California Penal Code § 417.6 PC makes it a crime to brandish, or wave, a firearm or other deadly weapon at another person and, in doing so, inflict serious bodily injury on that person.
Note that a “serious bodily injury” is less severe than a “great bodily injury.”
The language of the code section reads as follows:
417.6. (a) If, in the commission of a violation of Section 417 or 417.8, serious bodily injury is intentionally inflicted by the person drawing or exhibiting the firearm or deadly weapon, the offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by imprisonment in state prison.
(b) As used in this section, “serious bodily injury” means a serious impairment of physical condition, including, but not limited to, the following: loss of consciousness; concussion; bone fracture; protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ; a wound requiring extensive suturing; and serious disfigurement.
(c) When a person is convicted of a violation of Section 417 or 417.8 and the deadly weapon or firearm used by the person is owned by that person, the court shall order that the weapon or firearm be deemed a nuisance and disposed of in the manner provided by Sections 18000 and 18005.
Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:
- Tom waves a cane gun, illegal to possess under PC 24410, at a person and intentionally uses it to break his nose.
- Nia brandishes a hunting knife at her ex-boyfriend and purposefully cuts him in the arm.
- Paco raises a .50 BMG rifle, illegal to possess under PC 30610, at Jesus and intentionally breaks his leg with it.
Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 417.6. These include showing that the defendant:
- had no intent to injure,
- did not cause serious bodily injury, and/or
- was arrested without probable cause.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year.
If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in California for up to three years.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is prohibited under California Penal Code 417.6 PC?
- 2. Are there defenses to PC 417.6 accusations?
- 3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing
- 4. Related offenses
1. What is prohibited under California Penal Code 417.6 PC?
Penal Code 417.6 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:
- brandish, or wave, a firearm or other deadly weapon at another person, and
- in doing so, intentionally inflict “serious bodily injury” on that person.1
Note that “serious bodily injury” means a serious impairment of physical condition. Examples include:
- loss of consciousness,
- bone fracture,
- loss of use of a limb or organ,
- wounds requiring extensive suturing, and
- serious disfigurement.2
2. Are there defenses to PC 417.6 accusations?
If a person is accused of a crime under Penal Code 417.6, then he can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.
Three common defenses to accusations under this statute are:
- no intent,
- no serious bodily injury, and/or
- no probable cause.
2.1. No intent
The language within Penal Code 417.6 states that an accused is only guilty if he intentionally inflicts serious bodily injury on another by waving a gun or weapon. Therefore, it is always a legal defense for a defendant to show that, while he may have injured another party by brandishing a weapon, he did not intentionally mean to do so.
2.2. No serious bodily injury
Please recall that a defendant is only guilty under this statute if he caused “serious bodily injury.” This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that he did not inflict serious bodily injury while he may have waved a gun or weapon.
2.3. No probable cause
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a crime suspect.
If a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 171.7, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.
3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing
A violation of PC 417.6 is a wobbler offense. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:
- the facts of the case, and
- the criminal history of the defendant.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year.3
If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in California for up to three years.4
Please note that instead of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) or felony (or formal) probation.
4. Related Offenses
There are three crimes related to brandishing a firearm, inflicting serious bodily injury. These are:
- brandishing a weapon or firearm – PC 417
- assault with a firearm – PC 245a2, and
- aiming or pointing a laser scope or pointer – PC 417.25.
4.1. Brandishing a weapon or firearm – PC 417
Penal Code 417 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to brandish a weapon in a rude or threatening manner.5
A violation of PC 417 can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case. Penalties may include:
- extensive jail time, and
- substantial fines.
4.2. Assault with a firearm – PC 245a2
Penal Code 245a2 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to assault another party with a firearm.6
California law defines an “assault” as an unlawful attempt to commit a violent injury on someone else, coupled with the present ability to do so.
A violation of PC 245a2 is a “wobbler” under California law, meaning that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by six months to one year in county jail.
If charged as a felony, the offense carries a California state prison sentence of two, three, or four years.7
4.3. Aiming or pointing a laser scope or pointer – PC 417.25
Penal Code 417.25 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to point a laser scope, or a laser pointer, at another person in a threatening manner.8
A violation of PC 417.25 is charged as a misdemeanor in California.
The crime is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to 30 days.
For similar charges in Nevada, please see our article on Nevada Laws for Brandishing (NRS 202.320): “Drawing a Deadly Weapon in a Threatening Manner.”
- California Penal Code 417.6 PC.
- California Penal Code 417.6b PC.
- California Penal Code 417.6a PC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 417 PC.
- California Penal Code 245a2 PC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 417.25 PC. This code section states:
(a) Every person who, except in self-defense, aims or points a laser scope, as defined in subdivision (b), or a laser pointer, as defined in subdivision (c), at another person in a threatening manner with the specific intent to cause a reasonable person fear of bodily harm is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 30 days. For purposes of this section, the laser scope need not be attached to a firearm. (b) As used in this section, “laser scope” means a portable battery-powered device capable of being attached to a firearm and capable of projecting a laser light on objects at a distance. (c) As used in this section, “laser pointer” means any handheld laser beam device or demonstration laser product that emits a single point of light amplified by the stimulated emission of radiation that is visible to the human eye.