California bans the sale, manufacture, transfer, distribution and importation of certain assault weapons under Penal Code 12280. If you do lawfully possess an assault weapon, it must be registered with the Department of Justice.

Examples of Assault Weapons

Assault weapons are generally viewed as weapons that soldiers use in battle and are not appropriate for hunting or for any other recreational use since they are considered even more hazardous than ordinary firearms. They include the following:

  • All AK and AR-15 series weapons
  • Uzis
  • .50 BMG rifle
  • Firearms listed on the original Roberti Roos assault weapons list
  • Shotgun with a revolving cylinder
  • Striker 12 shotgun
  • Others listed in PC Section 12276.1

Knowledge and Possession of an Assault Weapon

Possession of an assault weapon means it is on your person or within your control such as in your home or vehicle. You also have must have the knowledge that the weapon is an assault weapon or should reasonably have known. If the make and model of the weapon is ascertainable, it imputes knowledge.

Exempt Individuals

Certain individuals are exempt from the provisions of the assault weapons ban:

  • You lawfully possessed one before it was classified as a banned weapon
  • You have a permit to possess that weapon
  • Executors or estate administrators holding these weapons
  • Engaged in lawful target shooting or other approved exhibitions
  • You owned a .50 BMG rifle before January 1, 2005, and during certain times before May 1, 2006
  • Involved in a transaction involving law enforcement agencies

Defenses to Assault Weapons Ban

Besides being an exempt individual, there are some defenses you may use if you are charged under PC 12280:

  • Unlawful search and seizure

Police often find contraband or illegal firearms while conducting an otherwise legal search pursuant to a search warrant or to an arrest. The police must have had probable cause to believe you were engaged in illegal activity to detain you and they may only search certain carefully prescribed areas if searching your home or vehicle pursuant to a search warrant.

  • You carried the unloaded weapon in plain sight and not in a prohibited area
  • You did not know the weapon was banned

If the weapon had no distinguishing marks or you considered it an inoperable weapon, you may have a viable defense.

Related Offenses

In many cases, people arrested on an assault weapons charge may have other charges added. These include the following:

  • Carrying a loaded weapon (PC 12031)
  • Brandishing a weapon (PC 417)
  • Carrying a concealed weapon (PC 12025)
  • Carrying a loaded firearm (PC 12031)
  • Assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245(a)(1)
  • Felon with a firearm (PC 12021)
  • Grand theft firearm {PC 487(d)(2)}
  • Unlicensed sale of a firearm (PC 12070)

Penalties and Sentences

The illegal sale, manufacture, lending or distribution of assault weapons is generally a felony with possible state prison time of 4, 6, or 8 years for each illegal firearm. If the transaction was with a minor, you will receive an additional one-year enhancement.

Unlawfully possessing an assault weapon is also a felony but the penalty is either 16 months, 2 or 3 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000. Possession of a .50 BMG rifle, however, is a misdemeanor.

You might also be charged with only a misdemeanor depending on certain mitigating factors and if you have no criminal history so that you only face up to one year in county jail and a $1000 fine.

First-time offenders who once legally owned no more than 2 assault weapons who violated the law within one year of the expiration of the one year registration period and who gave up the weapon to law enforcement may only be guilty of an infraction and may only pay a fine.

In some cases where no other offense was committed, you may be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed if you voluntarily relinquish the weapon and pay a fine.

Immigration Consequences

For non-citizens, possessing, manufacturing, distributing, importing or selling an assault weapon could have severe consequences. It is possible in many cases to have these charges reduced or dismissed. Otherwise, you face potential deportation since most gun offenses are crimes of moral turpitude.

Call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis

Any gun crime conviction can result in serious prison time and have long range or permanent adverse consequences on your life. If you have been charged with a gun crime, call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis today for a free, confidential initial consultation at (213) 687-4412.