California Penal Code § 25400 PC makes it a crime to carry a concealed firearm on your person or in a vehicle unless you have a valid CCW permit. Carrying a concealed handgun without a valid CCW permit can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, punishable by up to 3 years in jail.
Here are five key things to know about California’s concealed carry laws:
- A defense to PC 25400 charges is you carried in self-defense because your life was in grave danger and there was a restraining order out against the potential assailants.
- Carrying concealed without a permit carries a minimum 3-month jail sentence if you have a prior conviction for a felony or any firearm offense.
- A straight felony PC 25400 conviction permanently strips you of gun rights unless you get a pardon.
- Though if the charge was for a wobbler, you may be able to get your gun rights restored through a petition.
- A PC 25400 charge is separate and distinct from carrying a loaded firearm (PC 25850),1 2 and openly carrying an unloaded firearm PC 26350).3
In this article, our California criminal defense lawyers will address the following:
- 1. What is the legal definition of “carrying a concealed firearm” in California?
- 2. How can I fight Penal Code 25400 PC charges?
- 2.1. You did not know you were carrying the firearm
- 2.2. The gun was in the trunk or in a locked container in your vehicle
- 2.3. You have a license to carry a concealed weapon
- 2.4. The weapon was within your residence or place of business
- 2.5. The police obtained the weapon through an illegal search and seizure
- 2.6. You carried the weapon in self-defense
- 2.7. Police misconduct
- 3. Who is exempt from prosecution under PC 25400?
- 4. What are the penalties for carrying a concealed firearm in California?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences of a PC 25400 conviction?
- 6. Can I expunge my California Penal Code 25400 PC conviction?
- 7. Will I lose my right to own/possess firearms after a Penal Code 25400 conviction?
- 8. Are California’s “carrying a concealed weapon” laws constitutional?
You violate Penal Code 25400 PC, “carrying a concealed firearm,” when you commit certain acts with:
- a pistol,
- a revolver, or
- any other firearm capable of being hidden upon the person.
The prohibited acts under state law are:
- Carrying the firearm concealed within any vehicle under your control or direction;
- Carrying the firearm concealed upon your person; OR
- Causing the firearm to be carried concealed within any vehicle in which you are an occupant.5
Effective January 1, 2012, California has no “open-carry” exceptions for unloaded firearms. It is now illegal in California to carry an unloaded gun upon your person in a public place.6
There are three requirements (“elements of the crime”) under PC 25400:
- you concealed a firearm on your person or in a vehicle,
- you knew about the presence of the concealed gun, and
- the firearm was substantially concealed.7
Let’s take a look at some of these terms to gain a better understanding of their legal definitions.
PC 25400 punishes carrying a concealed firearm. If you are carrying a weapon in plain view, you are not guilty of violating this particular law.
You may, however, be violating PC 26350. PC 26350 makes it a crime to openly carry an exposed and unloaded handgun outside a vehicle in a public place.8
As long as the firearm is at least partially hidden, you could be liable for CCW under PC 25400.9 This is so even if the gun is nevertheless identifiable.
Examples: In one case, the court held that even though the officer could see a four or five inch long narrow bulge in the defendant’s rear pants pocket and suspected that the bulge was a gun, it was still deemed a hidden weapon.10
Similarly, in another case, a cop noticed an outline of a handgun under the defendant’s shirt. Even though the officer could tell what the object was, it still qualified as a hidden weapon.11
Under Penal Code 25400(b), firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not concealed weapons.12 Nevertheless, as of January 1, 2012, it is illegal to openly carry a loaded or unloaded gun in California.13
A “pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed on the person” is:
- any device,
- designed to be used as a weapon,
- from which is expelled a projectile by the force of any explosion, or other form of combustion, and
- that has a barrel either less than 16 inches in length, or 16 inches or more in length that is designed to be interchanged with a barrel less than 16 inches.14
These terms also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon.15
The frame is the basic unit of a handgun which serves as a mounting for the barrel and operating parts of the gun.
The receiver holds the mechanical parts of a gun and includes the trigger housing and bolt carrier group.16
Penal Code 16520(a) defines “firearm” for purposes of PC 25400 (California’s CCW law) as:
- 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.17
It also includes any “rocket, rocket-propelled projectile launcher, or similar device containing any explosive or incendiary material whether or not the device is designed for emergency or distress signaling purposes.”18
“Firearms” under PC 25400 include (but are not limited to):
- rifles (including short-barreled rifles),
- shotguns (including short-barreled shotguns), and
Pellet guns and BB guns, which rely on the force of air pressure and not combustion, do not qualify as firearms under the law.20
The intent behind California gun laws such as Penal Code 25400 is to protect society from the potential harm that seeing a concealed weapon might elicit. So prosecutors can charge you with CCW even if the gun is inoperable.21
This requirement of California’s CCW law simply means that you physically possess the concealed weapon. It does not matter if the gun is:
- actually on your person, or
- in something that you are holding.
Thus you carry a concealed firearm on your person if a gun is:
- in your pocket, or
- inside a purse or briefcase or anything else that you are holding.22
Most California gun laws, including PC 25400, require that you know about a gun’s presence. This is to prevent people from being wrongly convicted of offenses they did not intentionally commit.
Example: Let’s take the example from above. Assume that you accidentally grab one of your co-worker’s briefcases, unaware of its contents. When airport security officers find a gun in it, you are not guilty of carrying a concealed firearm since you did not know about the gun’s presence.
There are a variety of legal defenses that you can use to fight a Penal Code 25400 PC charge. A skilled California criminal defense lawyer can help you figure out which apply. Below are examples of some of the most common ones.
“Knowledge” about the gun’s presence is required to make you liable for PC 25400. Simply put, if you do not know or realize that you were in possession of a firearm, you are not guilty.
It could certainly be the case that somebody else – without you realizing it – placed a firearm in your:
- briefcase or
In such situations, even if you carry firearms concealed, you would not be liable under Penal Code 25400.
You are not guilty of CCW in a vehicle under California Penal Code 25400 PC if:
- your pistol, revolver, or other firearm is in:
- the trunk of the car, or
- a locked container within the car (excluding the glove box);23AND
- you are otherwise legally entitled to own or possess a firearm.24
You are legally entitled to own or possess a firearm if you lawfully own it or you have the permission of the lawful owner.25 For a more detailed discussion, see our page on how legally to transport firearms in a vehicle in California.
If you have a CCW permit in accordance with Penal Code 26150 PC, then carrying a gun generally does not violate PC 25400. In order to prevail on this legal defense, you bear the burden of proving that you have a valid license.26
Note that as a condition of getting a permit, people must:
- complete a firearms training course, and
- submit to a background check.
People usually must submit the CCW permit application to a local law enforcement agency, such as the sheriff’s office.
As long as you are otherwise entitled to own or possess a gun, you are free to carry a hidden firearm in:
- your own home, or
- in a business that you own (as opposed to a place where you merely work).27
This rule does not generally extend to people who live and/or work in their cars. However, it does allow taxi-cab drivers to keep hidden weapons within their vehicles without violating California’s CCW law.28
Many weapons charges, including PC 25400 charges, arise after an officer stops a suspect for some type of investigation. Perhaps you:
- were speeding,
- had your car illegally parked, or
- matched the description of someone who was just accused of a crime.
As the officer is speaking with you or “patting you down,” he discovers the concealed weapon.
Example: A Los Angeles Police Department officer pulls you over for speeding on the 101 freeway. You are cooperative, produce your license and registration in a timely fashion, and have no outstanding warrants. The cop nonetheless chooses to search your car and finds an illegal weapon in the glove box.
Given these facts, the officer probably lacks the authority to search your car. This is because before the police officer can legally conduct such a search, they must have:
- probable cause to search (that is, a reasonable belief that you are engaged in criminal activity or pose a threat to officer safety),30 OR
- a valid California search warrant authorizing them to search your person/property (the scope of which must be strictly adhered to), OR
- your consent to conduct a search of your person/property.31
A weapon discovered and confiscated during an illegal search and seizure is inadmissible in court.32
If you can convince the prosecutor and/or judge that your gun was discovered during an illegal search, it is likely that the court will dismiss the California Penal Code 25400 PC charges.
You may be able to fight charges of carrying a concealed firearm under California’s self-defense laws. These apply if you reasonably believe that:
- your life is in “grave danger,”
- because of other people’s specific threats or conduct which justified the basis for a court-ordered restraining order.33
As criminal defense attorney John Murray explains,34
“If we can prove to the court that you believed your life was in danger – even after securing a restraining order – and that carrying a concealed weapon on your person or in your car was necessary for your safety, we may be able to get your charges dismissed.”
If an officer does any of the following, he/she is guilty of police misconduct:
- plants a weapon on your person or in your car;
- lies in his/her police report and says that the gun was hidden, when in fact it was carried openly;
- testifies falsely about the facts of your case;
- coerces your confession, or
- violates your civil rights in any other way.
If we suspect law enforcement officer misconduct such as this, we likely will run a Pitchess motion. This will allow you to see whether other people have made similar complaints about the officer in the past.
If we can establish that you are the victim, then:
- the prosecutor or judge may dismiss your PC 25400 charges, or
- a jury may find you not guilty at trial.
Some people are exempt from prosecution under California’s CCW law. These include (but are not limited to):
- peace officers (whether active or honorably retired),35
- licensed firearms dealers,36
- members of the U.S. military,37
- bank guards or messengers,38
- members of target shooting clubs or organizations,39 and
- licensed hunters/fishers who are using or transporting their weapons for these activities.40
Even the above exceptions contain conditions such as that the gun:
- be unloaded, or
- be used only during certain activities.
This is why it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney who understands the complex nature of California’s gun laws, including PC 25400.
Absent aggravating circumstances, CCW in violation of PC 25400 is a misdemeanor.41 The penalty for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit generally includes:
- up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or
- a maximum $1,000 fine.42
Alternatively, you could be granted misdemeanor (summary) probation.
If you are given misdemeanor probation, you will serve little or no jail time.
Factors that could weigh in favor of a fine and/or jail time include (but are not limited to):
- criminal history,
- a history of violence,
- a finding that you intended to use the concealed gun; and/or
- a failure to cooperate with the police during your arrest.
When there are aggravating factors, however, a violation of PC 25400 becomes either a:
- “straight” felony, or
- “wobbler” offense.
Carrying a concealed weapon must be charged as a felony (a “straight” felony)43 if:
- you have previously been convicted of a felony or any other California firearm offense,44
- the firearm is stolen, and you knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, that it was stolen,45
- you are an active participant in a criminal street gang,46
- you are not in lawful possession of the firearm,47
- you may not own or possess a firearm under PC 29800, California’s felon with a firearm law,48 or
- you may not own or possess a firearm under PC 29900, for committing – or attempting to commit – a violent offense such as (but by no means limited to):
- Lewd acts on a child,
- Kidnapping, or
Following a felony conviction for carrying a concealed firearm, you face the following consequences under PC 25400:
- Probation with up to one year of county jail, or
- 16 months, or two or three years in county jail;
- a maximum $10,000 fine.50
PC 25400 becomes a “wobbler” when, in addition to carrying a concealed firearm on your person or in a car,
- you were previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime against a person or property, or of a narcotics or dangerous drug crime,51
- both of the following:
- your firearm is loaded (or you have the ammunition in a location that is readily accessible to you), AND
- you are not listed as the registered owner of the loaded handgun with the Department of Justice.52
You can be arrested under this last category as long as an officer has probable cause to believe that you are not listed with the Department of Justice as the registered owner of the gun.53
By definition, a “wobbler” in California is an offense that prosecutors can file as either a misdemeanor or a felony.54 The choice depends on:
- the circumstances of the offense, and
- your criminal history.
If your wobbler carrying a concealed firearm violation is charged as a misdemeanor you face the following penalties:
- up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or
- a maximum $1,000 fine.55
As a felony, the penalty for violating PC 25400 is:
- Probation with up to one year of county jail, or
- 16 months, or two (2) or three (3) years in county, and/or
- a maximum $10,000 fine.56
If you are convicted of any PC 25400 violation and you have previously been convicted of any felony or any other California firearm offense, you must serve a minimum three-month county jail sentence.57
If you are convicted of any concealed firearm violation and you have previously been convicted of:
- Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC “assault with a deadly weapon”,
- Penal Code 246 PC “shooting at an inhabited dwelling house or car”, or
- Penal Code 417 PC, California’s “brandishing a weapon” law,
you must serve between three (3) and six (6) months in a county jail.58
The only exception to the foregoing sentencing requirements is the unusual case in which the interests of justice would be best served by:
- granting probation, and
- suspending the minimum jail time.59
In addition to all of the above penalties, the consequences of a conviction for unlawfully carrying a concealed handgun in violation of PC 25400 may include the loss of your weapon.60
If you are a legal immigrant or legal alien, a PC 25400 conviction could additionally result in deportation.61 For more information about how California’s firearm laws affect aliens, please visit our articles on California crimes that lead to deportation.
If you are granted probation for a violation of Penal Code 25400 (carrying a concealed weapon), you may expunge your California criminal record once you:
- successfully complete the probationary period, or
- have it terminated early under PC 1203.3.62
Expungement “erases” a conviction for many purposes, including most employment disclosures. It does not, however:
- permit a person to own, possess, or have in his or her custody or control any firearm, or
- prevent his or her conviction under Section 29800.63
Furthermore, the judge can deny you an expungement if you suffer a probation violation or failure to adhere to all the terms and conditions of probation.64
A misdemeanor conviction for carrying a hidden weapon will not by itself revoke your right to own or possess a firearm unless you are adjudged a ward of the juvenile court based on a misdemeanor conviction. In that case, you may not own or possess a firearm until you are 30 years of age.65
A felony conviction for carrying a hidden firearm under PC 25400 subjects you to a lifetime ban from owning or possessing a gun in California unless your firearms rights are restored.66 The ban applies both to:
- adults, and
- minors who were convicted when tried as adults.67
If you are convicted of a felony as a wobbler, restoring your firearm rights is a two-step process:
- petition the court to have your felony reduced to a misdemeanor,68
- file a petition to have the charges dismissed.69
If you are successful, your gun rights will be restored. Otherwise, the only way to restore your California gun rights is to obtain a California Governor’s pardon for your carrying a hidden weapon conviction through one of two methods:
- If you still reside in California, by obtaining a California certificate of rehabilitation, which automatically becomes an application for a pardon; or
- If you no longer reside in California, by applying for a direct pardon from the Governor.70
Note, however, that even a Governor’s pardon does not restore firearm rights to a felon if the felony involves the use of a dangerous weapon.71
A “dangerous weapon” under California law is any weapon, instrument, or object that is capable of inflicting:
- great bodily injury or
California law defines “great bodily injury” as a substantial or significant injury.73 Pistols, revolvers, or other firearms, therefore, qualify as dangerous weapons.
In June of 2016, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Peruta v. San Diego that PC 25400 is constitutional.74
Prior to that, a smaller panel of judges from the same court had ruled that California’s concealed carry laws violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.75
In California, the only way you can carry a firearm outside your home is by obtaining a concealed weapon license or permit under Penal Code 26150 PC. Prior to September of 2023, you had to show “good cause.”76 Opponents had argued that this requirement is unconstitutional, and the law was amended to conform with Supreme Court precedent.77
But the federal court ruling in Peruta clarified that the Second Amendment does not protect the right to concealed weapons to the same extent it protects other firearms rights. Because the Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear a challenge, PC 25400 is here to stay.
On July 27, 2022, the Honorable Steve White of the Sacramento Superior Court indicated in People of California v. Tony Diaz (docket number 21FE019850) that 25400(a)(1) is illegal. This case applies only to the jurisdiction under Sacramento Superior Court, and people are still advised to abide by PC 25400 for now.
Call us for help.
If you or a loved one is charged with Penal Code 25400 PC carrying a concealed weapon and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a consultation in office or by phone.
We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys represent clients accused of the crime of carrying a concealed weapon in Nevada.
¿Habla español? Visite nuestro sitio Web en idioma español por llevar armas ocultas en California.
- California Penal Code 25400. The full language of the code section reads as follows:(a) A person is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm when the person does any of the following: (1) Carries concealed within any vehicle that is under the person’s control or direction any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (2) Carries concealed upon the person any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (3) Causes to be carried concealed within any vehicle in which the person is an occupant any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (b) A firearm carried openly in a belt holster is not concealed within the meaning of this section. (c) Carrying a concealed firearm in violation of this section is punishable as follows: (1) If the person previously has been convicted of any felony, or of any crime made punishable by a provision listed in Section 16580, as a felony. (2) If the firearm is stolen and the person knew or had reasonable cause to believe that it was stolen, as a felony. (3) If the person is an active participant in a criminal street gang, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 186.22, under the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (Chapter 11 (commencing with Section 186.20) of Title 7 of Part 1), as a felony. (4) If the person is not in lawful possession of the firearm or the person is within a class of persons prohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 29800) or Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 29900) of Division 9 of this title, or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as a felony. (5) If the person has been convicted of a crime against a person or property, or of a narcotics or dangerous drug violation, by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (6) If both of the following conditions are met, by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment: (A) The pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person is loaded, or both it and the unexpended ammunition capable of being discharged from it are in the immediate possession of the person or readily accessible to that person. (B) The person is not listed with the Department of Justice pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 11106 as the registered owner of that pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (7) In all cases other than those specified in paragraphs (1) to (6), inclusive, by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (d) (1) Every person convicted under this section who previously has been convicted of a misdemeanor offense enumerated in Section 23515 shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for at least three months and not exceeding six months, or, if granted probation, or if the execution or imposition of sentence is suspended, it shall be a condition thereof that the person be imprisoned in a county jail for at least three months. (2) Every person convicted under this section who has previously been convicted of any felony, or of any crime made punishable by a provision listed in Section 16580, if probation is granted, or if the execution or imposition of sentence is suspended, it shall be a condition thereof that the person be imprisoned in a county jail for not less than three months. (e) The court shall apply the three-month minimum sentence as specified in subdivision (d), except in unusual cases where the interests of justice would best be served by granting probation or suspending the imposition or execution of sentence without the minimum imprisonment required in subdivision (d) or by granting probation or suspending the imposition or execution of sentence with conditions other than those set forth in subdivision (d), in which case, the court shall specify on the record and shall enter on the minutes the circumstances indicating that the interests of justice would best be served by that disposition. (f) A peace officer may arrest a person for a violation of paragraph (6) of subdivision (c) if the peace officer has probable cause to believe that the person is not listed with the Department of Justice pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 11106 as the registered owner of the pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, and one or more of the conditions in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of subdivision (c) is met. (Amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 15, Sec. 543. (AB 109) Effective April 4, 2011. Amending action operative October 1, 2011, by Sec. 636 of Ch. 15, as amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 39, Sec. 68. Section operative January 1, 2012, pursuant to Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 10.)
- PC 25850(a)
- PC 26350.
- We practice throughout the state.
- PC 24500(a).
- PC 26350(a).
- CALJIC 2520; 2521; 2522.
- PC 26350(a).
- People v. Hale (1974) 43 Cal.App.3d 353.
- People v. May (1973) 33 Cal.App.3d 888.
- People v. Tarkington (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 466.
- PC 25400(b).
- PC 25850 & 26350(a).
- PC 16530(a).
- PC 16520(b).
- Receiver, wikipedia.com
- PC 16520(a).
- PC 16520(c).
- People v. Norton (1978) 80 Cal.App.3d Supp. 14.
- PC 16250.
- People v. Marroquin (1989) 210 Cal.App.3d 77.
- People v. Dunn (1976) 61 Cal.App.3d Supp. 12.
- PC 25610.
- PC 16750(a).
- People v. Superior Court (1969) 2 Cal.App.3d 197.
- PC 25605.
- People v. Wooten (1985) 168 Cal.App.3d 168.
- Fourth Amendment.
- See Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1.
- Schneckloth v. Bustamonte (1973) 412 U.S. 218.
- Mapp v. Ohio (1961) 367 U.S. 643.
- PC 25600.
- John Murray, Esq.
- PC 25450.
- PC 25615.
- PC 25620.
- PC 25630.
- PC 25635.
- PC 25640.
- PC 25400(c)(7).
- PC 17.
- PC 25400(c)(1).
- PC 25400(c)(2).
- PC 25400(c)(3).
- PC 25400(c)(4).
- PC 25400(c)(4).
- See PC 29900(a)(1). See PC29905(a).
- PC 18 PC.
- PC 25400(c)(5).
- PC 25400(c)(6).
- PC 25400(f).
- Penal Code 17(b).
- Penal Code 25400 (c)(7).
- Penal Code 18 PC.
- PC 25400(d)(2).
- PC 25400(d) (1).
- PC 25400(e).
- PC 25700.
- 8 U.S. Code Section 1227(a)(2)(C).
- PC 1203.4.
- See Consequences of a California Felony Conviction.
- PC 1203.4.
- PC 29820.
- PC 29800(a)(1).
- PC 29800(b).
- PC 17(b).
- PC 1203.4 & 1203.4a.
- How to Apply for a Pardon.
- PC 4852.17 & 4854.
- CALJIC 12.42. Hannah Wiley, Newsom signs gun laws that add new taxes and limit where owners can carry firearms, Los Angeles Times (September 26, 2023). SB 2.
- PC 12022.7.
- Peruta v. Cty. of San Diego (June 9, 2016) No. 10-56971. Hannah Wiley, California Democrats try again to rewrite concealed-carry gun law, Los Angeles Times (February 1, 2023); New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. v. Bruen (2022) .
- Peruta v. Cty. of San Diego (Feb. 13 2014) No. 10-56971.
- PC 26150.
- Note 74.