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California’s 10-20-Life Gun Sentencing Enhancement – Penal Code 12022.53

Posted by Alan Eisner | Apr 18, 2018

California’s 10-20-Life Gun Sentencing Enhancement – Penal Code 12022.53 PC
PC 12022.53 imposes additional legal penalties when you commit certain crimes using a gun and provides an "enhancement" to a state prison sentence

The state of California is infamous for having some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. There are some laws that impact your legal right to own or posses a gun, while other specific laws allow for seriously harsh legal penalties for defendant's who commit certain California crimes with a gun.

This 1998 law in commonly known as California's “use a gun and you're done” law, which is defined under California Penal Code Section 12022.53.

See related article: "California Packs Toughest Gun Sentencing Law."

 In basic terms, this law imposes additional legal penalties when you commit certain crimes using a gun. It provides an "enhancement" to a California state prison sentence for certain serious felony crimes if you use a gun in the commission of the crime.

In other words, it "enhances" California state prison sentences by making them significantly longer. In the past, a defendant who used a gun to in the commission of some crimes were could face mandatory minimum prison terms.

However, in 2017, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill 620, giving the judge the discretion to dismiss a 10-20-life sentence enhancement, if it's "in the interest of justice."

Now, it's judicial discretion instead of a mandatory minimum. It's important to note here that if you use a gun to commit a crime in Los Angeles County, you could still have harsh legal consequences.

Therefore, if you have been accused of using a gun to commit a serious felony crime, you need to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately . Let's take a closer look at some legal definitions below.

Legal Definition of 10-20-life Gun Enhancement

Under California Penal Code Section 12022.53, the gun sentencing enhancement law is defined as follows:

  • (b) Any person who is committing a specific felony crime using a firearm shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment in state prison for 10 years. The firearm doesn't need to be operable or loaded for this enhancement. (c) Any person who discharges a firearm will receive an additional 20 years. (d) Any person who discharges a firearm causing great bodily injury shall receive an additional 25 years.

What Felony Crimes Apply? 

The gun sentencing enhancement, “use a gun and you're done,” under Penal Code 12022.53 does not apply to all offenses where a gun was used.

In fact, it only applies when you commit specific serious California felony crimes. These include:

  • Murder – Penal Code Section 187,
  • Mayhem - Penal Code Section 203,
  • Kidnapping - Penal Code Section 207 and 209,
  • Robbery - Penal Code Section 211,
  • Carjacking - Penal Code Section 215,
  • Rape - Penal Code Section 261 and  262,
  • Sodomy - Penal Code Section 286,
  • Lewd acts with a minor - Penal Code Section 288,
  • Forced oral copulation - Penal Code Section 288a,
  • Sexual penetration - Penal Code Section 289,
  • Gang rape or sexual penetration - Penal Code Section 264.1,
  • Assault with intent to commit a specified felony - Penal Code Section 220,
  • Assault with firearm on police or firefighter – Penal Code Section 245(d),
  • Assault by a life prisoner - Penal Code Section 4500,
  • Assault by a prisoner - Penal Code Section 4501,
  • Holding a hostage by a prisoner - Penal Code Section 4503.

As stated above, the gun does not have to be loaded or even operable to be convicted of this sentencing enhancement.

Additionally, you do not need to have fired the gun. Under PC 12022.53, you are considered to have used a gun when you just display it in a menacing manner.

In fact, it's very similar to brandishing a firearm, under California Penal Code Section 417. Finally, this 'use a gun and you're done" sentencing enhancement applies to most attempts to commit the California felony crimes listed above. Call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our office for more information.

What are the Legal Penalties?

Under California Penal Code Section 12022.53, the “use a gun and you're done” sentencing enhancement, there is a maximum sentence that can be imposed for each type of gun violation. These violations include:

  • Using a firearm - A prison term of up to 10 years in a California state prison will be added to your sentence if you use a gun in the commission of any of California felony crimes listed above. Again, keep in mind that the gun does not have to work properly or even be loaded to receive the sentencing enhancement. The term “use a gun” is defined broadly, but includes displaying a gun or using it a blunt instrument. 
  • Firing a gun - If you discharge a gun during commission of a crime, you will face an additional 20 year sentencing enhancement in a California state prison. By law, discharging a gun means you intentionally fired the weapon by pulling the trigger, even if the gun misfires.
  • Causing great bodily injury or death - If you use a firearm that causes another person to suffer great bodily injury or death, your sentence will be enhanced an additional 25 years to life. This enhancement will apply if you, during the commission of a felony crime, intentionally discharge a firearm, and the discharge proximately causes great bodily injury or death to other person, who is not an accomplice. By law, a great bodily injury means a significant physical injury, but not necessarily a permanent injury. 

What are the Legal Defenses?

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can use a variety of legal defenses to California's 10-20-life 'use a gun and you're done'" law. It's important to note the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to be able to prove all the required elements of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt.

The potential legal defenses include that:

  • (1) you did not personally use a gun during the commission of a crime;
  • (2) you did not commit the underlying felony crime that subjected you to the "10-20-life" sentence enhancement, and;
  • (3) you were acting in self-defense. Under California law, you can reasonably defend yourself from imminent great bodily harm. Our lawyers may be able to prove you only used an amount of force required to defend yourself. 

Contact our Criminal Defense Law Firm

If you or a family member have been charged with a felony crime and accused of using a gun, it's critical to talk to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately. As stated above, a judge now has the authority to remove the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement at their discretion.

By retaining an experienced lawyer to handle your legal defense, you will greatly be increasing your chances of avoiding the severe sentencing enhancement and consequences of your initial felony charges. Call our law firm at 877-781-1570 to fight for the best possible outcome of your case. 

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About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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