Drive-By Shooting Laws in California - Penal Code Section 26100
Shooting from a motor vehicle, which is commonly called a "drive-by shooting," is a serious crime that can lead to a substantial prison sentences if you are convicted. Its official name is called “discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle,” which is covered under California Penal Code Section 26100. This law prohibits a wide range of criminal conduct connected with a drive-by shooting, including allowing a passenger to even bring a gun in your vehicle; allowing them to fire a gun from your vehicle; firing a gun inside you car, and shooting at another person from your car. It’s important to make note that the vehicle does not have to be in motion to commit a drive-by shooting. A common example in Los Angeles County includes a situation where someone is driving their car and receives a call from a friend for a ride. He drives to the friend’s location and picks them up. However, he does not know his friend is carrying a concealed firearm. While they are driving, his friend asks him to go by a specific location. When they arrive, his friend pulls out his gun and starts shooting at the house. In this situation, the driver would not be criminally liable for a drive-by shooting offense as he did “knowingly” allow his friend to bring his gun inside his car, or even fire the weapon. If you knowingly allow someone to bring a gun into your car, it’s a misdemeanor crime. If you allow someone to fire a gun from your car, the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. This is called a “wobbler” offense.
If you are under criminal investigation, or already charged with discharging a firearm from a vehicle, you need to call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP right away. Let us review the details to determine a legal strategy moving forward. Below is a review of the specific legal definitions, penalties, and defenses below.
Legal Defintion of Loaded Firearm in Motor Vehicle
Under California Penal Code Section 26100, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle is legally defined as:
(a) It’s a misdemeanor crime for a driver or owner of a motor vehicle to knowingly allow someone to bring a firearm into the vehicle or (b) permit someone to discharge a firearm from the vehicle. It’s punishable in county jail for up to one year or up to three years in a California state prison (c) Anyone who willfully and maliciously discharges a firearm from a motor vehicle at another person is guilty of a felony offense which is punishable for up to seven years in a state prison.
Let’s take a closer review at a couple of very important keywords in the definition above. You act "willfully" when you commit the act on purpose. You act "maliciously" when you intentionally commit the act with a specific intent to disturb, annoy, or cause injury to another person. Contact our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm for additional information.
Related Criminal Offenses
There are some California laws that are similar to PC 26100, meaning you could face additional charges. These include:
California Penal Code Section 25850 - Carrying a Loaded Firearm
California Penal Code Section 246 - Shooting at an Inhabited Dwelling or Occupied Car
California Penal Code Section 246.3 - Shooting in a Grossly Negligent Manner
California Penal Code Section 30600 – Possession of Assault Weapons
California Penal Code Section 245(a)(2) - Assault with a Firearm
If you are the driver or owner of a vehicle and allow your passenger to carry a gun into your car, it’s a misdemeanor crime. If convicted, the legal penalties include up 6 months in county jail, a fine of $1,000, or both.
If you knowingly allowed the passenger to discharge a firearm from your vehicle, the Los Angeles County prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. Again, if convicted, the legal penalties include up 6 months in county jail, a fine of $1,000, or both. However, if convicted of a felony crime, the legal penalties include 16 months, to 3 years in a California state prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
If you are person who fired the gun from the vehicle, but did not shoot at another person, it’s also a “wobbler,” and can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony offense. A misdemeanor conviction again carries up 6 months in county jail, a fine of $1,000, or both. If you actually fired a gun at another person from the vehicle, it’s always a felony offense. If convicted, the legal penalties include 3 to 7 years in a California state prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000 fine.
Finally, in addition to the above legal penalties, you could additional penalties if convicted a felony crime. For example, a felony conviction for violating California's “discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle” law is considered a serious felony crime. Therefore, if convicted, it will count as a "strike" on your criminal history under California's Three Strikes Law. If convicted of a felony, you could also be prohibited from owning or possession a gun for 10 years. If you are an undocumented immigrant, a felony conviction for violation of California Penal Code Section 26100 could result in deportation. Call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our office for answers to any other questions.
Murder and Attempted Murder Charges
In cases where the prosecutor believes they can prove you had a specific intent to kill another person in the "drive-by shooting," you could face charges of attempted murder. If convicted, the legal penalties include a life prison sentence with the possibility of parole. If the "drive-by shooting" resulted in the death of another, you could face murder charges under California Penal Code Section 187. If the prosecutor is able to show you intended to kill the victim, you will face first-degree murder charges. A conviction can carry 25 years to life in prison, or even a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Otherwise, you could face second-degree murder charges that carry a 20 years to life prison sentence.
Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, the prosecutor could pursue a criminal street gang sentencing enhancement, under California Penal Code Section 186.22. This law can increase the legal penalties if you are convicted of a felony crime in association with, or for the benefit of, a criminal street gang. If you are convicted of a "drive-by shooting" that is gang-related, you could a sentence of 15 years to life in a California state prison.
If you have are facing criminal charges of a “drive-by-shooting” in violation of California Penal Code Section 26100, our Los Angeles criminal defense law can use a wide range of legal defense strategies on your behalf. These include:
You did not know the passenger had a gun – As stated above, the prosecutor has to be able to prove you knew the passenger was carrying a gun inside your vehicle. Our lawyers may be able to create reasonable doubt about you knowledge they had a gun. On a similar note, we could also argue you did not allow your passenger to carry or shoot a gun from your vehicle, but you were aggressively coerced against your will.
Self defense argument – In some cases, our attorneys might be able to prove you had a reasonable belief you or another person were about to suffer imminent bodily harm. Therefore, you reasonable believed you had to use force to defend yourself, and did not use any more force than necessary. A common example in Los Angeles County includes a situation where you fired a gun from your vehicle only because there was another person firing their gun at you.
Contact our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you or a family member has been accused of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, you need to contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at right away. We are former prosecutors and understand how these types of case are prosecuted. We have developed effective defense strategies to obtain the best possible outcome of your case. The first step is to call our office and let us review the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact us at 877.781-1570.
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