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Brandish a Firearm

Penal Code 417.6 PC - Brandishing a Firearm with Serious Bodily Injury

California maintains strict laws regarding firearms in public, even when the firearm is not discharged. Brandishing a firearm under Penal Code 417 PC is a crime that can result in jail time.

Still, if you intentionally cause injury while brandishing a firearm or other deadly weapon, you could face serious penalties under Penal Code 417.6 PC.

Brandishing a Firearm with Serious Bodily Injury - Penal Code 417.6 PC
PC 417.6 makes it a crime to brandish a firearm at somebody and cause a serious bodily injury on them.

In other words, this gun law makes it a crime for someone to brandish or wave a firearm or other deadly weapon at somebody and, in doing so, intentionally inflict serious bodily injury on them.  A “serious bodily injury” is less severe than a great one.

PC 417.6 says, “(a) If in the commission of a violation of Section 417 or 417.8, serious bodily injury is intentionally inflicted by the person drawing or exhibiting the firearm or deadly weapon, the offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by imprisonment in state prison.”

(b) As used in this section, “serious bodily injury” means a serious impairment of physical condition, including loss of consciousness,  concussion,  bone fracture,  protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ,  a wound requiring extensive suturing,  and serious disfigurement.”

A conviction under this statute could get you as much as three years in state prison. Let's review this state law in more detail below.

Understanding Penal Code 417.6 PC

Penal Code 417.6 PC extends beyond the primary crime of brandishing (waving) a firearm as stated in PC 417, making it a separate and more serious crime to brandish the weapon so that “serious bodily injury is intentionally inflicted by the person drawing or exhibiting the firearm or deadly weapon.”

This particular crime does not involve discharging a firearm but instead using the firearm or other weapon as an instrument of blunt force. Examples of deadly weapons other than firearms covered in this statute include knives, nunchucks, hand grenades, etc.

Legal Definition of Brandishing 

For purposes of this law, “brandishing” refers to displaying, exhibiting, or drawing a firearm or other deadly weapon in a threatening, angry, or rude manner. It's not just about having a weapon—it's about using it in a way that could intimidate others.

Legal Definition of Serious Bodily Injury 

‘Serious bodily injury' refers to any significant or substantial physical injury resulting in a “serious impairment of physical condition.” Examples include but are not limited to:

  • broken bones;
  • concussion;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • wounds requiring extensive stitches;
  • disfigurement, or
  • sustained impairment or loss of use of a bodily organ.

What Are the Elements of the Crime?

To convict you of a crime under PC 417.6, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • You brandished or waved a firearm in a threatening manner;
  • In the course of brandishing the firearm, you caused another person to suffer a serious bodily injury; and
  • You acted intentionally and deliberately in causing the injury.

What Are Some Examples?

EXAMPLE 1: Darren gets into a serious argument with a man at a bar. He pulls a pistol out of his jacket, threatens the man with it, then proceeds to pistol whip the man until he is unconscious with multiple lacerations on his face. As a result, Darren can be charged with brandishing a firearm, causing serious bodily injury.

California Penal Code 417 PC – brandishing a weapon or firearm
Penal Code 417 PC defines brandishing a firearm.

EXAMPLE 2: Tony and Billy confront a rival gang member, Eddie, walking through their neighborhood. Both pull out knives to threaten him. As Eddie tries to run, Billy takes a wide swing with the knife, slashing Eddie's arm and severing a tendon. While Tony may be charged under PC 417 with brandishing a weapon, Billy will likely face more severe charges under PC 417.6 because his willful act caused serious bodily injury.

EXAMPLE 3: Crashing a party, Erin confronts her friend Georgia for sleeping with her boyfriend. In a fit of rage, she pulls out a gun to threaten Georgia but loses her grip on it. As a result, the gun flies out of her hand and hits a bystander behind her, causing serious damage to the bystander's eye. While Erin may face other charges (including brandishing a firearm), she will likely not be charged under PC 417.6 because the injury was accidental.

What Are the Related Crimes?

Several California laws are related to Penal Code 417.6 PC brandishing a firearm with serious bodily injury, including the following:

What Are the Penalties for PC 417.6?

Brandishing a firearm with serious bodily injury is a “wobbler” offense in California. This means that prosecutors can charge the crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case and your prior criminal history.

  • If you're convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you could face up to one year in county jail.
  • If convicted of a felony offense, you could face up to 3 years in state prison.

In addition, if you own the weapon you brandished, the court may order that the weapon be surrendered to authorities and disposed of as a “nuisance.”

What Are the Defenses for PC 417.6?

If you're charged with a crime under PC 417.6, a skilled California criminal defense attorney can employ several defense strategies to combat the charges. Common defenses in these cases are discussed below.

Defenses for Brandishing a Firearm
Contact our law firm to review the case details.

Perhaps we can argue there was a lack of intent. You can only be convicted under PC 417.6 if you intentionally caused bodily injury. If your attorney can show that the injury was accidental or that you didn't reveal the weapon to threaten someone, you may be able to get the charge dismissed.

Perhaps we can argue that there was no serious bodily injury. Your attorney may argue that even if you brandished a weapon, your actions did not cause serious bodily injury or that the injury to the victim was accidental or caused by something else.

Perhaps we can make a self-defense argument. PC 417 provides an exception for those who brandish a weapon for self-defense. Your attorney may argue that you took out the weapon and brandished it (or inflicted injury) because you felt you were in imminent danger of harm.

To review the details of your case, you can contact us by phone or through the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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