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California’s “10-20-Life” Law – Penal Code 12022.53

Posted by Philip Israels | Oct 21, 2019

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. There are laws that can impact your right to own or possess a gun – and other specific laws that allow for severe legal penalties if you commit certain California crimes with a gun.

This law in famously known as California's “use a gun and you're done” law and defined under California Penal Code 12022.53 PC as follows:

  • “Anyone who is committing a specific felony crime using a firearm will be punished by an additional 10 years in state prison. The firearm doesn't have to be operable or loaded. Anyone who discharges a firearm will receive an additional 20 years and an additional 25 years if they discharge a firearm causing great bodily injury.”

In simple terms, Penal Code 12022.53 imposes additional legal penalties if you commit specific crimes using a gun. It allows an “enhancement” to California state prison sentences for some serious felony offenses if there was a gun used in the commission of the crime. In other words, it “enhances” a state prison sentence in California by simply making the sentence significantly longer.

Previously, if you used a gun in the commission of some crimes, you would be facing a mandatory minimum prison term. However, in 2017, the lawmakers in California passed Senate Bill 620 – which gives judge's the decision make power to dismiss a 10-20-life sentence enhancement – as long as it's “in the interest of justice.”

Now, it's at the discretion of the judge, rather than a mandatory minimum.  If you have been accused of using a gun to commit a serious felony crime in Los Angeles, consult with our law firm to review the details.

To give readers a better understanding of California's “use a gun and you're done” law under PC 12022.53, Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Felony Crimes That Apply to PC 12022.53 Gun Sentence Enhancement

It should be noted that the PC 12022.53 gun sentencing enhancement, “use a gun and you're done,” law doesn't apply to all offenses when a gun was used to commit a crime. It only applies to specific serious California felony crimes:

Penal Code 187 – Murder
Penal Code 203 – Mayhem
Penal Code 207, 209 – Kidnapping
Penal Code 215 – Carjacking
Penal Code 211 – Robbery
Penal Code 262 – Rape
Penal Code 286 – Sodomy
Penal Code 264.1 – Gang Rape
Penal Code 288 – Lewd Acts of Child
Penal Code 288a – Oral Copulation
Penal Code 289 – Sexual Penetration
Penal Code 4500 – Assault by Life Prisoner
Penal Code 4501 – Assault by Prisoner
Penal Code 4503 – Holding Hostage by Prisoner
Penal Code 245(d) – Assault with Firearm on Police/Firefighter
Any Felony Crime Punishable by Life in Prison or Death
Any Attempt to Commit Crimes Above

Again, under PC 12022.53, the gun doesn't have to be loaded or operable to be convicted under this sentencing enhancement – and you don't need to have fired the gun while committing the felony crime. In other words, you are considered to have used a gun to commit a crime when you display it in a menacing manner.

Penal Code Section 12022.53, gun sentencing enhancement law, is similar to under California Penal Code Section 417, brandishing a firearm law.

Penalties for Penal Code 12022.53

California Penal Code Section 12022.53, “Use a Gun and You're Done” sentencing enhancement provides a maximum sentence for each type of gun violation:

Use of a firearm

If you used a gun to commit any of the felony crimes listed above, a prison term of up to 10 years will be added to your sentence. Once again, it's important to note the gun doesn't need to be loaded or even operate to receive the enhancement. The phrase, “use of a firearm,” is broadly defined and includes just the display of the gun.

Firing a gun

If you discharged a gun while committing any of the California felony crimes listed above, you will be facing an additional 20 years added to your sentence. To “discharge a gun” means you intentionally pulled the trigger to fire the gun, even in cases where the gun might misfire.

Great bodily injury or death

If you used a gun and caused someone to suffer great bodily injury or death, you will be facing an additional 25 years to life in a California state prison. This enhancement applies in a situation when during the commission of a felony crime above, you intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death to someone else, other than an accomplice. A “great bodily injury” is described as a significant physical injury – but it doesn't have to be a permanent injury.

Fighting Penal Code 12022.53 Gun Enhancement

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a wide range of strategies on your behalf if accused under California's 10-20-life ‘use a gun and you're done'” law.

In order to obtain the gun enhancement, the prosecutor must be able to prove – beyond any reasonable doubt – all the elements of the crime. Common legal defenses include:

  • You didn't personally use a gun during the commission of a crime;
  • You didn't commit the underlying felony crime that subjected you to a “10-20-life” gun sentence enhancement;
  • You were acting in self-defense. By law, you are allowed to reasonably defend yourself from imminent great bodily harm. We might be able to make a successful argument that you only used an amount of force needed to defend yourself.

If you have been charged with one of the felony crimes listed above and accused of using a gun in the commission of the crime, you need to consult with our lawyers right away.

The judge now has the discretion to remove the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement. Our lawyers will review the details of your case in order to prepare an effective strategy for the best possible outcome. We could greatly increase your chances of avoiding the harsh gun sentencing enhancement and consequences of a felony conviction.

We serve clients throughout Southern California including the greater Los Angeles area. We need to first closely examine all the details of your situation. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation.

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About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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