Loaded Firearm Charges – Definitions and Defenses
As California is one of the most gun control heavy states in the nation, it's all too easy to be charged with carrying a loaded firearm, even if you aren't guilty or if there are extenuating circumstances. Learn everything you need to know about being charged with carrying a loaded firearm and how a California criminal defense attorney can help.
Being Charged with Having a Loaded Weapon
In order to be convicted of carrying a loaded firearm, the prosecution must prove several things according to California Penal Code 25850(a):
- That the defendant was carrying a loaded firearm on their person or in a vehicle
- The defendant was aware they were carrying a firearm – this protects people who may not have been aware that they had a gun in their trunk, for instance
- The defendant was on a public street or in a public place
In other words, you can only be charged for having a loaded weapon if you are carrying it in someplace outside your residence or place of business. The law does protect people in those latter two instances for reasons of self-defense.
Penalties for These Charges
Most charges of carrying a concealed firearm will result in a misdemeanor. This may incur the following possible penalties:
- Up to a year in county jail
- Up to $1000 in fines
However, aggravating factors, including a criminal history, a history of violence, failure to cooperate with the police, for finding that you intended to use the weapon could result in the charge becoming a felony instead. Under such circumstances, penalties can include:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Up to three years in county jail
- Probation for a year after jail
Defenses for These Charges
There are multiple ways a California criminal defense attorney can help you avoid a conviction for these charges.
Lack of Knowledge
As mentioned, you can't be convicted of this crime if you weren't aware that the weapon was either on your person (for instance, in your pocket or purse) or in your car. This protects you in the event that someone stashed a loaded firearm in your car or on your person without your knowledge.
You have a Concealed Carry License
If you have a legal license to carry a concealed weapon, you may be acquitted from these charges. It's difficult, but not impossible, to get such a license in California at this time.
Illegal Search and Seizure
The police have to adhere to very strict “reasonable cause” standards in order to search your person or vehicle. If it can be proven that they violated these standards in any way, your case may be thrown out.
There are sometimes extenuating circumstances that may permit you to carry a loaded weapon on your person, even without a permit. If you had a reasonable fear for your life (if someone was stalking you, for instance), then the court may acquit you of the charges.
Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Being charged with any criminal activity is quite serious, and you should immediately contact the law offices of Peter James Chambers to obtain the best chance of being acquitted. Our offices are experienced and ready to start on your case with a free consultation right away.