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Felon in Possession of a Firearm, PC 29800(a)(1) is always charged as a felony and is one of the most common gun charges.

Elements of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, PC 29800(a)(1):

  1. The defendant has a prior felony conviction (or convictions of certain misdemeanors) or an outstanding warrant for a felony OR the defendant is addicted to a controlled substance
  2. The defendant had possession or control of a firearm

NOTE: California’s gun laws can be among some of the most confusing. Keep in mind that there ARE certain misdemeanor charges that prohibit a person from possessing a firearm, but for purposes of this page, we will only focus on defendants who have prior felonies or are addicted to a narcotic drug.

People Who Are Considered to Be “Addicted to Drugs”:

In order for you to be charged as somebody who is addicted to a narcotic drug, you must be

  1. emotionally addicted to the drug
  2. physically addicted to the drug
  3. you have built a higher tolerance to the drug

Jail Time

A conviction of PC 29800(a)(1) carries a maximum sentence of 3 years in state prison.

Defenses to PC 29800(a)(1):

  1. You didn’t possess the firearm because you didn’t even know it was there.

If you did not know that the gun was there, then you did not possess it because you did not exercise control over it. If, for instance, you were driving somebody else’s car and the police pulled you over and searched the vehicle, and you did not that the gun was there, then you did not possess the gun.

2. Momentary possession

If you are are about to drive your friend’s car and saw a gun in the back seat, and you called your friend to come to the car to take the gun, you are simply trying to get away from the gun. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to.

3. You were defending yourself or someone else.

Let’s say you are camping, and a bear mauls your friend and he is lying on the ground about to die. He tells you that he has a gun in the bag. This is the only way for you to survive, and the only way you’ll be able to safely call for help for your friend. So you take his gun and shoot the bear. In this case, you were justified in using the gun because you were using it to defend yourself and save your friend.

4. You don’t have a felony conviction or any misdemeanor convictions that would bar you from owning a gun, and you’re not addicted to drugs.

If you possess a firearm that is not registered to you, but you are not addicted to drugs and you have a clean record, for example, you may have committed another offense, but not PC 29800(a)(1).

5. Unlawful Search

Of course, unlawful search is always a tool to fight a criminal case. If, for some reason, law enforcement searched you or your property unlawfully, your criminal defense lawyer would file a suppression motion to keep evidence of the gun out.


Gun cases in California criminal court can be complex and stressful. Criminal defense lawyer Nghi Lam is experienced in fighting gun cases and will do everything to get you the best result possible, whether by showing that you did not know of the presence of the gun or by proving that law enforcement searched you unlawfully. We are located in Orange County but also serve LA County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, and all of southern California. We are able to conduct business with our clients both in person and remotely. Our phone number is 213-235-7969 and we look forward to discussing your case with you.

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