California is among the states with the strictest gun and weapon laws in the country. Whereas it is lawful for most citizens to possess or own weapons, there are several restrictions. For instance, assault weapons and high-capacity magazine guns are illegal, and you must undergo a thorough background check when applying for a license. If you do not know these kinds of regulations, it is easy for you to violate the law or be wrongfully charged and be dragged into the criminal justice system to answer weapon charges.
Most weapon charges and firearm law violations are felonies. Apart from possible incarceration and a permanent criminal record, you may lose your civil right to possess or own a gun or any weapon in the future if convicted of a felony weapon offense. That is why you need expert legal representation to fight the charges against you. A lawyer may be able to have your charges dismissed, reduced, or negotiate for a lenient sentence. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we provide an expert defense to protect the reputation, freedom, and rights of clients charged with weapon crimes and other offenses in the Sacramento area. We will fight to obtain the best possible outcome for your case regardless of the weapon charge you have been accused of. Call us now for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation.
Weapon Charges Overview
Weapon charges are violations of regulations or laws that control deadly weapons. These violations comprise severe offenses carrying possible life in prison. Whereas the 2nd amendment to the U.S constitution gives California citizens the right to bear and keep firearms, various laws and case rulings create intricate legal circumstances. The law widely defines a deadly weapon as an object that can be used in a way capable of inflicting significant physical injury or causing death. This may include guns and ammunition, explosives, brass knuckles, certain knives, tire irons, chairs, batons, baseball bats, unloaded guns used as a club, bottles, vehicles, blunt objects, et cetera.
Weapon charges vary and range from issues like possessing various weapons to use them in the commission of a crime. California weapon offenses include but are not limited to:
- Possessing an assault weapon
- Possessing destructive devices or explosives
- Possessing prohibited weapons
- Felon with a firearm
- Carrying a Concealed Weapon Without a License
- Assault with a deadly weapon
Selling, Manufacturing, and Possessing a Prohibited Weapon
PC 16590 is the state's law prohibiting possessing, selling, manufacturing, importing, or lending prohibited weapons. These prohibited weapons include:
- Prohibited firearm ammunition/equipment such as camouflaging gun containers, multi burst trigger activators, and bullets with explosive agents
- Prohibited guns like rifles and short-barreled shotguns, undetectable firearms, guns not immediately recognizable as guns, unconventional pistols, cane guns, zip guns, or wallet guns
- Prohibited martial art weapons, including nunchakus and shurikens
- Prohibited swords/knives, including ballistic knives, lipstick case knives, belt-buckle knives, cane swords, air gauge knives, shobi-zues, and writing pen knives
- Other illegalized weapons like brass knuckles, leaded canes, batons, slingshots, blackjacks, clubs, sandbags, and metal replica grenades/metal military practice grenades
For the judge to convict you of this crime, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly sold, manufactured, lent, possessed, or imported a deadly weapon. Certain weapons, persons, and situations are excluded from prosecution under this law. They include:
- When a law enforcement agency transfers, sells or possesses a deadly weapon.
- When a school that teaches martial arts has nunchakus.
- When persons of curio or antique possess relic ammunition or firearms.
- When libraries, museums, and historical societies possess prohibited weapons.
- When an individual turns over a prohibited weapon to the authorities.
- Use of unloaded weapons in video/television productions or movies.
- When forensic laboratories have these weapons.
Violating PC 16590 is deemed a wobbler charge, meaning the prosecution can prosecute the violation as a felony or misdemeanor based on the facts of the case. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you will face a one-year jail sentence and up to a thousand dollar fine. If convicted of a felony, you will be subject to up to $10,000 in fines and an incarceration period of three years.
Being convicted under PC 16590 will generally not result in negative immigration consequences. If an immigrant is convicted of an aggravated felony or a crime of moral turpitude, they can be considered inadmissible or deported. However, a 16590 PC violation is neither an aggravated felony nor a crime of moral turpitude.
A PC 16590 conviction may negatively affect your gun rights. The state law provides that a convicted felon is barred from possessing or owning a firearm. Remember that you could face felony charges for violating PC 16590. And if charged and convicted of a felony, you will lose your gun rights.
Possessing an Assault Weapon
PC 30605 is the state's law criminalizing possession of an assault weapon. It lists different kinds of shotguns, pistols, and rifles categorized as assault weapons. Examples are:
- A semi-automatic, centerfire rifle with a general length of at least thirty inches.
- A semi-automatic, centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine can accept over ten rounds.
- Any shotgun that has a revolving cylinder.
Possession can either be actual or constructive. Actual possession is whereby you have the destructive assault weapon on your person, for instance, your hand, pocket, body, or backpack. On the contrary, constructive possession is when you control the assault weapon without having custody or possession of it, for example, having the weapon in your garage or car.
Remember that some people are exempt from prosecution under 30605 PC. They include:
- The administrator or executor of an estate that legally possesses assault weapons.
- Any person with a legal permit to specifically have an assault weapon, not a license to possess a concealed firearm— a license to have a concealed gun does not cover assault weapons.
Violating 30605 PC is considered a wobbler charge. If convicted of a misdemeanor, your punishment will include a fine worth $1,000 and a one-year jail sentence.
If convicted of a felony, you will be subject to three or two years or sixteen months in prison. In limited cases, a violation of PC 30605 can be considered an infraction, carrying a fine of $500 in penalty.
Possessing Destructive Devices or Explosives
PC 18710 is the state's law that illegalizes possessing a destructive device. Destructive devices, in this case, include grenades, bombs, projectiles with incendiary material, explosive missiles, and given types of rockets or rocket-propelled projectiles. For you to be convicted under this law, the prosecution must prove that:
- You possessed an explosive/destructive device.
- You were aware you had the explosive or device.
- You were aware that what you had was an explosive or destructive device.
Note that the prosecution does not have to prove that you intended to use the device in any manner. Simply proving that you had the device is sufficient to land you a conviction.
Like other possession crimes, possession under PC 18710 can either be actual or constructive. And regarding knowledge, you cannot be convicted of violating PC 18710 if you did not know you had a device and the device was destructive.
The following people are exempt from prosecution under PC 18710:
- On-duty U.S armed forces members are acting within the scope of their employment.
- On-duty police officers act within the scope of their employment.
- On-duty firefighters act within the scope of their employment.
Violating PC 18710 is deemed a wobbler charge. Misdemeanor penalties upon a conviction include a year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Felony consequences include three, two years, or sixteen months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Unlike most crimes, if convicted of having a destructive device or explosive, the judge might not impose a probation sentence instead of incarceration.
Additionally, a conviction under this law will likely lead to the authorities confiscating and destroying the explosive/destructive device.
PC 18715 provides for an increased sentence if you are caught in malicious/reckless possession of an explosive in any of these locations:
- A highway or public street.
- Near or in any hall, theater, college, school, hotel, church, or public building.
- Near or in a private residence.
- On, near, or in any aircraft, passenger train, cable car, vehicle, or vessel that carries passengers for hire.
- People ordinarily pass near, on, or in any other public place.
If prosecuted under PC 18715 because the prosecution thinks it can show your explosives possession was malicious or reckless, you will be subject to felony consequences of two, four, or six years in state prison.
And if you are an immigrant, you may face deportation or inadmissibility if convicted under PC 18710.
Felon With a Firearm
PC 29800 forbids three categories of people from possessing guns. These categories are:
- People convicted of any violent firearm crime
- People addicted to drugs
- People convicted of a felony anywhere (or those with an outstanding warrant for a felony)
For you to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that:
- You fall into any of the categories mentioned above
- You possessed, owned, received, or purchased a gun
- You knew the firearm was there
Like other possession crimes, you can be in constructive or actual possession of a firearm. Under this law, a device is considered a firearm if:
- It is a device meant to be utilized as a weapon
- A projectile can expel via the device's barrel
- The projectile is discharged via an explosion or force
Firearms are, at times, generally called guns. They include revolvers, pistols, rifles, tasers, and shotguns. BB guns and pellet guns are not classified as firearms per this law. Remember, it does not matter if the firearm is unloaded or loaded. Either one will lead to a conviction.
Violating PC 29800 is a felony offense punishable by three years in prison, a maximum of $10,000 in fines, and felony probation instead of incarceration. A conviction under this law can also have adverse immigration consequences. The state's law states that a conviction for any firearm offense can lead to deportation. Convictions for firearm offenses include any conviction under Penal Code 29800.
Carrying a Concealed Weapon Without a Valid License
PC 25850 and PC 26350 illegalize openly carrying guns outside your business or home, whether they are unloaded or loaded. Therefore, you can carry a firearm outside your business, home, or any other property only if you have a concealed weapon permit acquired under PC 26150.
Carrying any concealed weapon when you have no license or permit is a much more severe crime penalized under PC 25400. Specifically, this law forbids carrying a weapon concealed on your person, within your vehicle, or auto in which you are the passenger. For the judge to convict you of this crime, the prosecution must prove that:
- You concealed a weapon upon your person/in a car
- You were aware that the concealed weapon existed
- The weapon was significantly concealed
Penal Code 25400 penalizes carrying a concealed weapon. If you had been carrying the weapon in plain view, you are not violating this law. However, you may be guilty of PC 26350 violation. PC 26350 criminalizes openly carrying an exposed, unloaded firearm outside a car in a place accessed by the general public.
Provided the weapon is at least partly concealed, you may be guilty under 25400 PC. This is the case even if the weapon is nonetheless identifiable.
Without aggravating factors, the maximum punishment for violating PC 25400 is a year in custody and a fine of $1,000. Based on your case facts, the judge might sentence you to probation. The factors a judge considers when imposing punishment are:
- Whether you have committed violent acts previously
- Your criminal record
- Any proof that you aimed to use the weapon
- Whether you failed to cooperate with the authorities
On the contrary, violating PC 25400 can be prosecuted as a felony offense under these circumstances:
- You were carrying a loaded gun of which you were not the registered owner
- You are a member of a particular criminal gang
- You have a past felony conviction or a conviction of a firearm crime
- You were carrying a weapon you knew was stolen
- You had the weapon illegally
- You are forbidden from carrying a firearm due to a restraining order or past conviction.
- You were previously found guilty of a misdemeanor against property or person.
- You have past narcotics/dangerous drug offense convictions
If found guilty of a felony carrying a concealed weapon offense, you could face up to three years of a prison sentence and $10,000 in fines.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
PC 245(a)(1) describes assault with a deadly weapon (ADW), also called aggravated assault, as attacking or trying to attack someone else using a dangerous weapon. The prosecution must demonstrate these facts for a conviction to occur:
- You did something that would likely lead to the direct use of force upon another person
- You did the act using either a deadly weapon or force likely to cause significant bodily injury
- You acted willfully
- When you acted, you knew the facts that would make a reasonable individual believe your act would directly and likely lead to using force on the victim.
- When you acted, you had the present capability to use force with a deadly weapon or force likely to cause significant bodily injury.
Remember that an ADW victim needs not to be injured for you to be convicted. What counts is whether your action could have led to the use of force, not whether you applied force.
ADW is a wobbler if the weapon used was not a gun. If convicted of a felony, you will face felony probation, a maximum of four years in prison, and up to $10,000 in fines. This punishment will change if you committed the crime with a gun or assaulted a firefighter or police officer.
An ADW conviction may have adverse immigration consequences since it is an aggravated felony, and aggravated felonies are deportable offenses. A conviction can also negatively affect your firearm rights. The state's law provides that a convicted felon cannot possess or own a firearm. Note that assault with a deadly weapon can be a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted of a felony, you will be stripped of your gun rights.
Other weapon-related offenses include:
- PC 417, brandishing a weapon
- PC 30600, manufacturing an assault weapon
- PC 18720, possession of destructive device materials
- PC 25850, carrying a loaded firearm in public
- PC 26350, carrying an unloaded gun in public
- PC 30610, possession of a .50 BMG rifle
General Defenses to Weapon Charges
Based on the specific weapon charge you are accused of, an experienced lawyer may be able to help you develop a solid legal defense strategy. Available legal defenses might include arguing that you are permitted or have a permit for your weapon per PC PC 25155 or PC 26150.
Arguing that you carried a weapon in self-defense or reasonably believed your life was in grave danger may also lead to a charge dismissal. The ‘self-defense’ defense can also apply where you are accused of using a deadly weapon, for instance, in case of aggravated assault charges. If you reasonably believed you or someone else was in immediate danger of suffering severe bodily harm/death, you have the right to defend yourself or the other person, including by applying deadly force, which would likely entail using a weapon.
To find you guilty of possessing a weapon violating the state's weapon laws, the prosecutor must show beyond any reasonable doubt that you knew you had the weapon. Therefore, lack of knowledge is a valid defense you can raise. Transitory possession or lack of possession is also a defense to a weapon possession charge. You do not have to be holding the weapon to be accused of possession. If you had the weapon briefly because you intended to destroy it, you could argue that before the jury.
If the police discovered the weapon in question during an unlawful search and seizure of your person or property, they would have violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution that protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. For a police officer to lawfully search you or your property, they should have a probable cause or search warrant. A weapon seized in an unlawful search will be inadmissible or in court as proof.
You can also argue police entrapment or misconduct. Entrapment is where a law-abiding individual is led into committing an offense that they otherwise would not have committed. Police entrapment only applies to overbearing official conduct displayed as threats, flattery, fraud, harassment, or pressure. If you successfully argue that you only committed your weapon crime because the law enforcement officers lured you into doing so, the judge can dismiss your charges.
Police entrapment is not a valid defense if the officer simply offered you the chance to engage in unlawful activity. Judges believe that any reasonable person presented with a simple opportunity to commit an offense will resist the temptation to do so. Police entrapment can be challenging to prove, but it is possible, particularly if a skilled lawyer experienced in entrapment law is doing it.
Find an Experienced Weapons Law Attorney Near Me
Facing a weapons charge involves a complex and lengthy legal process that could result in severe consequences if you ignore even the smallest detail. Thus, reaching out to a skilled weapons law attorney is the first step you need to take to obtain the most favorable outcome. Remember that a conviction can negatively affect your entire life. Apart from criminal penalties, a conviction will reflect on your criminal record, hurting your chances of securing employment, renting an apartment, or obtaining government student loans or a professional license. Our lawyers at Foos Gavin Law Firm boast in-depth experience in California weapons laws. We can provide guidance and legal advice tailored to your needs to fight against your weapon charges. Schedule a free, confidential consultation with us by calling 916-779-3500. Whether you have been charged with committing an offense with a weapon, illegal weapon possession, or any other weapon-related crime, we will do everything we can to help. We serve clients charged with these and other crimes in the Sacramento area.