It’s legal for most citizens of California to own or possess firearms. But the debate of what should be legal and illegal about guns still goes on with many states enacting various laws to restrict the use of weapons. California is one of the states with the most restrictive firearm control laws. Therefore, you risk being charged with a severe crime despite legally possessing a firearm if you are found committing any crime that involves the use of a gun. The Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has experience defending people who have been charged with gun offenses. Below, we will provide an overview of people who may possess firearms, gun-related crimes, penalties, and legal defenses to help you know more about firearm crimes.

Individuals Who Can Possess a Gun in California

If you are 21 years and above, you are legally permitted to purchase a firearm without the need for a license. But if the law prohibits you from possessing a gun, you cannot keep one in your house or move around with it. Below is a list of persons who are prohibited from possessing a firearm:

  • Individuals addicted to narcotics
  • Persons below age 18
  • Individuals under 21 years cannot purchase a gun
  • People who suffer from mental illnesses
  • Persons who have been previously convicted of misdemeanor charges
  • People who have been convicted of a felony within California or outside
  • Persons with two or more convictions for violating PC 417

If you have been found guilty of an essential crime, PC 29810 requires you to turn over the gun to authorities. A person not allowed town a firearm is also prohibited from possessing ammunition. For you to be permitted to own a gun, you must have a handgun safety certificate before purchase.

Also, a person will need a concealed firearm permit as codified by PC 26150 & 26155 to carry any firearm that can be hidden within your person. Such guns include a pistol or revolver. Before the permit is issued by your sheriff or local police department, they must establish the following things first:

  • You have completed a prescribed firearm training course
  • You are a resident of the city
  • You are an individual of good character
  • There is a reasonable or good cause for issuing the license

After the permit has been issued, you are free to carry the weapon loaded and concealed. However, you must comply with the terms of the license.

Licensed sellers of guns and weapons are also permitted to possess firearms under PC 26700. A person who is not licensed to sell guns and is arrested for leasing, trading, or transferring a weapon will be charged with a misdemeanor, an offense with criminal penalties. The penalties include twelve months in county jail and up to dollars one thousand fine.

California Gun Offenses

There are multiple crimes involving firearms in California. These offenses include illegal possession of a firearm, carrying, and use of a firearm under certain circumstances. Numerous laws are available that prohibit these offenses. Some of these gun offenses include:

  1. Felon in possession

The crime is codified under PC 29800, and it prohibits individuals addicted to narcotics or those that have been convicted of specific misdemeanor offenses from owning or possessing firearms. Convicts felons also fall under the category of those PC 29800 prohibits from legal possession of guns. The penalties for a conviction under this offense depend on elements like whether the weapon was used in committing a crime, your criminal history, and the underlying charge.

Aside from PC 29800, the federal law adds on the list of persons who are prohibited from possessing a gun. These people include:

  • Fugitives from justice
  • Illegal immigrants
  • A stalker under a court order
  • Anyone who has abdicated his or her United States citizenship
  • Anyone who has been accused in court for an offense punishable by over twelve month’s imprisonment or
  • Anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the military

When a person is convicted of this offense, the penalty is a minimum gun rights revocation of ten years. For juveniles, the punishment is not own a firearm until you attain the age of thirty years. 

  1. Concealed carry

California PC 25400 makes it a crime to carry a concealed gun on your person. You will also be charged with the same offense if a weapon is found in your car. When proving that the defendant is guilty of the crime, the prosecution must establish that you had the knowledge that you were carrying a concealed gun. Therefore, if a friend of yours leaves a firearm in the backseat of your vehicle without your knowledge, then you cannot be convicted of a concealed carry. Carrying a concealed firearm law allows you to transport a concealed weapon when it is unloaded. Also, it requires that the firearm be carried in a locked trunk of a car or a closed container within the vehicle. When taking the gun outside of the vehicle, it should be in a locked box, and the purpose of getting it out of the vehicle should be lawful. Non-concealed firearms are exempted from this law.

Carrying a concealed weapon with no exacerbating factors is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, a convict will spend up to one year in jail or a fine not exceeding $1,000.

Violating PC 25400 will become a felony if:

  • You have been previously convicted for a gun offense or have a prior felony conviction
  • The firearm in question is stolen
  • You are an active member of a street gang
  • You possess the gun illegally
  • You are prohibited from possessing a firearm

A felony conviction under this statute attracts a fine of up to dollars ten thousand or 16, 24, or 36 months sentence in county jail.

  1. Carrying a loaded gun in public

Penal Code 25850 makes it a crime to carry a loaded firearm in a public place unless the firearm is in the car trunk or a locked container. When the clip, magazine, or firing chamber is attached to the gun, then it is considered loaded. Remember that all the prosecution has to prove to the court is that the shell or cartridge was attached to the firearm in any manner, which makes it difficult to defend a loaded gun in public offense charge.

California also doesn’t allow people to carry weapons openly, either loaded or unloaded. During prosecution, you can defend yourself against the charge by claiming that you were not aware you were carrying a loaded weapon. Sometimes you might also be charged for violating PC 25400 & 25850 if you are arrested carrying a loaded and concealed gun. But if you have a concealed firearm license that is valid, you will be exonerated of the charges.

The penalties for violating PC 25850 are similar to those of a misdemeanor carrying a concealed firearm.

  1. Possession related offenses

Laws are available that prohibit individuals, including legal gun owners, from possessing a firearm under certain circumstances. 

  1. On or near school grounds

PC 626.9 makes it illegal to:

  • Possess a firearm in or on a private or public school grounds, a school that deals with kindergarten or grades 1 to 12. Possession of a gun within 1,000 feet from the school ground is also a crime.
  • Draw or try to discharge a firearm within a school ground without consideration of the safety of other people.
  • Possess a loaded gun in or on the grounds of a private or public university. Even if it’s a student or teacher housing that is within the university grounds, you will be charged with violating PC 626.9.

The penalty for violating this statute is a maximum of seven years in jail.

  1. Government building 

The offense is codified under PC 171c. The statute makes it a crime to bring a loaded gun to:

  • The State capitol
  • Any legislative office
  • A hearing room occupied by a committee of the senate or assembly

Taking a firearm to a government building is punishable either as a misdemeanor or a felony. You will be charged with a misdemeanor if you bring an unloaded gun, paint gun, stun gun, or pellet gun in a government premise. Possession, any of the above firearms in a government building, might lead to a maximum of a one-year jail term or a fine of up to dollars one thousand under a misdemeanor conviction. If you are convicted under a felony charge, the punishment is sixteen months, two years, three years in jail.

  • Airport and passenger vessel terminus

PC 171.5 prohibits individuals from bringing a firearm, stun gun, imitation firearm, or ammunition in a post-security area of an airport or passenger terminus. The offense is charged as a misdemeanor. The punishment, if convicted for this crime, is a jail sentence of one hundred and eighty days or a fine of one thousand dollars.

  • Public transit facility

Under PC 171.7, it is a misdemeanor to possess a firearm, an imitation firearm, spot marker, or pellet gun in a post-security check area of public transit facilities. The post-security check area or sterile area must have a notice warning those who might violate PC 171.7 of prosecution. Examples of public transit facilities include:

  • Buses
  • Streetcars
  • Trains
  • Subways
  • Light rail systems

If you are found guilty of possession of a firearm in any of the preceding, the punishment will be similar to that violating PC 171.5.

  • Prohibited firearm accessories

Although it is legal to possess or own a gun in California for people who are not prohibited by the law and above 21 years, sale, purchase, or transfer of certain firearms is illegal. The firearms prohibited in California are codified under PC 16590 and include the following:

  • Cane guns
  • Unconventional pistols
  • Camouflaging firearm containers
  • Rifles
  • Firearms not easily recognizable as guns
  • Undetectable guns
  • Armor-piercing ammunition
  • Wallet guns
  • Zip guns

Therefore, if you produce, import into the California State, offer, or keep for sale any of the above types of guns, you will violate PC 15690. Under a misdemeanor conviction, the punishment is between three to twelve-month sentences, and as a felony sixteen, twenty-four, and thirty-six months in jail.

  • Assault weapons

PC 30600 prohibits possession, sale, and manufacture of assault weapons and rifles like AK series rifles, 50BMG rifles, Uzis, and AR-15 series unless with a valid permit. The crime is also a wobbler. The punishment as a misdemeanor is 365 days in jail while the sentence for a felony is up to three years and a minimum of 16 months in county jail.

  • Crimes involving the use of a firearm

Illegal possession of a firearm carries severe penalties when one is convicted. However, the penalties are harsher for a crime involving unlawful use of a gun. Some of the laws that govern against the use of a firearm include:

  1. Brandishing a weapon

A person will be charged with violating PC 417 (brandishing a firearm) if he or she draws, exhibits, or uses a deadly weapon or firearm. How the gun is drawn or exhibited must be angry, rude, or threatening for the prosecution to press charges. The prosecutor focuses on the fact that you brandished a firearm and not whether you intended to cause harm. This offense is also a wobbler. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction is 3 to twelve months jail sentence, while for a felony, the penalties are 16 months, 24 months, or 36 months prison sentence. Further, note that brandishing a firearm when resisting arrest might result in 24 months, three years, or forty-eight months in prison upon conviction. 

  1. Inflicting bodily harm while brandishing the weapon or gun

If you draw a firearm in a threatening or angry manner and end up inflicting serious physical harm to another individual, you have violated PC 417.6. The bodily injuries codified under this statute include:

  • Serious disfigurement
  • Concussion
  • Bone fracture
  • Impairment or loss of function of any body part
  • Loss of consciousness

If you inflict serious physical injuries on an individual intentionally while brandishing, the offense is punishable as a misdemeanor by a jail sentence of up to one year or as a felony, by sixteen months, twenty-four months or thirty-six months prison sentence.

Legal Defenses for Gun Charges

Firearms have the potential of inflicting severe injuries. Due to that, there are many restrictions and regulations to govern their usage.  A violation of these regulations is a serious offense whose penalties and long-run repercussions might affect your life permanently. Therefore, when facing a gun offense charge, it’s essential to work with a criminal lawyer so that you can build a strong defense for dismissed charges, reduced charges, or plea bargain. Some of the legal arguments that can apply to gun charges include:

  1. You are legally permitted to carry the gun

 If you are being charged with carrying a concealed firearm, you can provide a valid permit to prove you are legally allowed to carry the weapon.

  1. The firearm was for self-defense 

If you reasonably believe that your life is in danger because of threats from people and your actions are justified by a restraining order from the court, then you can be cleared of criminal liability under self-defense laws for carrying a concealed weapon.

  1. You never knew you were carrying a firearm

The prosecution depends on knowledge to prove that the defendant knew he or she was carrying a concealed firearm. However, if you didn’t think you were carrying a gun, then you can’t be guilty of the crime because it never happened.

  1. The gun was found during an illegal search

Illegal searches and seizures are not allowed, and any evidence collected during such searches is inadmissible if the defense can prove it was acquired illegally. The Fourth Amendment Rights has specific requirements for a legal search and seizure. These requirements include:

  • A valid search warrant
  • Probable cause for a search or reasonable belief you are engaged in criminal acts
  • Your consent to be searched

If the police didn’t adhere to any of the foregoing, the search and seizure became illegal, and even if a gun is recovered, the evidence is inadmissible in court.

  1. Police misconduct

When facing gun charges, proving police misconduct can be pivotal in getting the charges dismissed, or the court finding you not guilty in the event of a trial. However, to prove misconduct, a pitchess motion is necessary so that you can review other complaints that have been made about the officer in the past. Misconduct by police occurs when they write false information in their report, when they testify falsely about facts of a case or when they violate your rights. If you can prove all these, then you have a strong defense.

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer near Me

We invite you to contact us at the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer if you or a loved one is being charged with gun offenses. Keep in mind that the investigation on your case commences immediately after the crime. So, the earlier you reach out to our lawyer, the better. Call us through 310-502-1314 for a free consultation so that we can begin preparing your defense the same way the prosecution is readying charges against you.