California has countless regulations that govern the purchase, use, and possession of firearms. Even though most offenses are related to unlawful use and ownership of guns, even something as “minor” as carrying a firearm with an expired permit could end you on the wrong side of the law. If the police charge you with a gun crime, your first move should be to seek legal counsel from a seasoned criminal defense attorney. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we understand gun laws in detail and can help you fight any firearm-related charge. Let us help you build a strong defense and, by extension, protect your rights and future.
Like most states, California is tough on gun offenses. The majority of crimes are wobblers often charged as felonies. Whether you are a first-time or repeat offender, a conviction could quickly leave you behind bars and paying hefty fines. Having the right defense team on your corner could make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
Gun Offenses Explained
“Gun offenses” is a broad term used to describe a whole spectrum of firearm-related crimes. This includes both misdemeanors and serious felonies that attract harsher penalties. One of the key reasons you must work with an experienced attorney is that California gun laws are pretty complicated. Apart from having dozens of special rules that apply to specific people or scenarios, countless exceptions mark the line between legal and unlawful gun use and possession.
Moreover, most citizens within the state have a right to own firearms. However, some limits and restrictions govern this right. It’s always best to seek legal counsel, especially if you don’t fully understand the charges filed against you.
Common Types of Gun/Firearms Offenses In California
It’s only in rare cases that an adult aged 21 or older in California is prohibited from buying, owning, or possessing a gun. If you enjoy the right to own a firearm, it is crucial to understand the restrictions imposed by state laws. These restrictions govern how you can store, transport, or even carry your gun. Unfortunately, even gun offenses charged as misdemeanors still attract significant penalties.
Here are some of the common types of firearm crimes:
Penal Code 245(a)(2) —Assault with a Gun
Penal Code 245(a)(2) makes it a crime to assault another person using a firearm. This is irrespective of whether an incident causes a victim’s injury or just leaves them emotionally shaken. For instance, pressing a gun against a victim constitutes assault with a firearm. You are also guilty of the offense if you wave your gun at the victim or fire the weapon but miss.
The prosecution can impose charges for violating PC 245(a)(2) as long as you made an unlawful attempt to assault your victim and also had the present ability to harm them.
Here are the elements of the crime:
- The accused used a firearm to perform an act that could cause the direct or probable application of force against the victim
- The defendant acted willfully
- The accused knew that their actions would give their victim reason to believe that their life or safety was in danger
- The defendant had the present ability to use their firearm to apply force against the victim
Violating PC 245(a)(2) is a wobbler offense that may attract the following punishment:
- Felony conviction—2, 3, or 4 years imprisonment
- Misdemeanor conviction —6—12 month’s jail time
Penal Code 25850— Possession of a Loaded Firearm
Under the2nd amendment of the constitution, citizens in California and America at large have the right to own firearms. This right, however, comes with a unique set of limitations and regulations. For instance, Penal Code 25850 makes it illegal to carry a loaded gun into a public place or motor vehicle. According to the law, even an inoperable firearm is considered loaded if it has an unexpended shell or cartridge.
Violating PC 25850 is a wobbler offense often charged as a misdemeanor. Depending on the facts of a case, a conviction may be subject to sentence enhancement. The elements of PC 25850 are as follows:
- The accused carried a loaded gun in person or their vehicle
- The defendant had knowledge of the firearm
- The accused took the loaded weapon into a public location where it is unlawful to discharge a gun
Penal Code 25400 is pretty similar to Penal Code 2580. Under PC 25400, it is illegal to carry a concealed gun into a public place. You can face charges for the offense, irrespective of whether you carry the weapon in person or in your car. The main difference between the two Penal Codes is that PC25400 doesn’t involve carrying the firearm in plain sight. Nonetheless, both offenses attract the same punishments.
Following a conviction, a defendant may suffer the following penalties:
- One year jail time
- $1,000 maximum fine
- Up to 3 years incarceration
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
Penal Code 29800(a)(1) PC — Felon In Possession Of A Gun
Convicted felons don’t have a right to gun ownership as long as they have outstanding warrants. You have a case to answer even if the firearm in your possession is legal and has a valid license. Apart from felons with outstanding warrants, other persons stripped of their gun rights under PC 29800 include people convicted of violent gun crimes or those addicted to narcotics.
There are elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. They include:
- You fall under one of the groups of people prohibited from carrying firearms
- You bought, owned, received, or possessed a gun
- You knew about the presence of the firearm
Violating PC 29800(a)(1) is a felony. Punishment for the crime is as follows:
- Jail time for up to 3 years
- A maximum fine of $10,000
Penal Code 171c — Carrying a Loaded Gun into a Government Building
Under Penal Code 171c, carrying a dangerous weapon or firearm into government buildings is unlawful. This may include legislative offices, the state capital, hearing rooms accessed by members of the senate or national assembly, and any constitutional officer’s office. The laws give certain exemptions that extend to certain people.
For instance, peace officers from the state or other states and active or retired peace officers with proper authorization are excused from Penal Code 171c.
Violating PC 171c is a wobbler offense that attracts the following penalties:
- Up to 1-year incarceration
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Jail time for 16 months to 3 years
Penal Code 626.9 — Carrying a Firearm on School Grounds
Under the state’s Gun-Free School Zone Act, it is unlawful to possess or discharge a gun within a school zone. Essentially, this means that you should not carry or fire a firearm within 1,000 feet of any learning institution, irrespective of whether it’s a private or public school.
Like Penal Code 171c, this statute also has some exceptions. You may not have a case to answer if:
- You were legally transporting the firearm(s) within a securely locked container or trunk
- You have authorization to conceal-carry a gun because of your occupation within the school zone
- You are an active peace officer or one that is honorably retired
- You had reason to believe that your safety or life was in jeopardy
Carrying a gun into a school zone is a wobbler offense. However, it is often charged as a felony, especially if the prosecution unveils aggravating factors. These factors may include:
- You are a felon with an outstanding warrant
- You don’t have the right to own, buy or possess a gun
- You accessed a school zone with a firearm and discharged it
Punishment for the crime is as follows:
- Misdemeanor — 2 to 5 years’ imprisonment
- Felony — 3, 5, or 7 year’s jail time
Violating PC 626.9 is a serious offense, and a conviction may attract a sentence enhancement. The court is likely to revoke your gun rights regardless of whether you are convicted for a felony or misdemeanor. Moreover, the crime is a removable offense capable of being deported if you are not a U.S citizen.
Penal Code 171.5 — Carrying a Firearm into a Passenger Vessel Terminal/ Airport
Under Penal Code 171.5(b), it is a criminal offense to carry a firearm or dangerous weapon into a “sterile area” of an airport or passenger vessel terminal. The “sterile area” is the security checkpoint where passengers undergo screening by the TSA (Transportation Security Agency).
Some of the gun offenses related to this crime include:
- Penal Code 171.7 — Carrying a firearm into a public transit facility
- Penal Code 171(b) — Possessing a gun in a public building or at a public meeting
- Penal Code 171(d) — Accessing the Governor’s mansion in possession of a gun
A Penal Code 171.5 violation is a misdemeanor punishable by:
- 6 months incarceration
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
Penal Code 417—Brandishing a Gun or Deadly Weapon
Penal Code 417 illegalizes brandishing a gun or deadly weapon. Even though the offense is a wobbler often charged as a misdemeanor, it is considered a violent gun crime. A conviction can have negative implications on your gun rights and immigration status.
For the prosecution to convict you, they must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You exhibited or drew out a gun or deadly weapon in the presence of your victim(s)
- You acted in an angry, offensive, threatening, or rude manner
- You pulled out your gun during a quarrel or fight
- You were not acting in self-defense
Other gun offenses that may be charged instead of or alongside brandishing a firearm include:
- Penal Code 245(a)(1) — Assault with a deadly weapon
- Penal Code245(a)(2) — Assault with a firearm
- Penal Code245(a)(4) —Assault by means likely to cause significant bodily injury
If convicted for violating Penal Code 417, the punishment may include:
- Misdemeanor— Imprisonment for up to 1 year
- Felony— Incarceration for up to 3 years
Penal Code 246 PC — Shooting at an Occupied Building or Vehicle
Under Penal Code 246, it is illegal to discharge a gun at an occupied building, automobile, aircraft, or house cars such as a camper or RV. Like most gun crimes, this offense is a wobbler often charged as a felony. Furthermore, a conviction can attract sentence enhancements in case of aggravating factors such as the death or injury of a victim.
The Penal Code 246 statute has a strict legal definition that a crime must meet before the prosecution can convict you. The elements of this offense are as follows:
- You discharged your firearm willfully and with malice
- You fired at an inhabited building, vehicle, aircraft or house-car
If the prosecution can prove the above elements and the court finds you guilty of the charges you face, your punishment may include:
- Misdemeanor — 6 months to 1 year incarceration in county jail
- Felony — 3, 5, 7 years imprisonment in state prison
Penal Code 247 PC – Discharging a Firearm at an Uninhabited Building or Unoccupied Vehicle
Penal Code 247b is pretty similar to PC 246. The main difference is that the latter involves shooting at a building or vehicle that has no occupants. Again, this is a wobbler offense, although it’s often charged as a felony.
Even though shooting at an unoccupied dwelling is perceived to be a lesser offense than shooting an occupied building, a conviction has devastating repercussions. Fortunately, a skilled criminal defense attorney can work to have your charges dismissed or reduced. Some of the defenses that may come in handy include:
- You had the consent of the building’s owner
- You fired your gun by accident
- No probable cause
A conviction for violating PC 247 can attract the following punishment:
- Misdemeanor — Up to 1-year incarceration in county jail
- Felony — Up to 3 years jail time in state prison
Penal Code 26100 — Drive-by Shooting
Drive-by-shooting is a serious offense in California. Penal Code 26100 describes the offense as the malicious and willful firing of a gun from a vehicle. You are guilty of this offense if you:
- Shoot at another person from your car
- Fire your weapon from within the car
- Allow someone to carry a firearm into your vehicle
- Allow a passenger to discharge their gun from your car
Drive-by-shooting is a wobbler offense. Here is the punishment to expect if the prosecution imposes misdemeanor charges:
- Jail time for up to 1 year
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
A conviction for a drive-by-shooting felony may attract the following penalty:
- 16 months, 2 or 3 years’ incarceration
The facts of your case will play a significant role in helping the prosecution decide on the befitting charges. You are likely to face charges for a “straight” felony if you fire your gun at another person from a car. In this case, punishment may include:
- 3, 5, or 7 years’ incarceration in state prison
- A $10,000 maximum fine
Penal Code 246.3 PC — Negligent Shooting
California’s Penal Code 246.3 makes it illegal to willfully fire a gun in a grossly negligent fashion, which could cause the death or injury of another person. There are three elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. These elements include:
- You willfully fired your gun or BB device
- You acted in “gross negligence” or disregard for human life
- Your actions could have caused another person’s death or injury
With this offense, it is not enough for the defendant to merely be negligent. The term “grossly negligent” can be described as follows:
- Your actions were reckless and created a high risk of the death or severe injury of your victim(s)
- Any reasonable person would understand the risks allied with such actions
What is the punishment for violating Penal Code 246.3?
Negligent shooting is a wobbler offense. Whether the prosecution will impose misdemeanor or felony charges may highly depend on your criminal history and the facts of the allegations you face. The only exception is that the negligent firing of a BB device is always charged as a misdemeanor.
The following is the penalty to expect following a conviction:
- Misdemeanor — Up to 1 year jail time
- Felony — 16 months, 2 or 3 years imprisonment
A General Overview of the Penalties for Gun Offenses in California
The majority of gun crimes are wobbler offenses. This means that the facts of a case and the criminal history of a defendant may play a leading role in determining whether you will face misdemeanor or felony charges.
Here is what you need to know:
Compared to a felony, a misdemeanor is perceived to be a lesser offense. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction is a jail term of one year coupled with a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000.
Even though most crimes are wobbler offenses, the prosecution will always strive to impose felony charges. Convicted defendants risk spending 1 to 20 years behind bars in state prison coupled with a maximum fine of $10,000.
2019 California gun law amendments kicked out specific mandatory attachments to gun crime convictions. For instance, a gun possession conviction would attract a 10-year sentence enhancement, while assault with a firearm leading to the severe injury or death of a victim would attract an extra 25 years to the standard punishment.
The new legislation gives judges the discretion to include or strike out enhancements based on the facts of a case. A skilled criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable assistance and help to ensure you are not slapped with the full fury of the law.
Best Defenses To Fight Gun Crime Charges
A gun offense conviction can attract far-fetching repercussions. For instance, you could be at a loss of your gun rights if the court delivers a guilty verdict. Even worse, a conviction under California’s Three Strikes Law could end up in your record and affect sentencing for future convictions. Even if you are never convicted in the future, you may suffer from limited approval opportunities when applying for jobs, loans, or housing.
It is imperative to contact a reliable gun offenses attorney immediately after the police arrest you. The sooner you start working on your defense strategy, the better your chances of enjoying a favorable outcome.
Here are some of the best defenses an experienced attorney may use:
Irrespective of the charges you face, you can argue that you misused your gun because you needed to defend yourself or another person. The law allows you to use reasonable force whenever a situation causes reasonable fear for your safety or life.
Accident — Lack Of Intent
A common element of most gun offenses is that a defendant must act willfully. Therefore, your attorney could argue that your actions were accidental and you had no intent to break the gun laws. For instance, it could be that you were checking out an unoccupied building and fired your gun accidentally.
Lack of knowledge
Another ideal defense to use is the lack of knowledge. If you face charges for violating Penal Code 25850, possession of a loaded firearm, for instance, you could claim that you didn’t know about the presence of the gun. It is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew about the presence of a weapon in your possession or your vehicle.
Often, the prosecution will not waste any time gathering evidence and building a case against you. This makes it imperative to have a dedicated lawyer on your corner to help you create a personalized and comprehensive strategy to defend your charges. Note that the best defense tactics to use may depend on the specific allegations made against you.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
Numerous crimes fall under the gun offenses umbrella. Irrespective of the charges you face, a skilled attorney, can help you understand the implications of your alleged offense. Most importantly, the expert can defend you against the charges, increasing the chances of achieving a favorable outcome. If you have questions about gun offenses or require legal representation, we encourage you to contact the Pasadena Criminal Attorney. We have a proven track record and a commendable number of excellent reviews from our clients. Please reach out by dialing 626-689-2277 and let us help you create a defense strategy with the best winning potential.