As New Year’s approaches, whether you live in Pasadena, Los Angeles, West Covina, Palmdale or any other city in California you will inevitably read a story about a person discharging a firearm during the holidays and/or being arrested while in possession of a firearm after a traffic stop. Such conduct can lead to criminal felony charges which have the potential of a state prison sentence. In order to avoid criminal penalties one should always be familiar with the gun laws in California and always contact an experienced gun possession criminal lawyer when arrested for a firearms offense.
1. Carry A Concealed Weapon
Many registered gun owners in California are under the mistaken impression that they may walk or drive around in public with a concealed weapon without a permit. California Penal Code section 25400 makes it unlawful to carry a concealed weapon. To be found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon the Government must prove the defendant:
- Carried a concealed weapon on his or her person or vehicle;
- Had knowledge of the weapon being concealed; and
- Substantially concealed the weapon.
In some instances a licensed hunter or fisherman may be transporting a lawfully purchased firearm in the trunk of their car and may have a complete defense on a concealment charge. In addition, if after obtaining a restraining order you still believed that your life was in grave danger you may have a complete defense to a concealed weapons charge. There are other defenses which may lead to the dismissal or reduction of concealed weapons charges and it is always advisable to consult with an experienced criminal lawyer to learn what defenses are available to otherwise serious criminal charges.
If convicted of carrying a concealed weapon you may suffer a misdemeanor or felony conviction depending on the nature of the offense, including whether the gun was loaded, you lawfully possessed the gun and whether you have a prior felony conviction among other factors. Sometimes carrying a concealed weapon will always be charged as a felony where you possessed the firearm in the commission of a violent felony such as murder or assault, you are a member of a criminal street gang or you have a prior felony conviction.
2. Discharging or Brandishing a Firearm
A person would not be in violation of carrying a concealed weapon if they were carrying the weapon in plain view. However, such conduct can lead to other criminal charges including brandishing a firearm in violation of California Penal Code section 417 that makes it unlawful to draw, exhibit or use a firearm or deadly weapon such as a knife. Moreover, California Penal Code section 26350 makes it unlawful to openly carry an unloaded firearm outside a vehicle.
More serious charges or consequences can arises when a person discharges a firearm even if they didn’t intend to hurt another person. California Penal Code section 246.3 makes it unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm. The negligent discharge of a firearm is a “wobbler” and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in California. Such circumstance leading to felony charges may include the number of rounds shot from a gun and whether the discharge caused any injury. If a negligent discharge of a firearm leads to the death of another, a person may be charged with negligent homicide or second degree murder. When arrested and charged with discharging a firearm it is always advisable to immediately speak with and retain an attorney to understand your rights and potential legal defenses which may help you avoid jail or prison and may lead to the dismissal of serious felony charges.