Carrying a Loaded Gun


California has some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation. While these laws were meant to protect Californians from violent crime, the practical result is that many innocent or well-intentioned people get convicted for carrying weapons outside of their homes or businesses.

If you’ve been charged with carrying a loaded firearm in public, you should retain the services of a skilled San Diego weapons defense attorney as soon as possible. The penalties for breaking firearms regulations are harsh, and the sooner your lawyer can begin working on your case, the better chance you’ll have of avoiding a conviction.

It’s Illegal to Carry a Loaded Firearm on Your Person or in Your Vehicle

In substantially similar language, California Penal Code sections 12031 and 25850(a) prohibit carrying loaded weapons on your person or in your car. For a prosecutor to successfully build a case against you, he or she will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • You carried a firearm on your person or in your car
  • You knew you carried a loaded firearm
  • You were in a public place

Without aggravating factors, carrying a loaded firearm in public is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in jail and / or a $1,000 fine. In other cases, the offense becomes a wobbler, which means it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony punishable by a possible $1,000 fine and up to three years in prison. Carrying a loaded weapon is a wobbler when:

  • There is evidence that you are not registered with the Department of Justice as the firearm’s owner
  • You have a prior conviction for a misdemeanor against a person or property, or a conviction for a narcotics offense

Under the following circumstances, carrying a loaded weapon will be charged as a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and / or a $10,000 fine:

  • You have a prior felony conviction
  • You have a prior conviction for a California firearms offense
  • The gun was stolen and you knew it to be stolen
  • You are a gang member
  • You are not allowed to own a gun

How to Defend Against Your Firearms Charges

If the prosecution succeeds in convicting you of the felony version of carrying a loaded firearm, you will face serious repercussions in addition to the jail time and fine. A felony conviction will affect your ability to own a gun in the future, to perform certain professions, and to stay in the United States if you are not a US citizen. For this reason, the next best outcome besides a verdict of innocence is to receive a conviction for the misdemeanor version of the offense, which has less serious consequences.

Depending on the specifics of your case, it may be possible for your attorney to have your case dismissed based on the prosecution’s lack of admissible evidence against you. The prosecution’s evidence may be inadmissible when your lawyer can demonstrate that:

  • The arresting officer lacked probable cause to pull you over and search your car
  • Law enforcement lacked probable cause to search your person
  • The police did not read your Miranda rights during the arrest

If the case goes to trial, your San Diego gun charges attorney can use other defenses, such as:

  • Arguing that you were carrying the gun in self-defense
  • Demonstrating that you did not know that you were carrying the firearm
  • Showing that you were not in a public place (you are allowed to carry a weapon on hunting grounds, or at a place of temporary residence, such as a campsite)
  • Showing that your weapon was not loaded

At McElfresh Law, we strive to protect the rights and freedoms of every one of our clients. This means looking closely at all available evidence and building creative and effective defenses to their charges. San Diego gun charges attorney Jessica McElfresh has years of experience defending San Diego citizens charged with firearms offenses. You can call her today at (858) 756-7107 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.