Penal Code § 29900 PC requires that violent felons convicted of firearm possession (PC 29800)1 serve a mandatory minimum of six months in jail if they are granted probation or a suspended sentence. Though the court may dispense with this jail requirement in “unusual cases.”2
Penal Code 29900 states:
(a) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 29800, any person who has been previously convicted of any of the offenses listed in Section 29905 and who owns or has in possession or under custody or control any firearm is guilty of a felony.
(2) A dismissal of an accusatory pleading pursuant to Section 1203.4a involving an offense set forth in Section 29905 does not affect the finding of a previous conviction.
(3) If probation is granted, or if the imposition or execution of sentence is suspended, it shall be a condition of the probation or suspension that the defendant serve at least six months in a county jail.
(b) (1) Any person previously convicted of any of the offenses listed in Section 29905 which conviction results from certification by the juvenile court for prosecution as an adult in adult court under the provisions of Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, who owns or has in possession or under custody or control any firearm, is guilty of a felony.
(2) If probation is granted, or if the imposition or execution of sentence is suspended, it shall be a condition of the probation or suspension that the defendant serve at least six months in a county jail.
(c) The court shall apply the minimum sentence as specified in subdivisions (a) and (b) 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 imprisonment required by subdivisions (a) and (b), or by granting probation or suspending the imposition or execution of sentence with conditions other than those set forth in subdivisions (a) and (b), 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 the disposition.
Penal Code § 29900 PC makes it a felony in California for people to possess a firearm if they have been convicted of certain violent crimes. Some of these include:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Assault with intent to commit rape or robbery
- Any felony punishable by death or life in prison
- Any felony where the defendant used a dangerous weapon or inflicted great bodily injury on a person
This firearm ban applies to felons from the moment they are convicted, and it lasts a lifetime. Gun rights are never automatically restored upon being released from prison, work furlough, or work release.3
The legal definition of “firearm” encompasses all types of handguns and long guns where a projectile is expelled through a barrel via explosion or force, such as:
Not that firearms do not comprise BB guns, pellet guns, or paintball guns.4
People “possess” a firearm either by having
- actual possession or
- constructive possession.
Actual possession comprises physically handling the gun, such as holding it or carrying it on one’s person in a belt, a thigh holster, or a backpack. Constructive possession is having control over a gun, such as by:
- purchasing or owning the gun, or
- keeping it in one’s home or other place they have free access to, such as a bed table, closet, or storage facility.
It makes no difference if the gun is unloaded, broken, or otherwise inoperable. It is still illegal for felons to possess one.5
PC § 29900 penalties
The sentence for firearm possession by a felon convicted of a violent crime is up to:
- 3 years in county jail, and/or
- $10,000 in fines
The court may grant probation or a suspended sentence instead. Though the defendant must still serve at least six months in jail.
(This mandatory six-month jail sentence does not apply to defendants who had been convicted of lesser, non-violent felonies such as grand theft.)
The court can dispense with this six-month sentence if it finds that incarceration is not “in the interest of justice.” However, PC 29900 specifies that this exception applies only in “unusual cases.”6
PC § 29900 defenses
Three common legal strategies for fighting charges of “felon with a firearm” include the following:
- You did not know the gun was there. For example if a friend left their gun in your house by mistake and you never discovered the gun, then no crime was committed because you had no knowledge that the gun was in your house. “Unknowing possession” is not actual or constructive possession.
- You lawfully tried to dispose of the gun. For example if an armed burglar comes into your house and you wrest their gun away from them, you are committed no crime as long as you surrender the gun to the police as soon as possible under the circumstances.
- You are the victim of false accusations. Perhaps you were mistakenly chosen out of a lineup. Or perhaps you were not carrying a gun, but someone genuinely thought you were and told the police. Evidence such as surveillance video and eyewitness accounts could help show that you broke no law.
As long as the D.A. has insufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the 29900 PC charges should be dismissed.7
Restoration of gun rights
The only way a convicted felon can restore their gun rights in California is by applying for and being granted a governor’s pardon. However, there is no guarantee that the governor will grant the pardon even if the applicant is fully rehabilitated.
Note that criminal record expungements do not restore gun rights.8
- PC 29800 – This “felony with a firearm” law prohibits gun possession by anyone with a prior felony conviction or certain violent misdemeanor convictions involving guns. PC 29800 also prohibits anyone addicted to narcotics from possessing guns.
- PC 29900.
- See PC 16520.
- See People v. Clark (. , 2021)
- See note 2. See also People v. Sanders (2012), 55 Cal. 4th 731.
- CALCRIM 220.
- PC 4852.