Felony Charges for Gun Possession
I've been doing criminal defense now for over 26 years. I've been practicing in Los Angeles County, and I have an office in Encino very close to the Van Nuys court and San Fernando court, and I'm pretty familiar with how gun and weapon cases are handled.
They're handled very seriously because there are a lot of shootings in Los Angeles and gun violence is definitely on the agenda of the prosecutors and judges as far as a political issue to deal with.
I'm seeing them charging felonies for just simple possession of guns out on the street. I don't understand what's triggering it other than the fact that they want guns off the road. Too many people are getting shot by either gang members or people going into crowded locations, shooting people across the country. So, Los Angeles is where you do not want to be holding a gun.
It's a dangerous thing, especially if you're a gang member. They'll charge a felony against you, and a lot of times, they'll be seeking state prison, and they'll add a gang allegation saying you're holding the gun for the gang.
I've also seen them in simple cases filing felonies where they would typically file misdemeanors, even guns just in a vehicle. It's tough in Los Angeles county to even get a gun permit, so people having guns and driving around with them will be punished exceptionally severely.
Common Defenses for Possession of Gun Cases
Some of the defenses are, if you're carrying the gun unloaded and have the bullets in a separate compartment, a lot of times, you can avoid getting a conviction for that. Sometimes you forget that you have the gun with you. That's usually not a very good defense.
You've got constructive possession. It's in the car. You should have gotten rid of it. They're usually going to fight you tooth and nail in a situation like that where you're trying to claim that you forgot about it.
I've got a case now where someone forgot and brought it right through the metal detector into an airport. To me, that's a much stronger argument that you seriously didn't know that you had the gun because you know it's going to get picked up in the metal detector, so that's a pretty straightforward good argument for a defense that you didn't have the knowledge that you had the gun.
10-20-Life Gun Sentencing Enhancement
So, the answer to how weapon cases are charged is earnest, and if you have any mistake about it, anyone that commits a crime with a gun is looking at a ten-year enhancement for that gun under California Penal Code 12022.53.
For example, if you go in and you rob a liquor store with a gun, they're going to get you for the robbery, which usually has a high term of six years, plus they're going to get you for the ten-year gun enhancement. So, in that scenario, you're looking at a 16-year sentence at 85%, and you end up with a strike on your record. So, that gives you a feel for how serious these guys are looking at guns and people who own, use and possess firearms.
Of course, if you've got the gun for a lawful reason — maybe you're coming from the shooting range — you do have rights as a citizen. You've got Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, and as long as you've got the gun stored adequately. You're transporting it the right way; you have a good argument that you're lawfully carrying the weapon.
But if you're walking around with a gun in your pocket and you don't have a concealed weapon permit or if you're walking around with a gun in your car — like jammed in the seats — the police and the prosecutors think that you're looking for trouble.
They think you're looking to use that weapon, and you are not permitted to do that anywhere in Los Angeles County or the San Fernando Valley. Those prosecutors are adamant, Van Nuys Court, San Fernando court, those prosecutors are adamant, particularly Van Nuys. The head prosecutor there is one of his pet peeves: people with guns.
So, you're going to want to get an attorney who has handled gun-related offenses; number one, who knows the defenses to it; and number two, who can mitigate things and kind of show the other side of things, so you don't end up with some horrible sentence related to the possession of the gun.
I've handled thousands of gun cases over my long career. I know what to do. I know what to say. I know who to talk to. Take the first step. Pick up the phone. Make the call, and we'll get you on the road to getting out of the criminal justice system as soon as possible. Hedding Law Firm is located in LA County, and we offer a free case review.