Gun violence is a common problem in most states in the country today. It explains why we have stringent gun laws in California. Even so, gun offenses are still being registered in great numbers. In California, the state allows most adults of at least 21 years to purchase, own and possess a gun. But there are state laws that limit this right and prevent certain people from possessing or acquiring a weapon. Violating these laws attracts severe charges that are punishable by lengthy prison terms and hefty fines.
If you face charges for one of the California gun offenses in Long Beach, CA, it helps to understand the magnitude of your charges and your options. Working alongside an experienced criminal attorney will make the legal process smooth for you. At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, we could help you plan a strong defense against your charges for a fair outcome.
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Overview of California Gun Offenses
The 2nd Amendment of the U.S Constitution allows California residents to possess and own a gun. However, California retains the right to restrict and regulate the ownership of specific types of firearms and to particular people where it is believed that those regulations and restrictions will enhance the safety of its residents. Thus, California is famous for having the strictest gun laws in the country.
To own a shotgun or rifle, you must be at least 18 years. To own a handgun, you must be at least 21. All gun-related transactions in the state, even for gun shows and private sales, must be conducted through a licensed dealer. These restrictions are done to ascertain that buyers are of the required age and are legal residents of the state.
To buy a weapon in California, you are subject to a background eligibility test. The background check ensures that you are legally eligible to buy, own or possess a gun. Here are categories of people that are not allowed by California law to purchase or own weapons. Those that have:
- A previous conviction of certain misdemeanors
- A felony conviction in their criminal records,
- A conviction for certain gun offenses
- Addiction to narcotics
- Already been issued with a restraining order for domestic violence
- Previously been confined to a mental institution, according to California WIC 8100
Additionally, California has stringent laws on the use, travel, and transfer of weapons. For instance, a firearm holder cannot sell a gun directly to another person. Transfer and sale of weapons always have to be done through a licensed firearm dealer.
You can transfer the ownership of your weapon to a close family member, including your wife, parent, child, uncle, or cousin, provided that the recipient satisfies all the gun ownership eligibility requirements mentioned above. They have to be of the right age, with no disqualifying criminal history, no history of substance abuse or mental illness.
If these and other gun laws are not adhered to, it could give rise to gun-related charges. California gun offenses are pretty severe. Often, they are charged as felonies, attracting heavy penalties that might include a lengthy prison term and severe court fines. A conviction for a gun-related offense will also leave you with a damaging criminal record that could affect your life in many ways. For instance, a potential employer might judge your character based on your criminal history.
Therefore, if you are arrested and charged with any gun offense in California, it helps to hire an experienced criminal attorney to help with your defense. Your attorney could, among other things, try to have your charges reduced or dropped.
Types of California Gun Offenses
California laws have a long list of gun offenses you should be aware of if you are a licensed firearm holder. These offenses are entirely related to the long list of gun laws provided in the constitution. The common types of gun offenses in the state are discussed here, together with the likely penalties after a conviction.
Carrying a Concealed Weapon — California PC 25400
This law makes it unlawful for a person to carry a concealed weapon on their person or vehicle. The gun could be a pistol, revolver, or any other firearm concealed upon a person. The following acts are prohibited under this law:
- Carrying a firearm within a vehicle that is under your control
- Carrying a firearm concealed upon your person
- Causing a weapon to be concealed within a vehicle in which you’re an occupant
For the court to find you guilty under this law, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you concealed a firearm in a vehicle or on your person
- You were aware of the concealed weapon’ presence
- The weapon was sufficiently concealed
A violation of California PC 25400 can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the case.
In the absence of aggravating factors, carrying a concealed weapon is a misdemeanor, carrying the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor probation with little or no jail time, or
- A maximum of one year behind bars
- A fine of not more than $1,000
Penalties could increase based on the following aggravating factors:
- Your criminal history
- Your history of violence
- Proof that you intended to use the weapon
- Failing to cooperate with law enforcement officers during arrest
In the presence of aggravating factors like these, the offense becomes a wobbler or straight felony. A felony conviction under PC 25400 attracts the following penalties:
- Felony probation with a maximum of one year behind bars
- 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail
- A fine of not more than $10,000
Additionally, a conviction under PC 25400 could affect your immigration status. If you are a legal alien or immigrant, you might be deported.
A felony conviction will also attract a lifetime ban from possessing or owning a firearm in California.
Illegal Sale of a Firearm — California PC 26500
This law makes it illegal for anyone to sell, transfer or lease a firearm without a permit or valid license. As previously mentioned, transfer of weapons is only allowed between close family members and only after the receiving member is cleared as eligible to own a firearm.
However, any other kind of transfer of firearms is illegal and could attract severe penalties. The types of firearms covered under this law include pistols, handguns, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and frames or receivers of any of these weapons.
Anyone intending to buy a firearm must have a valid safety certificate and do so through a licensed dealer. People who want to dispose of their firearms are only allowed to do so through licensed dealers.
The law is meant to minimize the chances of transferring gun ownership to people who have been banned by law from owning or possessing a firearm.
A violation of California PC 26500 is a misdemeanor, punishable by:
- A maximum of six months behind bars
- A maximum fine of $1,000
The punishment applies for each firearm you sell or transfer without a valid license.
Possession of an Assault Weapon — California PC 30605
This law makes it illegal for anyone to possess an assault weapon in California. Possession is legally defined as having control over an item. Control can either be actual or constructive.
Actual possession occurs when you have direct physical access to the weapon. It could be that you have it on your body or in a bag you are carrying.
On the other hand, constructive possession is when you have access to the weapon or the right to control it. It could be that the weapon is in your home or car.
Still, under this law, there is a list of shotguns, rifles, and pistols classified under assault weapons. Some of them are:
- Shotguns with revolving cylinders
- Semi-Automatic centerfire rifles that have fixed magazines with a capacity to accept more than ten rounds
- Semiautomatic centerfire rifle with an overall length of more than thirty inches
A violation of California PC 30605 is a wobbler offense. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony.
As a misdemeanor, a conviction is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of not more than $1000. As a felony, a conviction is punishable by 16 months, two or three years in prison.
Shooting at an Occupied Dwelling — California PC 246
This law makes it illegal for anyone to discharge their firearm at an occupied dwelling, whether a building, vehicle, aircraft, or house car (like a camper or RV). Your actions must meet the following elements of the offense for you to be convicted under this law:
- That you willingly and maliciously discharged a firearm
- That you shot at an occupied building, vehicle or aircraft, or
- An inhabited house, camper, or house car
The offense is a felony, punishable by:
- Felony probation
- Three, five, or seven years in prison
- A maximum fine of $10,000
California PC 246 is also considered a serious felony offense and a strike under the state’s Three-Strike laws.
How to Fight California Gun Offense Charges
If you face charges for any gun offense in California, it is advisable to hire the services of an experienced criminal attorney. A competent attorney will know the right defense strategies to use in your defense to have the court dismiss or reduce your charges. Some of the techniques that could work in most gun offense cases include:
California courts will accept self-defense as a defense strategy in cases where the defendant reasonably believed that their life or the life of another person was in grave danger.
For example, you might have had to carry a concealed weapon because you had a firm conviction that your life was in danger. It could be that you had received specific threats or a particular person or group had indirectly threatened you.
The defense could also be used in a case involving the discharge of a firearm. For instance, you might have shot at an occupied building because you were trying to save your life or the life of another person. The court might be compelled to drop your charges if your attorney can convince the jury of your good intentions.
Lack of Knowledge
This strategy could be used in a case where knowledge is a crucial element of a gun offense.
For example, carrying a concealed weapon requires knowing the weapon’s existence on your person or property. If you did not know or realize that you were carrying a concealed weapon, you might not be guilty of the offense.
Someone else might have placed a firearm in your jacket, briefcase, or pulse without your consent or knowledge. In a situation like that, you may not be guilty of carrying the weapon.
An experienced attorney will know how to convince the court of your lack of knowledge to have your charges dismissed.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Most illegally possessed or owned firearms are discovered after a search and seizure operation by the police. However, the police are mandated by law to conduct these operations legally.
For instance, the police must obtain a search warrant to search your person or property for illegal firearms. They also need an arrest warrant to find and arrest you, unless in cases where the offense is committed in the presence of the police.
If you feel that the search or seizure conducted in your home, workplace, or car was not legal, your attorney can use this defense to have your charges dropped or reduced. The court will be compelled to dismiss any evidence gathered against you during that illegal operation.
Find a Long Beach Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for any gun offense in Long Beach, CA, it helps to understand the nature and gravity of your charges and your options. An experienced criminal attorney will ensure that you are familiar with various gun laws in the state and the possible penalties after a conviction. Our team at Long Beach Criminal Attorney, CA, will streamline the legal process and plan a strong defense against your charges. Call us at 562-308-7807, and let us begin by studying the details of your case.