Sec 12031 of the California Penal Code criminalizes the act of carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle or public place. This is differentiated from Sec 12025 or carrying a concealed weapon. The law provides that “ A person is guilty of carrying a loaded firearm when the individual carries a loaded firearm on their person or in a vehicle while in a public place or public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area or unincorporated territory.”

By law, a firearm is “loaded” when the firearm has an “unexpended cartridge or shell, consisting of a case that holds a charge of powder and a bullet or shot, in, or attached in any manner to the firearm, including but not limited to the firing chamber, magazine or clip thereof attached to the firearm. Except that a muzzle loader firearm shall be deemed to be loaded when it is capped or primed and has a powder charge and a ball or shot in the barrel or cylinder.”

A public place is defined as any place open to common and general use and is readily accessible by anyone wishing to go there. A prohibited area as defined by law is any place where it is unlawful to discharge a weapon.

There are exceptions to this rule. The law provides exceptions to the following:

• Peace officers, whether active or honorably retired, including those who are carrying out official duties and persons acting as agents of the police;
• Members of the U.S. military engaged in the performance of their duties;
• Individuals using target ranges for practice shooting;
• Individuals legally permitted to carry concealed weapons;
• Armored vehicle guards;
• Retired federal officers or agents who carried firearms when they were on active duty;

In the absence of aggravating circumstances, when an individual carries a loaded firearm into a public place can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. The following are the penalties imposable:

• Summary probation;
• Incarceration of up to one (1) year in a county penal facility;
• Payment of a fine of up to $1,000;

This misdemeanor charge can be elevated to a felony charge depending upon the factual circumstances of the case and the individual’s criminal history. The charge becomes a felony under the following circumstances:

• A previous conviction of a misdemeanor crime against person or property or of a narcotics offense;
• The individual carrying the firearm is not the registered owner of the firearm;

When the above are present, then the imposable penalties would be up to three (3) years in state prison and payment of up to $1000 in fines.

The crime of carrying a loaded firearm in a public place or vehicle is a serious matter in California. Should you be or know anyone facing any of these charges, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.