California laws allow residents to possess or own guns, albeit under strict guidelines. For instance, the law prohibits specific people from carrying or owning a firearm. Additionally, there are places you cannot visit while having a gun, whether openly or concealing. It is essential to understand the state gun laws, which could result in serious gun charges. Penalties for a gun-related offense in California are penalized by a lengthy prison term and hefty fines. Serious gun-related felonies are strikes under California Three-Strikes Law.
Thus, you must do everything possible to avoid a conviction if you face charges for a gun offense in Anaheim, CA. An experienced criminal attorney could help you with that by planning a solid defense against your charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we will be with you from the start to the end of the legal process until you obtain a favorable outcome of your case.
Overview of California Fun Offenses
California gun laws are pretty stringent. Generally, most adults of at least 21 years are allowed by law to obtain or possess a gun. However, several other state laws limit these rights and make it illegal for most residents to own or even acquire firearms. That makes California one of those states with the severest gun laws in the United States.
You risk facing serious gun-related charges even if you legally buy or possess a firearm in the state. It is advisable to seek the help of an experienced criminal lawyer if you face charges for a gun offense in California. Your attorney will help you understand what the law states and how severe your charges are. He/she will also help you fight your charges in court to avoid a conviction.
Here is a list of people who California laws prohibit from obtaining or possessing a gun:
- People that are addicted to narcotic drugs
- Minors (individuals below the age of 18)
- Convicted felons
- People with at least two convictions for brandishing a firearm
- People convicted of specific misdemeanors, like domestic violence-related offenses
- People suffering from mental illnesses
If you legally own a gun or are about to purchase one, a conviction under specific California statutes could infringe on your gun rights. For instance, a conviction for domestic violence.
If you are not allowed by law to possess or buy a firearm, it will be illegal for you to purchase or have ammunition.
Anyone in California who wishes to buy a gun must first obtain a safety certificate and buy from an authorized dealer. You’ll also need a permit to carry a concealed weapon if you wish to have a gun that you can hide in your person. But before the police issue you with these permits, the local sheriff department must verify the following:
- You have successfully completed a recommended firearm training
- You reside within the city from where you are making the application
- You are a person of noble character
- There is a good reason for issuing you the permit
Even after obtaining a permit to buy or carry a concealed weapon, you must abide by all the regulations provided under the state gun laws.
Popular Gun Offenses in California
California law contains a long list of possible gun offenses individuals could commit by violating the various gun laws provided under different statutes. The most popular of these are:
Open Carry — California PC 26350
In California, it is a crime for any person to carry an unloaded gun in public openly. Before 2012, anyone legally allowed to own a firearm in California could take a loaded handgun in public, though concealed. But things have changed, and you could face serious criminal charges if the police arrested you for carrying an unloaded gun in public, whether openly or concealed.
California PC 26350 makes it unlawful for anyone to do the following:
- To openly carry a firearm
- To expose an unloaded handgun in public
- To hide an unloaded gun in their person or vehicle
- To carry a gun while in the streets or public place
Open carry means that you brought the gun without concealing it. If you had partially hidden the gun, you could be guilty of carrying a concealed weapon as long as the weapon is identifiable.
In California, carrying a concealed weapon and openly carrying an unloaded gun are misdemeanor offenses, with the same penalties. However, prosecutors can charge carrying a concealed weapon as a felony under specific circumstances like:
- If you have a previous felony conviction or a conviction for any California gun offense
- If you have a previous misdemeanor conviction for any crime against a person or property
- If the firearm you were carrying at the time was stolen, and you knew that it was stolen, or you had a good reason to believe so.
- If the prosecutor has a firm conviction that you are an active participant of a criminal street gang
- You are not legally in possession of that firearm
- The law prohibits you from possessing or owning a firearm in California, under California PC 29800 or PC 29900
As used under this law, a handgun would mean a pistol, revolver, or any other firearm that a person can easily conceal in their person.
If you wish to carry a concealed weapon in public, the law requires you to obtain a permit under California PC 26150 or PC 26155.
Police officers, military personnel, hunters, employees of common careers like airplanes, pawnshops, gun repair shops, and people practicing at target ranges are exempted under this law.
As previously mentioned, carrying an unloaded gun in public is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- A maximum of one year in jail
- A fine or not exceeding $1,000
Your penalties could include both jail time and fines if you weren’t the legal owner of that gun, and you were also carrying unextended, dischargeable ammunition.
Note that the penalties listed here are for every unloaded firearm you carry. If you had more unloaded guns, you are likely to face different penalties for every gun found in your possession.
Carrying or Discharging a Gun Within a School Zone — California PC 626.9
It is illegal for anyone to carry or discharge a firearm in a school zone in California. An area that is considered a school zone must be within 1000 feet of public or private school grounds, where they provide instructions for kindergarten and grades one to twelve.
However, a school zone doesn’t include a business or residential place or any other private place as long as those places are not within the school zone.
Example: If you live or work within a school zone, you could only possess or discharge a weapon inside your home or business. You could face criminal charges if you walked with the gun on the sidewalk right outside your home or place of work since that area is considered a school zone.
Before this amendment, it was only illegal to carry a firearm on school grounds. Today, you’ll be arrested and face serious charges if you walk close to a school ground while carrying a firearm.
Fortunately for you, the law has several exemptions and restrictions to this statute, which you could use as a defense to have the court drop or reduce your charges. These exceptions ensure that legal firearm owners aren’t unreasonably punished under this statute. Some of those exceptions are:
- Carrying a concealed firearm in a car that is well-secured in a trunk or contained, or together with other guns that are being legally transported
- Carrying a firearm because you are in reasonable fear for your life, according to California self-defense law
- If you are a specific person who has the authority to carry a hidden weapon. For instance, people engaged in selling and manufacturing firearms, guards, and bank messengers and guards. Note that having a permit to carry a hidden weapon will not protect you against prosecution if you brought a hidden weapon within a school zone.
- If you are a peace officer, active or honorably retired
- If you are a security guard and has the authorization to carry a loaded firearm
Penalties for carrying a gun within a school zone vary based on the facts of the case. Generally, a conviction carries between two and five years of prison term.
In California, discharging a firearm within a school zone is always a felony offense, punishable with 3, 5, or 7 years in prison.
Prosecutors always charge possessing a gun on a school ground, or college/university campus, or their associated facilities as a felony. Even though universities and colleges are beyond the school zone scope, possessing a firearm in those areas subjects you to severe charges under this statute.
If you have a prior felony conviction in your criminal record, you are banned by law from acquiring or possessing a firearm, or you simultaneously face a felony sentence for carrying a hidden firearm, your conviction under this law becomes a felony.
Additionally, a conviction under this law affects your gun rights. Thus, you’ll not be allowed to purchase or possess a firearm in the state.
Unlicensed Sale of Guns — California PC 26500
It is an offense to sell, transfer, or lease a firearm without a valid permit or license in California. There are exceptions under this law involving the transfer of firearms between family members. However, the transfer has to involve the type of firearms allowed under the permit.
As used under this law, a firearm or gun will be any device designed for use as a weapon, from which a projectile is expelled through a barrel by the force of an explosion or any other form of combustion. Therefore, a gun or firearm will include any of the following:
- A pistol
- The receiver or frame of any of the weapons above
A firearm could also include a rocket or any similar device that contains explosive material. Devices like these are illegal in California, even when you use them in distress or emergencies. However, the following similar devices do not count as firearms under this statute:
- BB guns
- Pellet guns
- Unloaded antique guns
All gun sales in California must occur through a licensed firearm dealer. Including transactions between private parties. It ensures that only people allowed to own or purchase a firearm are involved in such transactions or transfer deals.
Unlicensed parties may arrange for the transfer, lease, or sale of a firearm, but a licensed dealer must complete the transaction or deal.
Like most gun laws in California, PC 26500 exempts specific individuals and parties, including the following:
- Law enforcement officers
- Those disposing of guns they have inherited
- Transfer of personal guns as it infrequently happens in gun shows
- Transfer of firearms from firearm dealers, manufacturers, and importers who bear the federal authorization
- Temporary loaning of guns at target facilities
- Loaning a gun to a gunsmith for repair
These exceptions are not usually as straightforward as they seem. Thus, you need to contact a criminal attorney if you face charges for a gun-related offense. Experienced criminal attorneys are familiar with all gun laws and how they could affect your situation.
Unlicensed sale of guns is a misdemeanor offense in California, punishable by:
- A maximum of six months in jail
- A fine of not more than $1000
The punishment is for each gun you sell without a valid license.
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon — California PC 245(a)(1)
California law against assault is under PC 240. The offense is defined as an illegal attempt to injure another person violently. California PC 240 is the law against aggravated assault, including assaulting another person using a dangerous weapon. You could face charges for assault with a dangerous weapon if you attack or attempt to attack another person using a deadly weapon or any other means that is likely to result in a severe bodily injury.
This offense falls under the gun offenses category if the deadly weapon used in the assault is a firearm. However, the prosecutor has to prove all the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty. These elements are:
- That you acted in a manner that, in nature, would likely result in direct application of force against another person
- You accomplished the said act through a dangerous weapon
- You acted the way you did willfully
- You were aware of the nature of your actions that it could cause a reasonable person to believe that you could apply direct force on them.
- You had the present ability to apply force using the dangerous weapon and cause the other person to incur a serious bodily injury when you acted the way you did
Note that the offense victim doesn't have to incur physical injuries for you to face conviction under this law. The prosecutor would focus on whether the victim could incur severe physical injuries if you applied force using the dangerous weapon.
Assault with a dangerous weapon is a wobbler offense in California. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as either a misdemeanor or felony, based on the details of the offense. If you committed the crime using an ordinary gun, the crime remains a wobbler, attracting the following penalties:
A misdemeanor conviction:
- Misdemeanor probation
- Maximum jail time of one year
- Maximum fines of $1,000
A felony conviction:
- Felony probation
- A maximum of four years of prison time
- A fine of not more than $10,000
However, assault with a dangerous weapon becomes a straight felony offense if it involves:
- A semiautomatic gun
- An assault weapon
- A machine gun
- A .50 BMG rifle
The penalties for this could include up to twelve years of prison time.
A felony conviction under this law could also count as a strike under the California Three-Strikes Law.
Possible Legal Defenses Against California Gun Offenses
California gun offenses are pretty severe, attracting hefty penalties that could include a lengthy time in prison and hefty fines. A felony conviction for most gun-related crimes is a strike and could affect your gun rights. A sentence in your criminal record will also affect your life in many ways,m including your career and social life. Thus, you must fight your charges to avoid a conviction and all its consequences. Fortunately for you, your attorney can use various defense strategies to compel the court to reduce or drop your charges. Some of these strategies include:
You Had a Valid Permit
Possessing, purchasing, selling, or transferring guns in California must be done under strict regulations, obtaining a valid permit. If you face charges for any of these or for violation of any gun offense that requires you to have a valid license, your attorney can use this defense to have your charges dropped.
For instance, if you had a valid license to purchase a gun in California, you cannot be found guilty of buying one unless you are exempted from buying a firearm, as previously mentioned.
Your experienced criminal lawyer will understand all the exemptions and provisions of the law to determine if your charges are valid or not. If not, he/she will fight against your charges to obtain a fair outcome.
You Acted in Self-Defense
Your attorney can use this defense if you face charges relating to using a gun, for instance, assault with a dangerous weapon. It is not unusual for a person to face serious gun offenses while, in the real sense, they were merely protecting themselves against imminent danger.
For instance, as a licensed gun holder, you can cite self-defense if you drew your gun on another person who threatened your safety or the safety of your immediate family members. You could have pulled the gun just to scare the other person off, with no intention of harming him/her in any way.
However, you must convince the court that drawing your gun at that instance was necessary, considering the amount of danger you or another person was in.
No Willful Act
Your attorney can also use this defense in cases where acting willfully is an essential element of the offense. For instance, if you purposefully carried an unloaded gun in public, you could face serious charges. However, if the police found the unloaded gun in your person or vehicle, but you weren’t aware of its presence, you will not be guilty of a willful act.
The conclusion of gun offenses happens after a series of investigations by law enforcement officers. Sometimes these investigations include officers working undercover. Thus, it is not unusual for most defendants to cite police misconduct if their arrest was under such circumstances.
For instance, you could claim that the police coerced your confession, or an officer lied in their report. Sometimes defendants say that the police violated their rights. That could happen if the police did not read your Miranda rights after an arrest.
The law guides law enforcement officers in conducting investigations and arrests, especially in gun violation cases. For instance, if the police suspect that you are hiding an illegal firearm in your garage, they must obtain a search warrant before searching your home or person. If the police receive a tip from the public that you omitted a gun-related offense, they must first obtain an arrest warrant.
If the police did not follow any of the guidelines provided under the law, your attorney could take advantage of that to have some of the evidence presented in court dismissed. When that happens, the prosecutor might not have enough evidence to support the charges.
Find a Anaheim Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for any gun offense in Anaheim, CA, it could help to hire the help of a competent criminal attorney. The California criminal process can be complicated, especially for first offenders. Thus, you need proper guidance to navigate the process successfully. Additionally, you need an experienced criminal attorney to prepare a solid defense against your charges. It could be your only chance to avoid a conviction. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, our team of competent criminal attorneys will be with you from the start to the end. Call us at 714-766-0965, and let us work together for a favorable outcome of your case.