Anyone carrying a concealed weapon on their person or in their vehicle is violating the law. The crime is a wobbler in California. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor. It depends on your criminal history and the facts of your case. Facing arrest for a gun offense in Chula Vista can be the most challenging time of your life. It is because crimes like these have life-changing consequences, like lengthy prison sentences and hefty court fines. However, a skilled criminal attorney can assist you in overcoming your fears and anxiety. They will accomplish this by assisting you in understanding the legal implications of your charges and options. We prepare a strong defense against your charges at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. We will work with you to persuade the judge to reduce or dismiss your charges.

What does Carrying a Concealed Firearm Mean?

You are not automatically guilty of all charges when the police arrest you for carrying a concealed gun. You must go through a trial for the judge to decide your case. The jury will consider the legal definition of your crime during the trial to determine your guilt. Even though the police found you with a concealed weapon, the court can dismiss your charges. That is possible if the prosecutor cannot prove all the crime’s elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

This offense is defined legally in PC 25400. The law applies to defendants who commit the following crimes:

  • Those carrying concealed firearms in any motor vehicle they are in control of. A firearm, in this case, could be a revolver, handgun, pistol, or other weapons people can hide in their vehicle.
  • Those carrying concealed firearms, like pistols, handguns, revolvers, or other concealable weapons.
  • Those who make others carry concealed firearms like revolvers and pistols in their vehicle, as long as the person having the guns has complete control of the car

The term "concealed weapon" in this context does not refer to a specific type of weapon. It refers to any weapon concealed on one's person or vehicle, like a revolver or pistol.

Also, remember that the state has made no exceptions for the open carry of unloaded weapons since January 2012. Carrying an unloaded gun on one's person in public is illegal.

However, for the judge to convict you after your trial, the DA must prove all the crime’s facts beyond a reasonable doubt. It is critical to comprehend the three components that comprise the legal definition of carrying a hidden firearm:

  • That you hid or concealed a weapon upon your person or a car you had control of
  • You knew or should have reasonably known of the weapon’s presence in your person or vehicle
  • You had substantially hidden the firearm

Let us examine some of these elements further to understand your charge’s legal meaning:

Concealing a Firearm

Penal Code 25400 only punishes those guilty of concealing a weapon. You can face criminal charges under a different statute than this if you have a firearm in plain view. You could, for example, face prosecution under Penal Code 26350, which penalizes those who openly carry exposed, unloaded firearms in public and outside their vehicles. However, if you conceal the weapon even partially, you can face criminal charges under PC 25400. Your charges will stand even though the concealed weapon is easily identifiable.

Example: Mark walks into a grocery store with a concealed gun in the back pockets of his pants. An officer following him from a few blocks away stops and arrests him for having a concealed weapon. Even if the officer can see the outline of the gun in Mark's rear pockets, the weapon is concealed in his pants pocket. In that case, he faces prosecution under PC 25400.

But this law has exceptions. The weapon is not concealed if a person openly carries a firearm in a belt holster. While some individuals cannot face prosecution under this exemption, they can face prosecution for publicly having an unloaded or loaded gun.

Concealable weapons

PC 25400 only applies to weapons concealed on a person or vehicle. There are revolvers and pistols, and other concealable guns. They are weapons that can expel a projectile through an explosion or combustion force. Firearms also have barrels that are at least 16 inches long.

A concealed weapon could also refer to the weapon's receiver and frame. A gun’s frame refers to its fundamental component: the weapon's active part and its barrel’s mounting. The receiver connects the mechanical aspects of the weapon, like its bolt carrier or trigger housing.

Meaning of a Firearm

PC 16520 defines the term "firearm" in great detail. It refers to any device that can work as a dangerous weapon to fire a projectile via its barrel through a combustive explosion force. A rocket and similar explosive devices meet the legal definition of a firearm. Firearms include revolvers, rifles (including those with short barrels), pistols,  handguns, tasers, and shotguns for this statute (including those with short barrels).

Pellet and BB guns, on the other hand, are not firearms according to this legal definition because they use air pressure force and not combustion.

Note: The need for gun laws like these is to keep members of the public safe from the possible harm of seeing a concealed weapon in public. You could face charges for carrying a hidden firearm even though it is inoperable.

Having a Hidden Weapon On Your Person

Carrying a weapon upon your person simply means you are in its physical control. However, it makes no difference whether you carried the firearm in something you were wearing or carrying/holding. You could face prosecution under this statute if you hide the weapon in a pocket or in a briefcase, backpack, purse, or anything you carry.

Knowledge of a Weapon’s Presence in Your Car or Person

The statute also requires that you knew, or should have reasonably been aware, that the weapon was on your person or vehicle. This factor is significant in preventing innocent people from facing prosecution. You are not guilty of carrying a concealed weapon if you can prove that you were clueless about the weapon's presence in the purse or bag in your possession.

Example: One evening, Jerry is stopped at a DUI checkpoint on his way home from a friend's house. An officer inspects the inside of his vehicle. He asks Jerry to open a briefcase in the backseat of his car for a routine check. Jerry's friend had left the suitcase in his car, and Jerry was unaware of what it contained. Jerry is arrested after the officer discovers a revolver in his briefcase.

But Jerry is not guilty of carrying a concealed revolver because he was unaware of its presence in his car.

How To Fight Your Charges Under PC 25400

It is crucial to understand you can fight your charges in court during the trial if you face charges for carrying a concealed weapon upon your person or in your vehicle. The prosecution team will build a strong case against you using compelling evidence. But you can counter their claim with solid evidence and with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Fortunately, your attorney has several legal defense strategies to help you win your case. Your attorney can persuade the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges if you present compelling evidence. Based on the facts of your case, here are some great strategies you can employ:

You Were Oblivious to the Weapon’s Presence

The weapon's presence on your person or a vehicle is an essential component of this offense. The prosecutor must prove that you had the firearm and knew its presence. You are not guilty under this statute if you did not know of the firearm's presence. That could happen if the weapon were hidden in something you were wearing, carrying, or driving without your knowledge. It is also possible that you were holding someone else's backpack, briefcase, or purse or wearing someone else's jacket and were unaware that the bag or jacket contained a weapon.

The judge would dismiss your charges if you were oblivious to the firearm's presence.

The Firearm Was Locked Up

Remember that this law protects members of the public from the dangers of discovering a concealed weapon on someone's person or in their vehicle. That risk is eliminated if you keep a firearm in your vehicle's trunk or a closed container. No one will know you are carrying a firearm if you lock it in your car and it is not within your immediate reach. You are not in violation of the law if you do that.

You can use this as a defense to have the court drop your charges if you face arrest for carrying a concealed weapon after the police search your vehicle. But you must have a valid firearm permit for the jury to consider your defense. You are legally permitted to transport a firearm with a legal firearm permit.

You Hold a Valid Permit For a Concealed Carry

You are not guilty of carrying a concealed weapon in public if you have a valid concealed carry license. PC 26150 outlines the procedures for obtaining a concealed gun permit in the state. Remember that the prosecutor bears the burden of proof in criminal cases. The DA must prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. But you must show a legal license if you have one.

You must show that you have completed a gun training course in your argument. You must submit to a background check to ensure no criminal history. You must also show that you presented an application for concealed carry to a police agency near you after completing the training course. The judge will dismiss all charges against you if the jury accepts your defense.

The Firearm Was In Your Residence or Business

It is not illegal to keep a concealed weapon in your residence or business premise. PC 25400 makes carrying one in public places illegal. You can carry or hide a concealed gun within your home or business with a valid permit. However, a business does not necessarily refer to your place of employment. Your workplace does not qualify as your place of business if you are an employee.

People who live in or work from their vehicles are not eligible for this exemption. But, if you use your vehicle for business, like a taxi driver, you can hide a firearm within it for safety reasons without violating the law.

Your Arrest was Illegal

Assume you believe the officers who arrested you violated your rights during the criminal investigation and arrest. You can use this defense to exclude some or all of the evidence against you from the court. For example, if police searched your person or vehicle without a legal warrant, any evidence gathered will not be used against you in court. A search warrant also specifies the limits of the search, beyond which police officers must not search. If the investigating officers went above and beyond the terms of their warrant to find the concealed weapon, your criminal lawyer could persuade the judge to dismiss their evidence and your charges.

You can also use this defense if officers question you before reading your Miranda rights. You can use this defense strategy if you believe you incriminate yourself and want a portion of all statements you gave to the police to be ruled inadmissible in court.

You must be aware of your rights during a police investigation, arrest, and even after arrest. It will protect you from illegal detention and an unfair conviction. You can hire an experienced criminal attorney from the start of the legal process.

Police Misconduct

You can use this strategy if you believe the police acted improperly during the criminal investigation and arrest process, like if a police officer planted a weapon on you. When investigating crimes, police officers make mistakes. If a rogue officer stops and arrests you, only to discover that what you were carrying was not a firearm, they can plant evidence to avoid charges for an illegal arrest.

Other times, rogue officers force suspected offenders to admit to carrying a concealed weapon when the suspects are innocent. An experienced criminal lawyer will present a compelling argument to the judge, causing them to dismiss your charges.

Police misconduct could also occur if the police give false testimony in court about the case. They can misrepresent facts to persuade the court to convict. For example, claiming that the weapon was visible to the public when, in reality, you had it in a locked container in your car.

You Needed the Firearm For Self-Defense

The jury can be sympathetic if you show that you needed to carry a firearm for your or someone else's safety. Self-defense is an acceptable legal defense strategy in most criminal cases. But you must demonstrate that you were in imminent danger of bodily harm and only did what was necessary to keep yourself or someone else safe.

In that case, you should show that you did not intend to harm or cause anyone to experience fear but only to ensure your or someone else's safety.

Persons Exempted From Criminal Charged Under PC 25400

Specific persons are legally permitted to carry concealed firearms in the state. Among them are the following:

  • Military personnel from the United States
  • Peace officers, active duty personnel, and the honorably retired
  • Dealers in firearms who have valid operating licenses
  • Bank messengers and security guards
  • Target shooting organization and club members
  • Legal fishermen and hunters who only use or transport firearms for fishing or hunting purposes

If you are arrested and charged with having a concealed weapon upon your person or vehicle and are exempt from prosecution under the law, you can prove it in court. The judge will dismiss your charges.

However, for the judge to dismiss your charges, you must meet the following requirements:

  • The firearm in your possession must be unloaded
  • You must only have the gun for particular activities

Criminal Penalties After a Guilty Verdict Under PC 25400

You will almost certainly face severe penalties if you are unlucky during the trial and the jury returns a guilty verdict. Keep in mind that PC 25400 is a wobbler offense. It means that depending on your criminal history and the circumstances of your case, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges.

You will most likely face a misdemeanor charge if there are no aggravating factors. The consequences would be as follows:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • One year in jail
  • A fine of $1000

You could face zero jail time if the judge sentences you to probation. Judges have complete discretion in deciding whether to sentence you to probation or jail. The basis of their decision in most cases is on your criminal record, whether you have a history of violence, your intent with the concealed firearm, and if you cooperated with law enforcement during your investigation and arrest.

In the presence of aggravating factors, like a prior violent crime, the prosecutor can treat your case as a felony or wobbler. Under the following conditions, you could automatically  face a felony charge:

  • You have a prior felony sentence for a gun-related crime in your criminal record
  • You were aware that the firearm in your possession was stolen
  • You actively participate in illegal gang activities
  • You were illegally in possession of the gun
  • You lost your gun rights under Penal Codes 29800, or 29900

You will likely receive the following penalties if you are guilty of a felony under the law:

  • Felony probation for at least one year
  • 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail
  • A fine of $10,000

The prosecutor can charge you with a wobbler offense if:

  • You have a prior misdemeanor conviction against another individual or property for a dangerous or drug-related crime, or
  • The firearm was loaded or unloaded but with ammunition at a close range, and
  • The gun is not registered under your name

The prosecutor will decide whether to charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor since it is a wobbler offense. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by one year in jail and a $1000 fine under the above-mentioned circumstances. A felony conviction can result in the following:

  • Up to three years in prison
  • Felony probation, or
  • Court fines of up to $10,000.

Immigration Consequences

On top of the criminal penalties mentioned above, a sentence for having a concealed gun results in serious immigration consequences for immigrants. PC 25400 is one of the laws that could result in your deportation or inadmissibility. The immigration department can temporarily or permanently deport you to your country of origin after serving your sentence.

Expungement of Your Criminal Record

A conviction will also leave you with a negative criminal record. That record will affect your life even after serving your time in prison. For example, anyone conducting a background assessment will learn of your conviction. Unfortunately, most people, including tenants and potential employers, treat ex-convicts based on what they discover in their criminal histories. As a result, you could miss out on several opportunities to find suitable employment or a suitable neighborhood.

You can remedy all of this with expungement. It removes all of the negative consequences and disadvantages of a criminal conviction. When a court expunge your criminal conviction, those conducting a background check on you will find nothing.

However, you can only begin the expungement process once you have completed your jail term or probation and paid all necessary court fines. Your criminal attorney can assist you in making sure the process goes smoothly.

Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me

You are probably going through the most challenging time if you face criminal charges in Chula Vista for carrying a concealed gun. An arrest is a difficult situation to deal with. The legal process is also complex and easier to navigate with legal assistance. That is why you require the help of an experienced criminal attorney. Your attorney will listen to you, gather evidence, explain your options, and protect your rights. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we will also work on your defense to ensure a fair trial and a favorable outcome. To discuss our terms, please contact us at 619-877-6894.