The short answer is that it is against California law to drive with a gun in your car if you do not have a license to carry the firearm. This restriction is set forth under California penal code section 12025. The law also requires you to be 18 years old or over to drive with a gun in your vehicle.
The long answer is more complicated because the gun must also be unloaded and locked away while driving. Read on to find out more.
You Cannot Drive in Los Angeles with a Loaded and Visible Gun
According to California law, the gun must be unloaded. The legal definition of unloaded depends on the circumstances. In most circumstances, a firearm is considered unloaded when it does not have a live round of ammunition in it. This means the gun does not have a clip or firing chamber magazine attached to it. If your gun is loaded, you cannot drive with it in Los Angeles.
In addition, California law prevents you from driving in your motor vehicle with an unloaded gun that is not locked away. You must lock the unloaded firearm in your vehicle’s trunk. If you cannot store the unloaded weapon in your trunk, it must be in a locked container located inside your motor vehicle.
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What Is Considered a Locked Container?
The term “locked container” is a secured container that can be fully closed and locked by one of the following:
- Combination lock
- Key lock
- Similar locking device
A locked container does not include your glove compartment or utility compartment. California law does not define utility compartments. However, you are prohibited from storing an unloaded gun in your locked or unlocked center console or any storage area located behind a rear seat in a hatchback vehicle.
If you are driving with a shotgun, it is against the law if the gun is loaded and not locked away. If you do not have a trunk, place the rifle or shotgun in a locked hard case.
What About Motorhomes?
A motor home is treated as a grey area when driving with a gun in California. California law focuses on driving in a passenger vehicle, but you must follow the same rules when driving your motorhome. Keep your firearm unloaded and locked away.
However, your motorhome is treated as your residence when parked at a campsite. In this case, you would not be required to keep your gun unloaded and locked away.
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Misdemeanor for Driving with a Loaded and Concealed Weapon
It is against the law to drive in Los Angeles with a loaded or concealed gun according to California Penal Code (PC) §12025. If convicted, you could face 12 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
To convict you of driving with a gun that was loaded and not locked away, a prosecutor must show:
- You had a gun in your motor vehicle that could be concealed on you or carried by you.
- The firearm was concealed in your car.
- Your motor vehicle was under your physical direction or control at the time the police found the weapon.
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Are There Ever Felony Charges?
You may be charged with a felony for driving in Los Angeles with a loaded gun that is visible. A felony is a harsher charge that requires prison time. You can be charged with a felony if:
- You are not allowed to own and/or be in possession of a gun
- You have a gun in your possession, not listed in the California Automated Firearms System database (AFS)
- You have a loaded gun that is not listed in your name in the AFS database
- You had ammunition readily accessible or in your immediate possession in your motor vehicle.
Common Defenses Against a Charge
There are many common defenses when fighting a charge for illegally driving with a firearm in your vehicle. Some of the most common arguments include:
- No knowledge of the weapon
- The gun was properly locked away and unloaded
- You have a concealed carry permit
No Knowledge of the Weapon
If you were unaware that you were driving with a gun in your vehicle, you should not be convicted of a crime for doing so. However, proving that you were unaware that the weapon was in your car can be difficult.
Fortunately, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. As long as you can show that it is reasonable to believe that you did not have knowledge of the gun, it will be difficult for them to prove otherwise.
The Gun Was Properly Locked Away and Unloaded
If you were transporting the weapon from one location to another, and the gun was unloaded and locked away in your trunk or a proper lockbox within your vehicle, you have not committed a crime. You are legally allowed to transport a gun from one location to another in this manner.
You Have a Concealed Carry Permit
If you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, it is legal for you to drive with a loaded handgun in your vehicle. If you can prove that you had this permit when you were arrested, you should not be convicted for a violation.
If the firearm in question is a long gun, however, a concealed carry permit will not protect you. Only members of law enforcement are allowed to drive with loaded long guns in their vehicles.
Get Help from a Criminal Defense Attorney
Have you been accused or charged with driving with a loaded gun that was not locked away? You need the help of an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Simmrin Law Group.
Call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We will explain the law and possible defenses we can use to resolve this criminal charge. We will review the details of your case and answer any questions that you may have. There is no obligation to retain our services, so contact us today risk-free.