San Francisco Lawyers Explain How to Handle Weapons Charges

San Francisco Lawyers Explain How to Handle Weapons Charges

Getting charged with a weapons violation can be extremely scary. The penalties are harsh, and California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference. Here are some tips from San Francisco lawyers on how to handle weapons charges:

Understanding the Charges

The first thing to do is understand exactly what you’ve been charged with. Weapons charges can include things like:

  • Illegal possession of a firearm – It’s illegal for felons, certain misdemeanants, and subjects of restraining orders to have firearms.
  • Carrying a concealed weapon – It’s illegal to carry concealed guns in vehicles or on your person without a permit.
  • Possession of an assault weapon – Assault rifles are illegal in CA, though this law is currently being appealed.
  • Brandishing a firearm – It’s illegal to draw or exhibit a deadly weapon in a rude, angry or threatening manner.
  • Discharging a firearm – Recklessly discharging a firearm is illegal.
  • Felony while armed – Using a gun during a felony leads to extra prison time added on.

Knowing the specific charges is key to building your defense. A lawyer can analyze the facts and determine if the charges were applied correctly under the law.

Get an Experienced Lawyer Immediately

Don’t delay in getting a criminal defense lawyer with experience in weapons charges. In San Francisco, The Castillo Law Office or Jayne Law Group come highly recommended. They can provide a free case evaluation and explain your options. An attorney can often get charges reduced or even dismissed by finding problems with evidence or the arrest. The sooner you call them, the sooner they can start working on your defense.

Don’t Talk to Police Without an Attorney

Never talk to the police without your lawyer present. Anything you say can be used against you. Be polite but firm in invoking your right to have counsel present for any questioning. Your lawyer will handle interactions with law enforcement.

Understand the Possible Penalties

Weapons violations can lead to misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors may involve up to 1 year in county jail. Felonies can involve state prison time from 16 months to 3 years or more. Fines up to $10,000 are possible too. Your record, criminal history and the facts of your case impact the sentence. A lawyer can help figure out the possible penalties and work to minimize them.

Explore Defenses That May Apply

There are many potential defenses to weapons charges. For example:

  • You didn’t actually possess the weapon. If it belonged to someone else in your home, vehicle etc that may undermine possession charges.
  • The weapon doesn’t meet the technical requirements under the law and isn’t actually illegal.
  • You only possessed the weapon briefly for self defense in an emergency.
  • You were never notified you couldn’t possess weapons due to a restraining order.
  • There were issues with the search or seizure leading to discovery of the weapon.

An experienced lawyer will pursue every possible defense to get charges dismissed or reduced. Don’t give up hope until you’ve explored your options.

Mitigating Factors Can Help Reduce Sentences

If charges can’t be dismissed, your lawyer can bring up mitigating factors to help reduce your sentence. Things like:

  • No prior criminal record
  • Positive work, education, military service history
  • Compliance with parole/probation terms in the past
  • Family commitments like supporting children
  • Mental health or addiction issues that led to the violation
  • Other life circumstances showing you deserve leniency

This can help convince the judge to be more lenient in sentencing.

Alternative Sentencing Options May be Available

Rather than years in prison, alternative sentencing may be an option, like:

  • Probation – More minor offenses may lead to probation rather than incarceration.
  • Diversion programs – These involve treatment and rehab instead of jail time.
  • Split sentencing – Only part of the term is spent in custody, the rest is probation.
  • House arrest – You serve the time at home with monitoring rather than in jail.

A skilled lawyer knows how to secure alternative sentencing options that avoid the harshest penalties. Don’t assume prison time is inevitable.

Getting Your Gun Rights Back is Possible

If convicted of a felony weapons offense, you’ll lose your right to own firearms. But in some cases it may be possible to get your gun rights back. Options include:

  • Expungement – Having your conviction legally erased from your record.
  • Certificate of Rehabilitation – Restores some rights lost with a conviction.
  • Governor’s Pardon – Rare but restores all civil rights including gun ownership.

With an attorney’s help, you may eventually regain your Second Amendment rights. Don’t give up on ever owning guns again.


Weapons charges must be taken extremely seriously. But skilled criminal defense lawyers know how to build strong defenses and mitigate penalties. If you’ve been charged with a gun crime in San Francisco, contact an experienced attorney immediately. With their help, you can avoid harsh punishment and move forward with your life.