felon in possession of a firearm in California

What Happens When a Felon is Found in Possession of a Firearm in California?

A convicted felon in possession of a firearm in California is breaking the law and faces the risk of severe legal and financial penalties.

Read on to learn about the state’s felony and firearm possession laws and how to find the right lawyer to defend you against them.

Felonies in California

Types of felonies under California law include:

  • Murder
  • Attempted Murder
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Grand theft auto
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Drug trafficking
  • Assault & Battery
  • Burglary

Felonies come with punishments of anywhere from 16 months to 3 years in state prison. Even if you are granted probation, you may also face up to a year in jail and have to pay hefty fines.

This can cause additional problems such as:

  • Loss of employment or professional license
  • Damage to your relationships and reputation
  • Loss of your right to purchase or own a gun, vote, or serve on a jury
  • Removal or deportation for non-citizens

These conditions tie directly into firearm possession laws. Anyone convicted of a felony cannot own or use a firearm. Even certain misdemeanor convictions can cause you to lose your right to a firearm for a period of time.

California Felony Firearm Possession Laws

The law states that a firearm doesn’t have to be in working order to be prohibited by California gun laws. If it’s designed to deliver deadly force, it qualifies.

2 or more defendants can “possess” a firearm at the same time, and you don’t have to be touching or holding it to possess it.

California firearm laws state that anyone who has committed a felony or has an outstanding arrest warrant for a felony in any state can’t own, purchase, receive, or be in possession of a firearm. 

Penalties for being a felon in possession of a firearm include a year or more in a county jail or state prison and a fine of up to $1,000, or both. You must also give up any firearms you own.

Defenses in Felon in Possession of a Firearm Cases

California gun laws also provide rules on how a felon firearm possession case proceeds when it reaches the court. They determine the conditions for bringing the case to court and developing a defense.

Bringing the Case to Court

Before the matter can go to court, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:

  • Knew that they owned, purchased, received, or possessed a firearm
  • Has a previous felony conviction, or certain qualifying misdemeanor convictions

If either of these conditions isn’t met, the government cannot meet its burden to prove felon in possession of a firearm charge. 

Developing a Defense

Defending a felon in possession of a firearm in California involves showing that they had a legal reason to own or possess the firearm at the time of their arrest. Two of the most common methods are momentary or justifiable possession.

To prove momentary possession, the court must prove that the defendant:

  • Possessed the firearm for a momentary or transitory period
  • Intended to abandon, dispose of, or destroy the firearm
  • Didn’t intend to prevent law enforcement from seizing the firearm

To prove justifiable possession, the defense must prove that the defendant:

  • Found or took the firearm from another committing a crime against them
  • Transported the firearm to a law enforcement agency for disposal after the event 
  • Gave prior notice to the law enforcement agency about the disposal

These are only a few of the ways to avoid felony firearm possession convictions. Having an experienced lawyer is the best way to ensure you get the right type of defense for your case. 

Choosing the Right Lawyer

All crimes, including California firearm laws, provide you with the Constitutional right to representation. When choosing a lawyer, check their specialization, payment structure, communication methods, and reputation.


Your lawyer should specialize in criminal law. It’s also best if they have experience with firearm cases.


You’ll need to find a firm that can fit your budget. Their fees are determined by several factors, including:

  • Experience
  • The nature of the charges 
  • The number of victims or defendants
  • The complexity of the case
  • The amount of discovery produced 

Find a lawyer with a clear billing structure. They should be able to tell you what they’ll charge you for and when. Avoid those that try to hide their costs behind confusing terms or hidden bills.


A lawyer should contact you within at least 24-48 hours to update you on any important details in your case. If they don’t, they could face discipline by the State Bar.  

Find a firm with a reputation for efficient, clear communication. Reach out to their service department for an idea of how they’ll communicate with you while working on your case.


Look at online reviews of the firm you’re considering. Consider both quality and quantity. A high number of positive reviews could be manufactured, but a mix of positive and negative ones where most are positive is a sign of true quality.

Look at the firm’s track record as well. Although 97% of cases never go to court, you should still be able to find some that did. See how the lawyers handled them and what kind of results they got for their clients.

What to Do If You’re a Felon in Possession of a Firearm in California

California firearm laws are some of the strictest in the nation. They regulate how guns can be used and who can use them. 

Residents who committed any felony are part of a “restricted persons” list. They can’t own or use a firearm and will face legal and financial penalties if they do.

If you’re a felon in possession of a firearm in California, you should seek legal representation right away. A skilled defense team can use methods like momentary or justifiable possession to beat your case.David Silldorf Law provides criminal defense you can rely on. Contact us for a free no-cost, no-strings-attached consultation today.



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