Even if you legally own a gun, it is against the law in California to carry your gun while concealed. It is also illegal to carry a loaded or unloaded gun in public in California. The penalty for carrying a concealed weapon is usually a misdemeanor. However, if you have a criminal record, carrying a concealed weapon can be a felony.
Carrying a Concealed Weapon in California
Under California Penal Code §25400, a person is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm if he or she:
- Carries concealed within any vehicle that is under the person's control or direction any pistol, revolver, or another firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
- Carries concealed upon the person any pistol, revolver, or another firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
- Causes to be carried concealed within any vehicle in which the person is an occupant any pistol, revolver, or another firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
The penalties for carrying a concealed weapon depend on a number of factors, including the defendant's criminal history. In most cases, carrying a concealed weapon is a misdemeanor, with penalties including up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
As a felony, carrying a concealed weapon can result in up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A felony conviction may also prohibit you from being able to own or possess a firearm in the future. Carrying a concealed weapon can be a felony in the following situations:
- The defendant has been convicted of a felony
- The defendant has been convicted of another California gun crime
- The gun is stolen
- The defendant is a gang member
- The defendant is prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a prior violent crime
Carrying a Firearm in Public
Carrying a loaded or unloaded gun on a belt holster is not considered carrying a concealed weapon. However, carrying an open firearm in public is still a crime in California. The charges depend on whether the gun was loaded or unloaded at the time.
Under California Penal Code §25850, it is a crime to carry a loaded gun in a vehicle or public place, including any public street. If the police see someone carrying a firearm, they are authorized to examine the weapon to determine whether it is loaded or not. Refusing to allow a police officer to examine the gun constitutes probable cause for arrest.
The penalties for carrying a loaded gun are similar to the penalties for carrying a concealed weapon. It is generally a misdemeanor unless the defendant has a prior felony, violent crime conviction, the gun is stolen, or the defendant is a gang member.
Under California Penal Code §26350, carrying an unloaded handgun is also a crime. This includes carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun in any public place or on a public street. This includes carrying a gun on your person or inside a vehicle. The penalties for carrying an unloaded gun include up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The Elements of Carrying a Concealed Weapon Charges
In order for an individual to be convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, the prosecutor has to prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury does not find the defendant guilty of all the elements of the crime, the defendant should be found “not guilty.”
The elements of carrying a concealed weapon depend on whether the gun was inside a vehicle or on the defendant's person. Carrying a concealed firearm within a vehicle requires proving:
- The defendant carried within a vehicle a ﬁrearm capable of being concealed on the person;
- The defendant knew the ﬁrearm was in the vehicle;
- The ﬁrearm was substantially concealed within the vehicle; and
- The vehicle was under the defendant's control or direction.
Carrying a concealed firearm on one's person requires proving:
- The defendant carried on his or her person a ﬁrearm capable of being concealed on the person;
- The defendant knew that he or she was carrying a ﬁrearm; and
- It was substantially concealed on the defendant's person.
Firearms capable of being concealed include pistols, revolvers, or any firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches in length. The firearm does not need to be fully concealed, as long as it is “substantially concealed.” Carrying a concealed gun on your person could include putting a gun in your waistband, an under jacket holster, or inside a purse or backpack.
Defenses to Carrying a Concealed Weapon Charges
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of carrying a concealed weapon. This includes showing that you did not know you were carrying a weapon. For example, it is possible that another person put a gun in your car. Someone could also put a gun in your bag or backpack with the intention that it is discovered and you'd be arrested.
It is also a defense to carrying a concealed weapon if you have a valid concealed carry permit.
Concealed Gun Permit
Legally being able to carry a concealed weapon generally requires a concealed weapons permit in California. Unlike in some other states, it is generally difficult to obtain a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license. CCW permits issued in other states are not honored in California.
CCW applications generally require going through your county sheriff's office, or police department if you live in an incorporated city. In applying for a CCW, you have to show that you have good cause for a weapons permit. This requires more than just a generalized concern for your safety. Instead, you may have to show a clear and present danger to life or great bodily harm to you or your family.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing criminal gun charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.