Unlawful Possession of Firearms
What is Unlawful Possession of Firearms?
There are numerous California gun laws that prohibit possessing or carrying a firearm under certain circumstances.
You face criminal penalties if you:
- Possess or carry an illegal firearm, or
- Illegally carry or possess an otherwise legal firearm
Some of the most common firearm possession offenses include:
- California’s “felon with a firearm” law
- California’s “carrying a concealed firearm” law
- “Carrying a loaded firearm in public”
- “Possession of a firearm on school grounds”
This law prohibits three groups of people from carrying firearms – convicted felons, anyone convicted of specific misdemeanors, and narcotic drug addicts.
This law makes it a crime to carry a concealed weapon on your person or in a vehicle. In order to be convicted of this crime, prosecutors must be able to prove that you knew you were carrying a concealed firearm.
This law prohibits just that – carrying a loaded firearm in public. It also prohibits carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
It is a crime to:
- Possess a firearm in or on the grounds of, or within 1,000 feet from the grounds of, a public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12.
- Discharge, or attempt to discharge, a firearm in a school zone, with reckless disregard for the safety of another.
- Bring or possesses a loaded firearm upon the grounds of, or student or teacher housing for, a public or private university.
Penalties, Punishment, and Sentences for Unlawful Possession of Firearms
Unlawful possession of firearms is punished by a range of sentences.
Judges look at four main factors when deciding what penalty to charge.
- Whether the offense is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony
- The type of firearm used
- Your criminal history
- Whether the offense subjects you to any California firearm sentencing enhancements
Penalties range from &1,000 to $10,000 fines, and sentences range from 3 months to 7 years depending on the offense.
Legal Defenses for Unlawful Possession of Firearms
There are multiple ways to be defended when charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. The defenses depend on the offense, but here are some legal defenses used when charged.
You are legally permitted to carry a firearm
If this is the case, then carrying a firearm shouldn’t be a problem. In order to succeed in this defense, you have to prove that you have a valid license.
You carried a firearm in self-defense
This defense will apply if you reasonably believe that your life was in “grave danger”.
You didn’t know you were carrying a firearm
Knowledge is a requirement of most gun offenses, so if you didn’t know that you were carrying a gun, then you aren’t guilty of carrying a concealed firearm.
The gun was found during an illegal search
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches.
In order for the police to legally search you or your car they must:
- Have a valid California search warrant, which authorizes them to search you or your property, or
- Have probable cause for a search, which means they have a reasonable belief you are engaged in criminal activity or pose a threat to threat to their safety, or
- Have your consent to search you or your property.
If a firearm is found and confiscated during an illegal search, the weapon is not allowed to be used as evidence in court.