What are the Penalties for First Time Gun Charges in California?

First Time Gun Charge in California

For most of us, the thought of facing criminal charges is terrifying, let alone gun charges that could result in jail time. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. First-time offenders may find themselves staring down the barrel of severe legal consequences for gun-related offenses.

At Kolacia Law, we know there are few feelings worse than being accused of something you may not have even realized was illegal. We also know that with the right guidance and representation, many first-time offenders can mitigate penalties and even avoid conviction. 

Common First-Time Gun Charges in California

California prohibits the possession, use, and sale of many types of firearms. Some common first-time gun charges include:

  • Possession of an unregistered firearm – All firearms in California must be registered with the state. Unregistered firearms often result from out-of-state purchases or intrafamily transfers. Without registration, possession is illegal.
  • Carrying a concealed firearm without a permit – Carrying a concealed gun on your person or in a vehicle without a valid CCW permit is illegal in California.
  • Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person – Certain prior convictions prohibit gun ownership and possession in California.
  • Brandishing a firearm – Displaying a firearm in a threatening manner is considered brandishing and can lead to charges, even if the weapon is legally owned.
  • Negligent discharge of a firearm – Discharging a firearm through negligence or carelessness often brings criminal charges, even when no one is harmed.

Factors that Influence First-Time Gun Charge Penalties

Sentencing for first-time gun charges depends on the specific offense and circumstances surrounding the case. Factors judges consider include:

  • Type of gun charge – Sentences tend to increase with the seriousness of the offense. Brandishing a weapon will be penalized more severely than possession of an unregistered firearm.
  • Whether the gun was loaded – Unloaded weapons are often viewed as less dangerous.
  • Criminal history – First-time offenders with no prior record may receive lighter sentencing.
  • Age of the offender – Minors may be tried through juvenile court systems.
  • Use of a gun during a crime – Gun charges related to a violent crime lead to harsher sentences.
  • Cooperation with authorities – Admitting fault and aiding investigations reflects positively at sentencing.

Penalties for Minor First-Time Gun Offenses

For less serious first-time offenses like failing to properly register a firearm or letting a concealed carry permit lapse, sentencing often involves:

  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Probation
  • Mandatory gun safety courses

While these penalties seem light compared to violent offenses, any criminal conviction carries life-long consequences affecting employment and gun ownership rights.

Penalties for Serious First-Time Gun Crimes

With felonies and violent offenses, first-time offenders may face:

  • Months or years in jail
  • Felony charges
  • Loss of gun ownership rights
  • Lengthy probation periods

Brandishing an unlicensed weapon, negligent discharge resulting in injury or death, or possession during a violent crime often lead to felony charges, even without prior convictions.

Enhanced Penalties Under California’s 10-20-Life Law

Under California’s 10-20-Life law, repeat offenders face escalating mandatory minimum sentences:

  • 10 years for a second felony gun offense
  • 20 years to life for a third felony gun offense

These enhanced penalties apply to charges like brandishing a firearm, discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, or using a gun during a felony, among others.

With prior felonies, even minor subsequent gun charges can trigger decade-long sentences.

Hiring a Lawyer to Fight First-Time Gun Charges

For those facing first-time gun charges in California, consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney should be the first call you make. A weapons charges lawyer can:

  • Negotiate plea bargains to lesser charges
  • Secure enrollment in diversion programs like DEJ to avoid conviction
  • Explore options to expunge qualifying charges from your record

While penalties vary based on the charges and your history, conviction often means losing gun rights, certain professional licenses, and ineligibility for student loans. For immigrant defendants, charges like these can trigger deportation.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Gun Charges

What are the typical penalties for first-time gun charges in California?

For minor first offenses like possession of an unregistered firearm, typical penalties include fines up to $1,000, probation, and mandatory gun safety courses. More serious charges like brandishing a weapon can lead to months or years in jail, felony charges, loss of gun rights, and probation.

Can I go to jail for a first-time gun charge in California?

Yes, you can face jail time even for a first offense, depending on the specific charges. Serious gun crimes like negligent discharge or possession during a violent crime may result in months or years in jail. Prior criminal history and the use of a gun during a crime can also increase the chances of incarceration.

Should I get a lawyer for a first-time gun charge in California?

Yes, consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney should be the first step when facing any gun charges. A lawyer can help negotiate plea bargains, secure diversion programs, and protect your rights. Having legal guidance early on is essential to avoid harsh penalties and convictions.

Don’t Face Gun Charges Without an Experienced Lawyer in Your Corner

Facing first-time gun charges in California can feel frightening and overwhelming. The prospect of jail time, criminal records, and loss of rights is distressing.

But with an experienced criminal defense lawyer guiding you, these worst-case scenarios can often be avoided. You don’t have to navigate the complex justice system alone.

The dedicated attorneys at Kolacia Law have the determination to be a powerful ally by your side. We take the time to understand the details of your unique case, identify procedural problems, and build an airtight defense strategy.

Our firm has a proven track record of achieving charge dismissals, acquittals, and significantly reduced penalties – even for those facing gun charges for the first time.

We know how to effectively negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf while passionately defending your rights at every turn. Our #1 priority is obtaining the most favorable outcome so you can move forward with your life unhindered.

Don’t leave your future to chance. Call our office today for a free case review.

Author Bio

Daniel Kolacia is the CEO and Managing Partner of Kolacia Law Firm, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA, criminal defense law firm. As a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he is knowledgeable about both sides of the courtroom, an advantage he uses to help defend his clients. He has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including white-collar crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, and other criminal charges.

Daniel received his Juris Doctor from the Southwestern University School of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has worked on several high-profile cases featured on Dateline, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, and various local publications.

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