Understanding California Weapons Charges



For obvious reasons, in the state of California, any item designed to inflict injury on another person (or kill another person) is subjected to heavy regulations. A maze of complex laws controls what kinds of weapons can be owned or possessed, who can own or possess them, and how those weapons can be carried, transported, and stored.

For the most part, these laws can be found in the California Penal Code. A few years ago, the Penal Code was reorganized and renumbered so that weapons-related crimes and regulations are all found in Penal Code sections 16000 through 34730. Although numbering of statutory sections is inconsistent, this means that the entire remainder of California’s criminal laws is contained in just the first 16000 sections of the Penal Code. That gives you some idea of the complexity of weapons-related laws in California!

Some of these potential criminal offenses are charged far more commonly than others. For example, I have never represented anyone charged with the offense of possessing a “cane gun” (Penal Code section 24410), and I don’t know anyone else who has, either. Nor have I ever represented anyone charged with possessing nunchaku outside of a licensed self-defense instruction school, although a colleague of mine with a kid in karate lessons assures me that doing so is illegal. (He’s right; check Penal Code sections 22010 and 22015.)

Far more common are charges of possessing a concealed firearm (Penal Code sections 25400 through 25700), carrying a loaded firearm in public (Penal Code section 25850), and other charges related to a prohibited person carrying or possessing a firearm—typically, a convicted felon (Penal Code section 29800) or someone who is subject to a restraining order or other court order prohibiting them from owning or possessing a firearm. Additionally, the use of a weapon during any number of other crimes can serve as a devastatingly severe enhancement to the normal punishment. In many cases, being in possession of or using a firearm during a felony will enhance the potential punishment by as much as ten additional years.

Our office has extensive experience defending persons accused of all of these varieties of crimes. We offer free consultations, so don’t hesitate to contact us today.


What kind of punishment can I get for a weapons related offense?

Because there is such a wide range of weapons-related criminal offenses, there is no simple answer for this question; however, it gets asked a lot. For instance, possessing a switchblade (Penal Code section 21510) is a misdemeanor, with a fairly straightforward and generally light punishment. By contrast, possessing a gun when you’re a convicted felon will get you as many as three years in state prison, plus enhancements, depending on whatever prior felonies you were convicted of.

Doesn’t the Second Amendment mean I can’t be prohibited from owning a gun?

It’s not that simple. Please, don’t attempt to represent yourself in court and make this argument (and if that sounds crazy to you, I assure you, there are people who try it). It doesn’t work.

Are there any defenses to weapons charges?

Yes, of course! There’s no single type of defense that works best when confronted with a weapons charge, but a skilled attorney will always bring a sharp eye to these kinds of cases. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’ve been accused, you have to take whatever punishment they offer. There may be Constitutionally based defenses stemming from your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Perhaps there are factual defenses related to the state’s ability to prove your possession of the weapon in question. I have even represented people who were charged with unlawfully possessing a weapon, and it turned out the weapon wasn’t illegal at all—the police and prosecutors were simply mistaken.

 Posted by at 6:53 am