Carrying a Firearm – Things to Know If You're Charged
California is one of the most gun-strict states in the nation. As a result, you could be charged just for carrying a firearm without the right license or in certain circumstances. Here's what you need to know if you are charged with carrying a firearm and want to defend yourself with the help of legal counsel.
Being Charged with Carrying a Firearm
California laws explicitly forbid carrying a firearm in unlawful contexts. According to California Penal Code 25400(a)(2), in order to prove that unlawful carrying occurred, the prosecution must prove that:
- The defendant was carrying a firearm capable of being concealed – for instance, certain types of rifles cannot reasonably be concealed, so you can't be charged with this crime for carrying one
- The defendant knew they were carrying a firearm – this protects individuals who may have had a firearm stashed in their pocket or purse without their knowing
- The firearm must have been substantially concealed – this relates to the first aspect above
Note that California laws explicitly outline what qualifies as a “firearm capable of being concealed”. Such a weapon is:
- Any device designed to be used as a weapon
- Where a projectile is expelled or discharged by an explosion or another form of combustion
- And the weapon has a barrel of fewer than 16 inches in length
Penalties for These Charges
Penalties for these charges can vary dramatically based on the circumstances. Most PC 25400 charges are classified as misdemeanors, which carry penalties including:
- Up to one year in county jail
- Up to $1000 in fines
However, you can be charged with a felony version of this offense if you have previously been convicted of a firearm-related felony, if the firearm was stolen by you or someone else, if you're an active participant in a street gang, and more. Felony convictions can result in penalties such as:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Up to three years in county jail
- Probation for one year after jail
Defenses for These Charges
Several different strategies exist that your criminal defense lawyer may recommend.
If you weren't aware that a firearm was in your possession – for example, if someone placed a firearm in your purse without your knowledge – then you cannot legally be convicted of this crime. Another example is if the gun was in a container or trunk in your vehicle without your knowledge.
You Have Concealed Carry License
California does allow individuals with the correct licensure to legally carry concealed firearms. Show that you have this license, and you'll be acquitted.
Illegal Search and Seizure
All police must provide reasonable cause for them to search your person or property. If they are unable to provide this, the charges against you must be thrown out.
The Weapon Was in Your Home or Business
Having a weapon concealed in your home or place of business is legal, so police cannot arrest you, nor can the prosecution convict you, for having a concealed weapon in either of those areas.
The Weapon Was Carried in Self-Defense
In certain situations, such as being afraid for one's life from a stalker, it may be proven that although you are “guilty”, there was a good reason for you to break the law. In such circumstances, you may not be punished or even found guilty for the crime in the first place.
Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Time is always of the essence in these criminal cases. That's why you should contact the law offices of Peter James Chambers today to receive a free consultation and get California's best criminal defense attorney working on your case.