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Felons who possess firearms at the time of arrest may face serious penalties. Federal laws prohibit felons from owning guns after they are convicted. In California, there are additional laws affecting felons. It is important to know what qualifies as an offense and some exceptions that may help reduce penalties.
What Qualifies As A Firearm?
The law is broad in its definition of a firearm. A firearm is a device that propels bullets. Since the law does not specify that a gun has to be fully assembled, even a firearm frame qualifies as a firearm by law. This means that an upper receiver of a rifle may also be included. The law does not include pellet guns. Tasers, pistols, rifles and shotguns of all types are included.
In addition to firearms, felons are not allowed to buy, possess or sell ammunition in California. Many companies may still sell ammo to people without being aware of their felon status. However, felons who are caught with ammo will be charged. It is also illegal to possess certain magazines and other items with a past felony conviction.
Who Cannot Possess A Firearm In California?
Anyone who has an existing felony conviction is prohibited from possessing a firearm in California. Also, people who are convicted of certain misdemeanors are prohibited from using firearms and may be charged the same as felons. If the misdemeanor was related to violence, sex crimes or a firearm, the individual is not supposed to possess a firearm.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule with misdemeanors. In some cases, the individual is only banned from possessing a firearm for a period of 10 years. Those who had a prior felony or misdemeanor and had their gun rights legally restored will not be charged as a felon in possession of a firearm.
What Are Some Possible Defenses?
With California’s laws in favor of self-defense at home and the Second Amendment’s provisions, some charges are reduced or dismissed if the defendant possessed the firearm for legitimate self-defense purposes. However, this must be proven to apply. For example, a felon who acquired six firearms and is caught driving with all of them would likely be unable to use this defense. A person who received a pistol from a friend to keep at home after receiving multiple threatening voicemails may be able to use this defense.
If the firearm was a gift or the defendant was unaware of its presence, he or she may not be guilty. For example, a person may give a defendant a gift that he or she forgets to open. If a probation officer opens it and there is a firearm lacking the defendant’s fingerprints, the case might be dismissed due to weak evidence. In some living situations, a felon who lives with roommates or family members and is unaware of a gun in the home in a locked box may not be charged. However, if the felon’s fingerprints were on the gun or if the felon had a key to its storage box, he or she would likely be charged.
Importance Of Hiring An Attorney
The penalties for this charge are harsh. Fines may be as high as $10,000 in California, and most convictions come with jail or prison sentences of more than a year. The sentence depends on prior convictions and the specific details of the case. It is important to hire an attorney immediately after being charged. Only a good private attorney can find weaknesses in the case or negotiate a lenient sentence with a lesser charge.