According to California Penal Code Section 626.9, also known as the California Gun-Free Zone Act, it is illegal to knowingly possess loaded or unloaded a firearm or to discharge a firearm in a school zone.
Elements of Penal Code Section 626.9
Prosecutor must establish the following elements to convict the defendant of violating the Gun-Free School Zone Act
- Defendant was in possession of a firearm
- Defendant was within a school zone
- Defendant knew or reasonably should have known, that he was in a school zone
For purposes of PC Section 629.9, a firearm is a device designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.
School Zone is an area, “in, or on the grounds of, a public or private school providing instruction to kindergarten or grades 1 to 12”, or within 1,000 feet of those grounds.
Penal Code Section 626.9 Exemptions
There are numerous provisions in the law when a person can escape from criminal liability. The law isn’t applicable under the following circumstances:
- Person is an authorized military personnel or police officer
- Person is an authorized security guard or transporter for a financial institution, bank, or other common carriers
- Person is a licensed individual engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing, importing, wholesaling, or dealing in firearms
- Person has written permission from the school district
- Person is on private property either at a business or residence as long as he lawfully possesses the gun
- Person is carrying a concealed pistol or revolver that is unloaded and is in a locked container within his vehicle
Legal defenses to California PC Section 626.9 Charges
Legal defenses to California PC Section 626.9 charges
- Defendant did not know or could not reasonably know that he was near a school zone
- Defendant was subjected to an unlawful search and seizure
- Any of the exemptions listed in the act applied to the defendant at the time
Penalties for Violating the Gun-Free School Zone Act
In case the defendant possessed a firearm in, or on the grounds of a public or private school, he will face two, three, or five years sentence in California state prison.
In case the defendant possessed a firearm within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a public or private school he will face a sentence of two, three, or five years in California state prison when any of the bellow mentioned circumstances apply:
- Defendant had prior felony convictions
- Defendant was prohibited from possessing a firearm pursuant to Chapter 2, or Chapter 3, of Division 9 of Title 4 of Part 6 of California Penal Code, or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code
- The firearm was a revolver, pistol, or any other concealable firearm, punishable as an illegally concealed weapon pursuant to PC Section 25400
In case the defendant discharged, or attempted to discharge a firearm in a school zone, he will face a sentence of three, five, or seven years in California state prison.