A weapons offense under California law includes unlawfully carrying, possessing, or manufacturing firearms, as well as other “deadly weapons” as defined by the State. The Penal Code maintains strict laws regarding the types of firearms that may be owned, who can possess these firearms, and how they can be carried. Additionally, California’s sentencing enhancements add years to prison time if a weapon was used or possessed while committing other offenses, such as drug crimes. Individuals convicted of a weapons offense are subject to severe fines and years of imprisonment. Experienced San Bernardino and Riverside County gun crime lawyer Gregory Comings seeks to develop effective criminal defenses for his clients, working to ensure that they receive justice under the law. As an attorney familiar with litigation techniques employed by the State of California, Mr. Comings will help you understand the legal process as he pursues a favorable outcome in your case.
California law provides that those over 18 can purchase and own a firearm without a license, except for select individuals, including convicted felons, those convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses, people addicted to narcotics, and the mentally ill. The state prohibits all individuals from openly carrying a firearm.
According to California Penal Code section 26530, openly carrying an unloaded handgun is a misdemeanor crime. Peace officers and other special classes of individuals are exempted. It is also a crime to carry a concealed handgun according to Penal Code section 25400, on a person or inside a vehicle. An unloaded weapon may be carried in the trunk of a car, or locked comportment in the vehicle. Carrying a concealed weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor, resulting in up to one year in county jail and a $1000 fine, or a felony. A felony may lead to up to three years in prison.
Similar to the crime of carrying a concealed handgun, carrying a loaded weapon, according to Penal Code section 25850, will be charged as a felony crime, not a misdemeanor, when certain circumstances are present. These aggravating factors include the defendant’s active participation in a street gang, or previous conviction of a felony or certain misdemeanors. The defendant may also face a felony if the firearm was stolen and the defendant knew it was stolen, or was not lawfully in possession of the firearm.
For either the crime of carrying a loaded weapon or carrying a concealed weapon, there are circumstances that may elevate the charge to a felony. A defendant previously convicted of a crime involving violence, drugs, or property damage may face felony charges. If the defendant was not the registered owner of the firearm and ammunition was present, then the crime may be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor.
As another example of a weapons offense, it is a crime to be a “felon with a firearm,” according to Penal Code section 29800. This codified section punishes individuals when they carry a firearm if they are prohibited from doing so. Those addicted to narcotics, or previously convicted of certain misdemeanors or a felony fall under this section. A related offense under Penal Code section 29805 applies to those who possess a firearm within ten years of a prior conviction for certain misdemeanors, such as domestic violence.
California maintains a long list of prohibited weapons, for which the possession, import, or manufacture may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Penal Code section 12020 formerly codified these weapons, however they are now located in various sections throughout the Penal Code. Examples are metal knuckles and nunchaku, as well as daggers. Blade knives intended to be used as weapons can also qualify as a deadly weapon. Felony charges carry up to three years in prison, while misdemeanor jail time is one year and a fine of $1000.
The California Penal Code includes gun sentencing enhancements. These sections include the crime of being armed during the commission of a felony, Penal Code section 12022, and personally using a firearm in the commission of a felony, Penal Code section 12022.2. If these enhancements apply, additional prison time must be served, consecutive to the time served for the underlying felony. An individual armed with a firearm during the commission of a drug felony may face more severe penalties than if they were charged with other underlying felonies.
Depending on the specifics of the weapons offense you are charged with, a skilled attorney can potentially help you set forth a strong legal defense. Available defenses may include the fact that an individual is permitted or carries a license for their concealed weapon according to Penal Code 26150 or 25155. Carrying a gun in self-defense, or reasonably believing that your life was in “grave danger,” may absolve you from criminal liability.
In order to convict someone of weapons charges, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew they were in possession of the weapon. Lack of knowledge is a legal defense that may be raised. Lack of possession or transitory possession are also legal defenses to weapons possession charges. An individual need not be holding the weapon to be charged with possession. It is critical that they have authority over the weapon. If they possessed the weapon for only a short period of time for the purpose of destroying the weapon, this may be a complete defense.
If a weapon was found during an illegal search of your person, Fourth Amendment rights may come into play, protecting you from unreasonable search and seizure. For the police to legally perform a search of your person or property, they must have a search warrant or have probable cause for a search or consent to search you or your property. A weapon that is seized during an illegal search will be inadmissible in court as evidence.
If you or someone close to you is facing charges for a weapons offense in Riverside or San Bernardino County, you are entitled to legal representation. At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, our goal is to provide experienced representation that helps you protect your future. To better understand your legal rights, contact our office online or by phone at (951) 686-3457. Attorney Comings help clients throughout areas including Temecula, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Indio, Highland, Palm Springs, Redlands, Fonatana, Rancho Cucamonga, and San Bernardino.