Aiding or Abetting a Felony by Furnishing a Firearm - Penal Code 12022.4 PC
In the State of California, violent felonies can be penalized severely, especially those involving firearms. The law is also severe towards those who assist felons.
If you aid and abet someone in the commission of a felony, you can be charged with the same felony crime as the perpetrator defined under Penal Code 31 PC.
Under Penal Code 12022.4 PC, if your assistance in the felony involves furnishing someone with a firearm, you can face an additional 1-3 years of prison time on top of whatever sentence you would otherwise face.
In other words, this California statute creates a firearm sentencing enhancement for people that furnish, or attempt to furnish, a firearm to somebody and do so with the purpose of aiding or abetting them to commit a felony.
The enhancements under this law subject a defendant to a certain number of years in a California state prison. This prison time is in addition to and is consecutive to the defendant's punishment for the underlying felony offense. This provision was enacted on January 1, 2022.
PC 12022.4 says, “(a) Any person who, during the commission or attempted commission of a felony, furnishes or offers to furnish a firearm to another for the purpose of aiding, abetting, or enabling them, or any other person, to commit a felony shall, in addition, and consecutive to the punishment prescribed by the felony or attempted felony of which the person has been convicted, be punished by an additional term of one, two, or three years in the state prison.”
This statute also says that the court shall order the middle term unless there are circumstances in aggravation or mitigation, and the judge must state their reasons for an enhancement on the record.
Also, the additional term shall “not be imposed unless the fact of the furnishing is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted or found to be true by the trier of fact.” Let's review this state law in more detail below.
PC 12022.4 - Explained
Notably, PC 12022.4 is a sentencing enhancement, not a standalone charge, which means you can only face this additional penalty if you are convicted of an underlying felony offense.
However, as stated earlier, the act of aiding and abetting a felony makes you eligible to be charged with the same crime as the perpetrator, whether you were an active participant in the crime or simply enabled the commission of the crime.
You can face the enhancement if you knowingly provide, offer, or make a firearm accessible to another person intending to aid, abet, or facilitate the commission of a felony.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
For prosecutors to attach the enhancement of aiding and abetting a felony with a firearm, they must establish the following elements:
- You knowingly provided, offered, or made a firearm accessible to another person;
- You knew that the other person intended to use the firearm to commit a felony and
- You provided the firearm with the intent to facilitate the commission of the felony; and
- The felony was indeed committed or attempted.
Other things to know about this law:
- If no felony was carried out or attempted, you cannot face the sentencing enhancement. Under California law, an attempted felony carries the same penalty as successfully committing it. However, no sentencing enhancement applies if no one follows through with plans to commit the crime or if you or the perpetrator are acquitted.
- You don't have to be present for the commission of the felony for the enhancement to apply. As long as you provided the firearm with full knowledge and intent to assist with the felony, you can be convicted of aiding and abetting and face the sentencing enhancement.
- The sentencing enhancement may apply even if the firearm wasn't used in committing the felony. The enhancement applies if you willfully furnished the gun to assist with the crime.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: John lends his friend Mike a handgun, knowing that Mike plans to use it in an armed robbery, under the promise that he'll receive a portion of the take. Mike commits the robbery and is arrested and charged. In this scenario, John could be charged with aiding or abetting a felony by furnishing a firearm.
EXAMPLE 2: Same scenario as Example 1, except Mike loses his nerve and doesn't go through with the robbery. Since no felony was committed, no sentencing enhancement applies.
EXAMPLE 3: Sarah gives her neighbor Tom access to her high-powered rifle under the belief that Tom is going hunting. Instead, Tom fires the rifle into a crowd. Sarah would not be guilty of aiding and abetting, nor would she be eligible for the enhancement under PC 12022.4 because she did not knowingly assist in committing the felony.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California laws are related to Penal Code 12022.4 PC aiding or abetting a felony by furnishing a firearm, including the following:
- Penal Code 12022 PC – armed with a firearm in the commission of a felony;
- Penal Code 12022.2 PC – possess armor-piercing ammunition;
- Penal Code 12022.3 PC – use a gun during certain sex crimes;
- Penal Code 23900 PC - alter firearm identification number;
- Penal Code 12022.5 PC– personal use of a firearm during felony;
- Penal Code 12022.53 PC – 10-20-life law;
- Penal Code 25400 PC – carrying a concealed firearm;
- Penal Code 26100 PC - drive-by shooting laws.
What Are the Sentencing Enhancements?
If you're convicted of a felony for furnishing a firearm in the commission of a felony, you can face an additional one, two, or three years in prison.
The default sentence is two years, but it may be shortened to one year or lengthened to three years based on mitigating or aggravating factors.
As noted, this sentence is in addition to and consecutive to the punishment for the underlying felony. In other words, you can't serve the enhanced sentence simultaneously with the original sentence—it is a true addition to prison time.
What Are the Defenses for PC 12022.4?
As discussed below, a California criminal defense attorney can raise several legal defenses to help you avoid the sentencing enhancement under PC 12022.4.
Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge. If you did not know that the person intended to use your firearm in the commission of a felony, the sentencing enhancement should not apply.
Perhaps we can argue that there was no felony. The attorney may try to demonstrate that no felony occurred. For example, it was a mistake of fact, a misdemeanor, or the perpetrator had a change of heart.
Perhaps we can argue that there was duress. If you provided the firearm under duress, meaning you believed you or a family member would be harmed or killed if you did not comply, this could be a valid defense against aiding and abetting with a firearm.
You can contact us by phone or through the contact form for a case review. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.