sometimes, you can serve a probation sentence instead of jail time for your misdemeanor conviction.
Carrying a Loaded Gun in a Public Place
Carrying a loaded firearm on yourself or your vehicle in a public place will attract charges under PC 25850(a). The following elements must be clear before you face a conviction for carrying a loaded firearm in public:
- You Carried a firearm in person or your vehicle. Under this statute, a gun is any device designed to discharge a projectile and can be used as a weapon. Common examples of firearms include rifles, shotguns, or Tasers.
- The firearm was loaded. A gun is considered to be loaded if there is an unexpended shell or cartilage in the firing chamber.
- You knew that you were carrying a firearm. You cannot be guilty of carrying a loaded gun unless you know its presence.
- You carried the firearm in a public place. For PC 25850(a), you must have carried the gun in an open area for general use.
You will be exempt from laws on carrying a loaded firearm in public if:
- You are an honorably retired or active military officer
- You work as an armed security guard or money transporter
- You were lawfully carrying a hunting rifle
- You have a concealed weapon license
- You are a peace officer or detective
A simple violation of PC 25850 is a misdemeanor. However, the prosecution can file wobbler charges if you have a prior misdemeanor conviction. A wobbler is charged as a felony or misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, carrying a loaded firearm attracts a jail sentence of one year and a $1,000 fine. If you face a felony charge, you could be sentenced to a three-year sentence.
In addition to incarceration and fines, a conviction for carrying a loaded firearm could cause deportation or inadmissibility for non-citizens.
Assault with a Firearm
You commit the crime of assault when you inflict force or violence on another person. Assault with a firearm is similar to assault with a deadly weapon, the main difference being that the weapon is a gun. Assault with a firearm is charged under California PC 245(a)(2), and a conviction attracts severe legal penalties. If you face an arrest for assault with a firearm, you must understand the following elements that the prosecution will use to establish your guilt:
- You used a firearm in a way that could result in the application of force on someone else. Under this statute, the application of force doesn’t need to cause injury to the alleged victim. Additionally, evidence that the gun was loaded is necessary to support the assault with a firearm charge.
- Your actions were willful and intentional. You cannot be convicted for an accidental act. Therefore, the prosecutor has the burden to show that you deliberately acted in a manner likely to cause force application on the victim.
- When you acted, you should have known that a reasonable person would perceive your actions as likely to cause the application of force.
- You could apply force against the alleged victim. A willful intention for assault with a firearm must be coupled with the present ability to use force on someone.
Under California law, assault with a firearm is a wobbler. The prosecution can file your charge as a misdemeanor or a felony. The nature of your charges and the penalties you face after your conviction will vary depending on your criminal history and the type of firearm you used to commit the act.
As a felony, assault with a firearm attracts a four-year prison sentence and a maximum of $10,000 in fines. If you face a misdemeanor conviction, you risk spending six months to one year in county jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines.
Brandishing a Weapon
California PC 417 defines brandishing a weapon as a crime you commit when you exhibit or draw a deadly weapon in a threatening, angry or rude manner. Another act that could attract arrests and charges under PC 417 is drawing a firearm during a fight. If you are charged with brandishing a weapon in California law, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime to secure a conviction:
- You exhibited or drew a deadly weapon or firearm. This statute defines a deadly weapon as any instrument or object that can cause severe bodily injury or death to another person. On the other hand, a firearm can discharge a projectile through an explosion force.
- You drew the weapon in another person’s presence. You are only guilty of brandishing a gun if you exhibited it in the presence of another person.
- Your actions were angry, rude, or threatening.
Brandishing a weapon is a California wobbler. Some of the factors that could affect the nature of your charges include the following:
- Your criminal history
- The type of weapon or firearm used
- The classification of the alleged victim
Brandishing a deadly weapon or an unloaded firearm attracts misdemeanor charges. A conviction for misdemeanor PC 417 is punishable by a sentence of 30 days to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Under the following circumstances. The prosecutor could file felony charges:
- Brandishing a loaded firearm
- Brandishing a firearm at a minor or near a daycare center
- Brandishing a gun at a police officer
Felony brandishing of a firearm is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to two or three years.
Shooting at an Inhabited Dwelling
California PC 246 makes it a crime to shoot a firearm at an:
- Occupied building
- Inhabited dwelling
- Occupied aircraft
- Inhabited house cars such as a camper or RV
The court can find you guilty of shooting in an inhabited dwelling if the following is true about your case:
- You intentionally and maliciously discharged a firearm
- You shot the firearm at an inhabited building, vehicle, or aircraft. Shooting “at” does not necessarily mean shooting directly at the dwelling. If you shoot close to an inhabited place, you can face an arrest and charges under this statute.
Shooting at an inhabited dwelling is always charged as a felony. The penalties that accompany a PC 246 include the following:
- Formal probation
- A prison sentence of three, five, or seven years
- Fines of up to $10,000
You could suffer a penalty enhancement if you committed the crime to aid a street gang or if you caused significant bodily injury to another person. The street gang and significant physical injury enhancements can see you spend a lifetime in prison. In addition to prison time and fines, shooting at an inhabited dwelling is a strike under California's three strikes law.
Felon in Possession of a Firearm
California PC 2800(a)(1) makes it a crime for drug addicts and convicted felons to purchase, own, or possess firearms. When proving your guilt under this statute, the prosecution must prove these elements of the crime:
- You fall under the category of individuals prohibited from legally possessing a firearm. Three main groups of individuals are subject to prosecution under Penal Code 2800(a)(1). If you are a convicted felon, there is a felony arrest warrant for you, or you are a narcotics addict, possessing a firearm is a crime.
- You purchased, possessed, or owned a gun. As defined under this statute, a firearm could be anything from pistols to revolvers or shotguns. However, BB guns and pellet guns do not fall under this statute.
- You knew of the gun’s presence. Your knowledge of the gun’s presence is vital when prosecuting the crime of felon in firearm possession.
Firearm possession by a convicted felon is charged as a felony in California law. A conviction for this offense is punishable by a prison term ranging from 16 months to 3 years and fines that do not exceed $10,000.
Possession of an Unlicensed Firearm
California has laws that limit the type of weapons you can purchase or own. Purchase and possession of certain weapons, like machine guns, is illegal. However, some otherwise legal guns could be considered illegal if you lack the necessary registration. Although owning an unregistered gun is legal, taking it out of your home or business premise attracts criminal charges.
Whether or not the firearm is concealed r carried openly doesn’t play a part in your prosecution. If the prosecutor can prove that your gun is not registered with the Department of Justice, you could face a misdemeanor charge. A conviction for possessing an unregistered firearm is punishable by a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Drive by Shooting
California PC 26100 defines the crime of shooting a gun from a vehicle. Before you face a conviction under this statute, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You willfully allow another person to carry a gun in your vehicle and shoot it while in the car. The term willful means that your actions were deliberate. On the other hand, a malicious act involves intentional wrongful acts to disturb or injure another person.
- You intentionally fire a gun at another person within your vehicle.
If you violate California PC 26100, the prosecutor can file misdemeanor, wobbler, or straight felony charges. Allowing another person to shoot a firearm from your vehicle is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in county jail and a minimum of $1,000 in fines. On the other hand, if you fire the gun toward another person from the vehicle, the prosecution will file felony charges. A felony conviction for a drive-by shooting attracts a prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to three years and a $10,000 fine.
If you fire the gun from the car and cause injury, you will face a felony charge. A conviction, in this case, sees you spend up to seven years in state prison. In addition to prison time, felony drive-by-shooting will attract a lifetime loss of your gun rights. If you face an arrest and charges for drive-by-shooting, seeking legal guidance is crucial.
Illegal Sale of a Firearm
Studies show that most firearms used to commit violent crimes are obtained illegally. California Penal Code 26500 makes it illegal to transfer or sell guns without a valid license. California law requires all transactions involving the lease, sale, or transfer of firearms through a licensed firearm dealer. If the prosecution that you transferred a gun illegally, you can face an arrest and conviction under this statute.
You are exempt from prosecution under PC 26500 if you fall under the following categories:
- Individuals acting under the authority of a court order
- A person disposing of an inherited gun
- Law enforcement officers
- Transfer from dealers and importers with federal authorization
- Individuals using unloaded firearms as props in movies
- Delivery of unloaded relics to licensed collectors
- Temporary firearm loan at target shooting facilities
Illegal sale or transfer of a firearm is a misdemeanor. A conviction for the offense is punishable by a six months jail sentence and fines that do not exceed 1,000. You must understand that these penalties apply to each firearm you transfer without a license.
Common Defenses Against Charges for a Firearm Offense in California
The consequences of a conviction for a gun crime go beyond incarceration and hefty fines. The criminal record left behind by the conviction can affect the different aspects of your life, including difficulty obtaining a job and losing a professional practice license. Therefore, you should aggressively fight the charges to avoid a conviction. With the insight from an experienced gun crimes defense attorney, you can present the following defenses to your charges:
Accidental Firearm Discharge
When you face charges such as shooting in an inhabited vehicle or dwelling, the prosecution must prove that your actions were willful. Therefore, you can fight such charges by arguing that the firearm discharge was accidental.
No-Ownership of the Firearm
Some criminal charges are based on your possession and ownership of assault weapons or rifles. For such an offense, a critical element that prosecutors must establish is that you owned or were in control of the firearm at the time of the arrest. A skilled attorney can help prove that you do not own the firearm and push the case toward a dismissal.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Criminal charges for most gun crimes are based on evidence collected during an illegal search and seizure. Even when you are suspected of committing a crime, law enforcement officers cannot legally search your home or vehicle without a valid warrant. Most police officers ignore the fourth amendment laws for fear that the time used to obtain a search warrant could cause a loss of evidence. With the guidance of your attorney, you can petition the court to dismiss any evidence obtained through an illegal search.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers coerce you into committing a crime. The critical aspect of entrapment is not exploiting an opportunity to violate the law. California law expects you to resist any ordinary terminating to commit a crime. However, when government agents use threats or overbearing tactics to induce you into criminal activities, you can avoid a conviction for the alleged gun crime.
Using a gun to injure or kill another person attracts serious felony charges. However, there is an exception to this law when you may be justified to use extreme force on someone else. No law prevents you from defending yourself from foreseeable harm. Therefore, California law allows you to assert self-defense as a justification for firearm use. When using self-defense for your gun crime charges, you argue that you intended to protect yourself and not harm the alleged victim.
Before the court accepts this defense, you must prove the following elements:
- You believed that you were in danger of being injured or killed
- You reasonably felt that the use of the firearm was necessary to stop the threat
- You did not use force that is more than necessary to control the situation
Find a Reliable Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Although most citizens can legally own a firearm in California, the state has implemented strict rules on carrying, displaying, or discharging these firearms. You can face serious criminal charges for simple acts such as drawing a firearm during a fight or even carrying a concealed firearm in a public location. If you face an arrest and charges for violating California gun laws, you risk spending a significant amount of time behind bars. The court could impose hefty fines and strip you of your right to purchase or own a firearm.
Arrests for gun crimes do not always result in a conviction. However, your best bet to avoid these harsh consequences is to have a strategic defense. Gun laws can be very complicated to navigate, especially when you are a first-time offender. Therefore, enlisting the services of a skilled criminal attorney is critical. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we offer professional legal guidance and representation to our clients battling charges for gun crimes in Los Angeles, CA. Contact us at 424-333-0943 to discuss the details of your case