The state of California does not always treat the possession of a gun as a criminal act. In fact, most Californians are legally allowed to own some types of guns. These firearms may be kept in private homes, someone’s business, or moved around as long as the gun owner keeps it in a locked container.
However, if a law enforcement officer finds you improperly in possession of a firearm, you can face a wide range of consequences, including fines and up to 20 years in prison. You may also lose your gun rights, or the right to keep and bear arms in California, from 10 years to the rest of your life. A criminal defense attorney can help to dismiss or reduce your charges to avoid or reduce penalties.
What Types of Charges Does California Have for Possession of a Gun?
Some individuals who illegally possess a firearm in California may be subject to misdemeanor charges. These charges can include up to $1,000 in fines and no more than a year spent in county jail.
Individuals illegally possessing a gun may also face a more serious felony charge. These charges can come with a jail sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.
California also uses sentencing enhancements on crimes committed with a firearm. This means that additional years are added to a sentence if a gun was used while committing a serious felony. These enhancements allow California judges to add the following to a prison sentence:
- 10 years if you possess a gun
- 20 years if you fire a weapon
- 25 years if you seriously hurt or kill someone with a gun
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Who Is Allowed to Possess a Gun in California?
As noted, most citizens of the state are allowed to own a gun. However, there are exceptions to this rule. California restricts members of the following groups from owning a firearm:
- Minors (under 18)
- Individuals who are mentally ill
- Individuals with a narcotics addiction
- Individuals with specific misdemeanor convictions
- Individuals with at least two convictions related to Penal Code 417
Federal laws regarding gun ownership also apply to citizens of California. This means that people cannot possess a firearm if they:
- Renounced their U.S. citizenship
- Are fugitives from justice
- Were dishonorably discharged from the military
- Are in the country illegally
- Are facing a court order related to stalking
Be aware that courts send some gun charges to federal court. These cases may be more serious and can lead to more severe fines and lengthy prison time.
Are There Any Guns You’re Not Allowed to Own in California?
While California allows most citizens to possess firearms, there are some guns that the state prohibits. Penal Code 30600 PC allows only those with permits to own assault weapons and rifles in California. These guns include Uzis, AK series rifles, and more.
Individuals who possess these guns without a permit may face 1-3 years of incarceration.
Any act of manufacturing, distributing, importing, lending, and selling unlicensed guns is considered a felony, with a sentence of 4-8 years behind bars. If these weapons are sold or given to minors, an additional year gets added to the penalty.
What Is the Penalty for Carrying a Concealed Firearm in California?
California allows citizens to carry concealed firearms as long as they have a permit. This permit requires you to finish a firearms training course and to reside in the issuing city. It would help if you also had a good character and good cause to get the license.
Individuals who carry a concealed gun without this permit may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on their circumstances. Those charged with a misdemeanor may face a fine of $1,000 and a year in prison. A felony charge may lead to sentences of 16 months to 3 years in prison along with a fine of up to $10,000.
Are There Penalties for Possessing Ammunition or Firearm Accessories?
California ties the possession of a gun to the possession of ammunition. Individuals who cannot own a gun are not allowed to possess ammunition and may face similar charges if they hold ammo illegally. Additionally, the state does not permit individuals to own armor-piercing ammunition. Possession of this ammunition can result in a prison term of 1-3 years.
Individuals who own a silencer are also committing a felony in the state of California. This can lead to a fine of up to $10,000 along with 16 months to 3 years of incarceration.
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Are There Defenses for Charges Related to Possessing a Firearm?
Due to California’s complicated firearm laws, defending against gun possession charges is difficult. Individuals can argue they’re legally able to carry a firearm or that they were carrying the weapon in self-defense, but this requires understanding California’s legal codes.
A criminal defense attorney is familiar with gun possession laws in California and can prepare a proper defense for you. They can work tirelessly to build a solid defense strategy to help you avoid jail time and large fines. The main goal of a defense attorney is to try to make the prosecution’s evidence inadmissible. An attorney can do this by showing that:
- The arresting officer didn’t have probable cause to search your car or your body
- The arresting officer did not provide you with your Miranda rights at the time of the arrest
Possible Defenses a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Use
- Stating that you carried the gun in self-defense
- Proving you weren’t aware the gun was in your vehicle
- Proving you were not in an area that is considered a public place
- Proving the weapon wasn’t loaded
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California Laws Regarding Illegal Possession of a Gun
In California, people who are over 18 can purchase and possess a rifle or a shotgun. People over 21 can purchase a handgun.
California Penal Code Section 25850 and California Penal Code Section 12031 provide information regarding California gun laws. These laws prohibit someone in California from possessing a loaded weapon in their car. To get convicted of this type of charge, the prosecution must prove:
- You were in possession of a loaded firearm while in your car
- You were aware there was a loaded firearm in your car
- You were on public property or in a public place when caught in illegal possession of a firearm
An attorney can protect you against the charges the prosecuting attorney has brought against you.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney Soon After Your Charge
The sooner you speak to a criminal defense attorney after getting charged with illegal possession of a gun, the better it is for your case. A criminal defense attorney can speak on your behalf with law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys. After getting charged with illegal possession of a gun, an attorney can:
- Speak to law enforcement officers during questioning and interrogations.
- Guide you through the criminal law process and always keep you informed of your legal options.
- Try to get your charges dismissed. If not, an attorney can negotiate a plea deal to receive a lesser charge and punishment.
- Provide legal advice on if you should accept the plea agreement or not.
- If your case goes to trial, we can prepare a solid defense strategy to prove to the prosecuting attorneys, judge, and jury that you should not get convicted of the charges.
An attorney can provide guidance throughout the entirety of your case. After getting charged with illegal possession of a gun, you might feel alone. You may also think you are facing large fines or long jail times. An attorney can ease your fears by providing a solid defense and being realistic about punishments you could potentially face.
When looking for a criminal defense attorney, it is important to find someone who has handled similar cases. Experience with these cases can give your attorney the upper hand because they know the negotiating tactics of prosecuting attorneys. They can advocate for you to receive a lesser sentence if the prosecution won’t dismiss your charges.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help If You Get Charged with Illegal Possession of a Gun
We can help you as lawyers familiar with your rights and California’s state laws. Don’t wait until the last second to prepare your defense. Take advantage of a free initial consultation at Simmrin Law Group. Contact our criminal defense law firm today by calling or filling out our contact form.