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What are the penalties for brandishing a weapon in California?

We’re all familiar with the fact that we could face criminal charges if we are in possession of a weapon illegally. While most people may not be able to cite the specific penalties that could apply, they understand that punishments may be harsh and that they will likely need a skilled attorney to help with their defense.

But did you know that it’s not just possession of a weapon that can lead to a weapons charge here in California? Did you know that brandishing a weapon can lead to serious charges? And did you know that depending on the type of weapon, penalties can escalate to include incarceration in a state prison for a number of years? If you didn’t know this then you might be asking this important question: what are the penalties for brandishing a weapon in California?

For those who do not know, brandishing a weapon is defined by the California Penal Code as drawing or exhibiting -- except in self-defense -- a deadly weapon in an angry, rude or threatening manner. This can lead to criminal charges, which depend on the type of weapon and where the incident occurred.

If the weapon is not a firearm but is still considered a deadly weapon, a California resident could face a misdemeanor charge that is “punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 30 days.” If the weapon is a firearm however, circumstances change. Firearm weapons charges can result in imprisonment in a county jail for three to 12 months and can include fines of up to $1,000 depending on the situation.

As we mentioned above, the place where the brandishing takes place can also have an effect on penalty severity. If the firearm is brandished on the grounds of a day care center or facility used for recreational use by youths, penalties can escalate to possible incarceration in a state prison. Sentences may range too, depending on circumstances, which can result in either months or years in prison.

Because penalty severity is contingent upon what happened, every case may be different. That’s why seeking legal representation is so important. Not only can a lawyer explain how the law will apply in a particular situation but they can advise you on how best to proceed with your case in future litigation.

Source:, “CAL. PEN. CODE § 417 : California Code - Section 417,” Accessed Aug. 1, 2014

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results