California has some of the most restrictive gun laws. These laws are designed to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are deemed as a danger to society. There are various gun offenses listed under California law that range from illegal possession to unlawful discharge of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon. Depending on the severity of the offense, punishments can range from a misdemeanor to a felony.
If you are facing gun offense charges in Los Angeles, California, our team of legal experts at Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can help. We understand the complexities of gun laws and we can help you develop a defense strategy that is tailored to your case.
What are the California Gun Control Laws?
California has some of the toughest gun control laws. As a result, obtaining a firearm can be a lengthy process. All gun purchases must be conducted through a licensed firearms dealer and require a background check. In addition, any person buying a firearm must be at least 21 years of age and provide proof of residency in California.
All firearms must also be registered with the state and all owners must obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC). This document proves that the gun owner is familiar with the safe handling and storage of firearms.
California also has a handgun roster that bans the sale of certain types of firearms. These include semi-automatic handguns with features such as detachable magazines, threaded barrels, and bullet buttons. The state also imposes limits on the types of ammunition that can be purchased and carried. Magazine capacity is limited to 10 rounds of ammunition.
Lastly, California has several red flag laws that allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from an individual who is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Common Gun Offenses
The most common gun offenses in California include:
Assault with a Firearm PC 245(A)(2)
Assault with a firearm occurs when a person commits an assault using a weapon that is likely to cause great bodily injury, such as a gun. To be convicted under PC 245(a)(2), the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant committed an act of force or violence upon another person;
- The defendant did so using a firearm;
- The defendant acted willfully and deliberately;
- The defendant acted with the present ability to commit the act of assault.
The law states that a person commits an assault with a firearm when they “attempt to commit a violent injury on someone else using a firearm.” This means that the defendant must have intended to cause injury, but does not have to have injured anyone. For example, if a person points a gun at another person and pulls the trigger, but the gun does not fire, they could still be convicted of assault with a firearm.
A Felon in Possession of a Gun PC 29800(A)(1)
PC 29800(a)(1) is a California statute that makes it illegal for anyone who has ever been convicted of a felony to own, possess, or control a firearm. To be convicted of this offense, the prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:
- The defendant had previously been convicted of a felony;
- The defendant owned, possessed, or had control over a firearm; and
- The defendant knew that he or she had a firearm.
This law applies to all firearms, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns. It also applies to ammunition, and any firearm accessories, such as silencers or laser sights.
Possession of a Loaded Firearm PC 25850
PC 25850 is a California law that prohibits individuals from carrying a loaded firearm in public. This code applies to all firearms, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns. For a defendant to be charged with this offense, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- The defendant had possession of a firearm.
- The firearm was loaded with an unexpended cartridge or shell.
- The defendant was in a public place or a place open to the public.
The terms “public place” and “place open to the public” are broadly defined and include any area that is open to the public, including a street, sidewalk, alley, park, plaza, or other public areas.
However, in California, there are certain exceptions to this law. For example, a person may lawfully carry a loaded firearm in certain locations such as his or her place of business or residence, an authorized shooting range, or a hunting area.
Carrying a Loaded Gun into a Government Building PC 171C
Penal Code 171c is a California statute that makes it a crime to carry a loaded gun into a government building. This law applies to all types of firearms, including rifles, shotguns, and handguns. However, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- The accused was intentionally carrying a loaded firearm.
- The accused was aware that the firearm was loaded.
- The accused was aware that the area was a government building.
- The accused did not have a valid permit or license to possess a firearm.
A government building may include State buildings, City buildings, County buildings, Courthouses, and other governmental offices.
Carrying a Firearm on School Grounds PC 626.9
The California Penal Code 626.9, commonly known as the Gun-Free School Zone Act, is a law that prohibits the possession of firearms in various areas, including school grounds. The law applies to anyone who is on school grounds, whether they are attending classes or simply passing through.
However, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- You knew that you had a firearm on school grounds;
- You had possession of the firearm;
- You intended to possess the firearm; and
- You were on the school grounds.
If all of these elements are met, then you may be charged with a violation of the Gun-Free School Zone Act. This is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and your criminal history.
Carrying a Firearm into an Airport PC 171.5
Penal Code 171.5 of California’s criminal law makes it illegal to carry a firearm into a passenger vessel terminal or an airport. The law states that it is a crime to carry, possess, or have any firearm, loaded or unloaded, in any passenger vessel terminal or any airport, or within 1,000 feet of the terminal or the airport. The elements of this offense include:
- The defendant carried, possessed, or had a firearm, either loaded or unloaded.
- The defendant had the firearm in a passenger vessel terminal or an airport, or within 1,000 feet of the passenger vessel terminal or airport.
If convicted of this offense, the defendant could face jail time, a fine, and other criminal penalties.
Brandishing a Firearm PC 417
Penal Code 417 is a statute in California that makes it illegal to draw or exhibit any firearm or deadly weapon in a rude, angry, or threatening manner. To be convicted of brandishing a gun or deadly weapon, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant drew or exhibited a firearm or deadly weapon;
- The defendant did so in a rude, angry, or threatening manner; and
- The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the conduct was likely to cause another person to be in reasonable fear of great bodily injury.
The most common defense to Penal Code 417 is that the defendant did not act in a rude, angry, or threatening manner.
Shooting at an Occupied Vehicle or Structure PC 246
Penal Code 246 PC, it is illegal to willfully and maliciously discharge a firearm at an occupied building or vehicle. This includes shooting at a car, house, or other structure that is occupied. It does not matter if the shooter intended to hurt someone or not; the law applies regardless of intent.
The elements for this offense include:
- The defendant willfully and maliciously discharged a firearm;
- At an occupied building or vehicle;
- The defendant knew that the building or vehicle was occupied at the time of the shooting.
Discharging a Firearm at an Unoccupied Vehicle or Uninhabited Building PC 247
Penal Code 247 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to discharge a firearm at an uninhabited building or an unoccupied vehicle.
The statute states, “Any person who willfully and maliciously discharges a firearm at any building, whether inhabited or not, or any unoccupied vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
To prove a person guilty of this offense, a prosecutor must be able to show that the defendant:
- Willfully and maliciously discharged a firearm;
- At an uninhabited building, or an unoccupied vehicle.
Willfully and maliciously means that the defendant acted on purpose, and with a desire to cause injury or damage.
Drive-by Shooting PC 26100
Penal Code 26100, commonly referred to as the “drive-by shooting” law, is a California statute that criminalizes the act of firing a gun from a motor vehicle with the intent to injure or kill someone.
The law states: “Any person who willfully and maliciously discharges a firearm from a motor vehicle at another person other than an occupant of the motor vehicle is guilty of a felony.”
The elements for this offense include:
- The defendant willfully and maliciously discharged a firearm from a motor vehicle;
- The firearm was discharged at another person; and
- The person discharged was not an occupant of the motor vehicle.
The law applies to any motor vehicle, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It does not matter if the vehicle is parked, moving, or stopped.
Negligent Shooting PC 246.3
Penal code 246.3 makes it illegal to discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could result in injury or death. This statute defines negligent shooting as “the unlawful discharge of a firearm in a manner that could result in death or great bodily injury”.
To be found guilty of negligent shooting, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The accused discharged a firearm;
- The discharge was done in a grossly negligent manner; and
- The discharge could have resulted in death or great bodily injury.
Negligent shooting is a wobbler offense in California, meaning that the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In addition to jail time and fines, a conviction for negligent shooting carries a 10-year ban on owning or possessing firearms. If the defendant causes great bodily injury or death, their firearms can be seized and destroyed.
Possession of an Unlicensed Firearm PC 12020
Under penal code section 12020, it is illegal to possess an unlicensed firearm in California. This includes any type of gun, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and assault weapons. It is also illegal to possess any firearm that has been illegally modified or tampered with. It is important to note that even if the firearm is licensed, it is still illegal to possess it while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The penalties for illegal possession of a firearm can vary depending on the type of gun and the circumstances. The court may order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim if the gun was used in a crime. The court may also impose a restraining order or other protective order to prevent the defendant from possessing firearms in the future. For you to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove that:
- You knowingly possessed a firearm.
- The firearm was not licensed.
- You were aware that the firearm was unlicensed.
In addition, the prosecutor must prove that you had control over the firearm, meaning that you either owned it or had access to it. In some cases, the court may impose a lesser sentence for illegal possession of a firearm. For example, if you are a first-time offender or if the firearm was not used in a crime.
Juvenile Gun Offenses
Under California Penal Code section 29610, it is illegal for any person under the age of 18 to possess a firearm, or any other deadly weapon. The crime is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the potential penalties include up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If charged as a felony, the potential penalties include up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
The law also applies to persons who are under 18 and are in possession of a loaded firearm. It is illegal for any person under the age of 18 to carry a loaded firearm, even if it is in a locked container or in the trunk of a vehicle. The potential penalties for this offense are the same as those for juvenile gun possession. In addition, California law also prohibits juveniles from purchasing firearms.
Under Penal Code section 27510, it is illegal for any person under the age of 18 to purchase, receive, or possess a firearm. This offense is a wobbler, and the potential penalties are the same as those for juvenile gun possession.
However, to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove that:
- The defendant was a juvenile (under 18) at the time of the alleged offense;
- The defendant knowingly and unlawfully possessed a firearm; and
- The firearm was operable.
General Penalties for Gun Offenses in California
Gun offenses in California are subject to a variety of penalties depending on the circumstances of the crime. Most gun offenses are considered wobbler crimes meaning that the district attorney has the option of charging the offense as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor penalties include:
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.
- Probation with conditions.
Felony penalties include:
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- Imprisonment in state prison for up to three years.
- Probation with conditions.
In addition to these general penalties, gun offenses may also result in additional consequences, such as a loss of the right to possess firearms or even a loss of the right to vote.
In addition to criminal penalties, individuals convicted of certain gun offenses may also be subject to civil penalties. These can include fines of up to $25,000 and the forfeiture of the firearm. In some cases, individuals may also be required to pay restitution to any victims of the offense.
Penalty enhancements may apply to many gun offenses in California. These enhancements can increase the potential penalties for the offense. The severity of these enhancements depends on the circumstances of each case and the criminal history of the defendant. For example:
- Great Bodily Injury (GBI): This increases the potential jail or prison time if the crime results in great bodily injury (serious injury) to the victim. The amount of jail time is determined by the severity of the injury and the criminal history of the defendant.
- Multiple Convictions: If the defendant has a prior conviction for a gun offense, this could increase the potential penalties.
- Firearm Used During the Commission of a Felony: Penalty enhancements may apply if a firearm was used during the commission of a felony.
- Gang-Related Gun Crimes: If a gun crime is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, the court may impose an additional and consecutive sentence for the gun offense.
- Prior Felony Conviction: If the defendant has a prior felony conviction, the court may impose an additional and consecutive sentence for the gun offense.
- Firearm Used in the Commission of a Domestic Violence Crime: If a firearm is used in the commission of a domestic violence crime, the court may impose an additional sentence for the gun offense.
In addition, some gun offenses may also be considered as a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law. This means that any subsequent convictions for a serious or violent felony can result in an increased prison sentence of 25 years to life.
What Are Some of the Best Defenses for Gun Offense Charges?
If you are facing gun crime charges, it is crucial to understand your legal rights and the best defenses that can be used to fight the charges.
You Acted in self-defense
If you can prove that you acted in self-defense, that you were protecting yourself or someone else from imminent harm, then this can be a great defense. However, you must be able to prove that you had a reasonable fear of imminent harm, that you had no other option, and that you did not use excessive force.
You Were not in Possession of the Weapon
If you did not have the weapon, this could be used as a defense. However, you must prove that the weapon belonged to someone else or that you were not in control of the weapon.
You had no Knowledge of the Weapon
If you had no knowledge of the weapon, this could also be used as a defense. However, you must be able to prove that the weapon was hidden from you or that you had no knowledge of its presence.
It was an Accident
If you can prove that the incident was an accident, this can be used as a defense. This could mean being able to prove that the gun was fired accidentally, or that the weapon was mishandled.
Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Different crimes fall under the category of gun offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. Regardless of the charges you are facing, it is important to seek help from a qualified defense attorney. At Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we offer legal counsel tailored to our client’s individual needs and circumstances. If you are facing gun offenses in Los Angeles, California, feel free to contact our office today at 424-600-7164 for a free consultation.