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Armed with a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony - Penal Code 12022 PC

Posted by Sam Israels | Apr 01, 2023

Penal Code 12022 PC is a sentencing enhancement that adds one to five years to a prison sentence for felonies where the defendant was armed with a firearm. In other words, felonies involving firearms are more severe and carry significant punishments in California.

However, to impose this enhancement, a prosecutor must prove that someone was armed with a firearm when they committed the underlying crime, such as knowingly having it available.

Armed with a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony - Penal Code 12022 PC

Notably, you would be considered a principal in a crime if you directly commit the offense or aid another person. Under California law, there are several sentencing enhancements for weapons used in a crime. For example, you could face an enhancement for just carrying a firearm when a crime occurs.

PC 12022 says, “(a) (1) a person who is armed with a firearm in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for one year unless the arming is an element of that offense.”

Subsection (2) says, “if the firearm is an assault weapon, as defined in Section 30510 or 30515, or a machinegun, as defined in Section 16880, or a .50 BMG rifle, as defined in Section 30530, the additional and consecutive term described in this subdivision shall be three years' imprisonment….”

This statute lays out an enhanced sentence for a felony conviction if just one of the following two factors is true:

  • Defendant was armed with any firearm at the time of the crime; or
  • Defendant used any other type of deadly or dangerous weapon in the commission of the crime.

The gun does not have to be fired or even displayed. In other words, if the defendant was just armed with the firearm while committing the felony, the enhanced sentence can be imposed.  

Notably, for more severe offenses, such as using a deadly weapon or being armed while committing some drug crimes, you could face an additional 3-5 years in prison. Let's review this state law further below.

What are the Enhanced Penalties?

PC 12022 imposes additional prison time to a sentence depending on the details of the offense, the type of weapon used, and the type of felony that was committed.

The enhancements are in addition to and are consecutive to the underlying felony and can't be served simultaneously. The enhanced penalties are as follows:

  • Just carrying a firearm during the commission of most felonies brings a prison sentence enhancement of one additional year;
  • Using a dangerous or deadly weapon also carries a sentence enhancement of one additional year in prison;
  • Being armed with an assault weapon, machine gun, or .50 BMG rifle carries an additional three years in prison;
  • Being armed with a firearm during the commission of some specific drug crimes, such as transporting drugs for sale, the prison sentence enhancement is an additional three, four, or five years.

Notably, other participants in drug crimes could also face sentencing enhancements even if they weren't armed, such as knowing your co-conspirator was armed.

What are the Related Crimes?

Several California statutes are related to Penal Code 12022 PC, such as the following:

What Are the Defenses for PC 12022?

As discussed below, a California criminal defense attorney may utilize a few common strategies to prevent this sentence enhancement from being applied.

Defenses for Armed with a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony

Maybe we can argue that there is no underlying felony. Recall that the enhancement only applies in the commission of a felony. Perhaps we can prove that no felony was committed.

Maybe we can get the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor offense, meaning the enhancement will not apply. Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge about the weapon. Again, recall that the enhancement only applies if you know that you were armed.

Perhaps you had no idea that a gun was present during the commission of the crime, meaning you don't qualify for the enhancement.

Maybe we can argue that there was no probable cause when police searched for a weapon, meaning it could be an illegal search and seizure. The evidence could be found inadmissible in court and may not be used to invoke the enhanced penalty.

We offer a free case evaluation via phone or contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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