In Los Angeles, there is nothing illegal about simply taking out or showing off a gun or other weapon. However, if someone believes you did this in a rude or threatening manner, you could be arrested for brandishing a weapon. Brandishing is not the most serious of California’s weapon charges, but the consequences remain severe.
If convicted, you could face jail time and fines. You need to talk to a brandishing a weapon or firearm defense lawyer in Los Angeles. The Simmrin Law Group knows how to win weapon charge cases. We always take your side, and we will keep fighting until we get you the absolute best result possible in your case.
What Is Brandishing a Deadly Weapon?
Brandishing a deadly weapon is defined under California Penal Code Section 417. The following must all be true in order for a defendant to be guilty of a violation:
- You must have drawn, taken out, or displayed a deadly weapon (which includes firearms)
- This action must have taken place in the presence of another person
- It must have been done in a rude, angry, or threatening way or during a fight or argument (without a lawful reason for doing so)
- You must not have been defending yourself or someone else
This definition may seem complicated, but that’s a good thing. The law very carefully rules out all kinds of situations where displaying a weapon would not be illegal. For example, if you were defending yourself or you were not acting in an angry or threatening manner, you should not be convicted of brandishing a weapon.
An experienced brandishing a weapon or firearm defense lawyer in L.A. can build a strong defense based on the facts of your case and potentially get the charge dropped.
For a free legal consultation with a Criminal Defense lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 928-9347
What Counts as a “Deadly Weapon” in California?
In California, guns or firearms always count as deadly weapons, including hunting rifles, revolvers, and other non-assault weapons. You should know that the firearm does not have to be loaded to count as brandishing a deadly weapon.
Guns are only one of the weapons that can make a person guilty of this crime. You can also face charges for brandishing:
- Pens, scissors, or sharp pencils
- A rock or beer bottle
- Baseball bats and other clubs
- Broken glass shards
- “Molotov cocktail” or other incendiary devices
- An attack dog
- Chain saws and other power tools
Basically, any tool or object that can cause “great bodily injury” is considered a deadly weapon. Great bodily injury can include a black eye, broken bones, serious burns, severe contusions, and swelling, as well as many other kinds of injuries. If an object has the capacity to leave someone with an injury that won’t heal quickly, it probably counts as a “deadly weapon.”
Fists or the human body do not count as a deadly weapon, and you cannot be convicted of brandishing your body under this law.
Notice that many of these items are normal, everyday objects, not weapons. There is nothing illegal about having or showing off these objects unless it becomes threatening. This also creates substantial room to defend yourself against a brandishing charge.
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What Are the Penalties for Brandishing a Deadly Weapon?
The penalties for a violation of Penal Code 417 depend upon how the crime is charged. Brandishing a deadly weapon is an offense known as a “wobbler.” That means it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. There are also different penalties based on the circumstances of the case.
Brandishing is often charged as a misdemeanor, and the penalties depend on the situation:
- Non-firearms: Brandishing a weapon that is not a firearm is the least serious of these offenses. Even with this lighter charge, if you are convicted, you will face at least 30 days in county jail.
- Firearms: If the weapon was a standard firearm, jail time increases to between three and six months.
- Concealable firearms: If it was the kind of smaller firearm you could conceal on your person, you will instead face three months to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
- Graffiti: Under an obscure California law, you will also face three months to one year in jail if the person you threatened was in the act of cleaning up graffiti or vandalism. It does not matter what kind of weapon you used.
Aggravated Misdemeanor Charges
Some special circumstances can make the misdemeanor charge more serious. As a result, the consequences increase. These include brandishing a weapon or firearm near a:
- Daycare: If you brandished a weapon on the premises of an open child daycare center, the penalty is three months to one year in jail. This penalty applies no matter the type of weapon involved. Brandishing a firearm at a daycare center can also be charged as a felony in certain situations
- School: In California, all firearm offenses committed on school grounds carry additional punishment under the Gun-Free School Zone Act.
- Peace officer: If you brandished the weapon in the presence of a police officer or other on-duty officer of the peace, you will face nine months to one year in jail. This charge can easily increase to a felony.
In certain circumstances, it is up to the prosecutor whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. These include the daycare and peace officer version of the law. The prosecutor will decide this based on your previous criminal history and the specific circumstances of your case. If convicted, you could face:
- Up to three years in prison
- Formal probation
- Convicted felon status, which includes a lifelong ban on owning firearms
Additionally, any of the convictions above could result in the confiscation of the firearm you used (if any). A Los Angeles brandishing a weapon or firearm defense attorney can help to reduce or eliminate your charges.
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Defenses Against a Brandishing a Weapon Charge
Many defenses can be used against the charge of brandishing a weapon. The approach that your lawyer chooses to take in your defense depends upon the specifics of your case. Some of the most common arguments against this charge include:
- No threatening behavior
- No deadly weapon
Self-defense can be a valid reason for brandishing a weapon. However, certain conditions must be met for this defense to work. The person claiming self-defense must have reasonably believed that they or another person was in imminent danger. Additionally, they must not have fought back with more force than was reasonably necessary.
No Threatening Behavior
One of the conditions of this law is that the weapon must have been brandished in a rude, angry, or threatening manner. If you are able to show that this was not the manner in which you showed the weapon, you should be able to beat this charge.
No Deadly Weapon
If you can show that you did not actually have a deadly weapon when the alleged violation occurred, you are not guilty under California PC 417. You may have held an item that was confused for a deadly weapon or had no weapon at all.
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Talk to a Los Angeles Brandishing a Weapon Lawyer for Free
Most brandishing cases did not start with criminal intent. You may have been responding to a threat, or you may not have intended to brandish the weapon at all. Don’t let one bad moment ruin your life. The Simmrin Law Group is here to help those who have been accused.
Contact us by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call. We offer free, no-obligation consultations. One of our brandishing a weapon or firearm defense lawyers in Los Angeles will review your case and advise you of your options.