The Second Amendment protects your right to own a gun. Like many other amendments to the U.S. Constitution, however, that right is not absolute. Numerous regulations restrict who can own or possess a gun. There are also a number of criminal charges related to using a gun or firearm illegally.
Violating any of these regulations, rules or statutes can result in firearms or weapons charges in California. Effectively defending against these charges can be the difference between an acquittal and a costly conviction that carries significant fines and jail time.
Firearm Possession Charges
One of the most common kinds of weapons charges is for illegal possession of a firearm. Many people are legally prohibited from owning or carrying a weapon, typically because of a prior offense.
For example, anyone who has been convicted of a felony in California or any other state or even someone who just has an outstanding warrant for their arrest for a felony is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. Under California Penal Code 29800, also known as felon in possession of a firearm, a violation can strip you of your right to own a gun for decades.
Felons are not the only ones who can face firearms possession charges. Penal Code 29805 lists dozens of misdemeanor crimes that can also lead to 10-year revocations of your right to own a firearm. Many of these misdemeanor crimes are for violent offenses like assault, battery or domestic violence or for threatening crimes like stalking.
You can also face firearm possession charges for a variety of other violations, including:
- Carrying a loaded gun in public (Penal Code 25850)
- Carrying a concealed firearm when you do not have a permit (Penal Code 25400)
- Carrying a gun in certain places like airports (Penal Code 171.5), school zones (Penal Code 626.9) or government buildings (Penal Code 171c)
Charges For Using A Firearm
In addition to restrictions on when you can carry or possess a weapon, there are laws that dictate when you can and cannot use a firearm. Many of these are crimes that carry serious penalties, including long periods of jail time.
For example, one of the statutes prohibiting use of a firearm is California Penal Code 26100. This law puts criminal sanctions on both the driver and the person who fires a gun in a drive-by shooting.
Other charges for using a firearm are essentially aggravating factors for other criminal charges. For example, California Penal Code 245, which makes it a crime to commit an assault with a firearm, carries significantly higher penalties for the underlying crime of simple assault.
Defenses To Firearm Charges In California
Just because you have been charged with possessing or using a firearm does not mean you will be convicted or that you must plead guilty. Raising effective legal defenses to the criminal firearms charges being levied against you is the only way to fight back, protect your rights and avoid the severe penalties that often come with a conviction.
An effective legal defense to a criminal charge of using a firearm is that you used it for self-defense. California’s self-defense law allows you to defend yourself with reasonable force if you have a reasonable belief that your life is in grave danger.
You Have A Permit To Carry A Gun
One of the most common defenses that people in California have to a charge of possessing a firearm is that they are legally permitted to do so. Proving that you have a valid permit to possess or carry a firearm and that you were abiding by the rules of this permit can be a defense against a criminal accusation that you were violating the law.
Lack Of Knowledge
Firearm possession laws require you to know that you were carrying a gun at the time of your arrest. If you were unaware that you were carrying your weapon, for example, or a friend left their gun in your car and the police found it when you got pulled over, lack of knowledge can be an effective defense to a charge of possession of a firearm.
Illegal Search Or Seizure
Finally, a defense that can always be raised to a criminal accusation, including for a firearms or weapons charge, is that the police found evidence during a search or seizure that violated your constitutional rights against unlawful search or seizure. If successful, this defense can prevent the prosecutor from introducing illegally obtained evidence in your trial. This can make it difficult or impossible for the prosecutor to prove the case against you.