Penal Code 417 PC makes it a crime to brandish a firearm or deadly weapon. Brandishing means to draw or exhibit the weapon, or to use it in a fight. The offense is generally prosecuted as a misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1000.00.
The text of 417 PC states that “every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of another person, draws or exhibits any deadly weapon whatsoever, other than a firearm, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any such manner, unlawfully uses a deadly weapon other than a firearm in any fight or quarrel is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 30 days. Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any manner, unlawfully uses a firearm in any fight or quarrel is…[guilty of a crime].”
- Julie grabs a butcher knife and points it at her boyfriend.
- Jerome is in a fight with his neighbor and hits him in the head with the grip of his handgun.
- Eddie lifts his shirt to reveal the pistol in his waistband.
A defendant can raise a legal defense to contest a brandishing weapons charge. A few common defenses are that the defendant:
- acted in self-defense,
- did not act in a threatening manner, and/or
- did not have a “deadly weapon” or firearm.
More severe punishments of these weapon charges can include:
- felony charges, and/or
- imprisonment in the state prison.
As a violent firearm offense, a brandishing conviction may have negative:
A person convicted of this offense is entitled to an expungement if he or she completes:
- probation (if imposed), or
- any jail time (if imposed).
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What does it mean to brandish a firearm or weapon?
- 2. Are there legal defenses?
- 3. What are the penalties for 417 PC?
- 4. Does this crime lead to deportation of noncitizens?
- 5. Can a conviction be expunged?
- 6. Does a conviction affect a person’s gun rights?
- 7. Are there crimes related to the brandishing of a weapon?
1. What does it mean to brandish a firearm or weapon?
Penal Code 417 makes it a crime for a person to brandish a weapon or firearm.1
To prove a charge of brandishing a weapon in California, the prosecutor must establish that:
- the defendant drew or exhibited a deadly weapon or a firearm in the presence of someone else,
- the accused did so in a rude, angry or threatening manner,
- or the defendant used the weapon or firearm in a fight or quarrel,
- and the defendant did not act in self-defense.2
A deadly weapon is any object or weapon that is inherently deadly. It is also one that can be used to cause death or great bodily injury.3
If a person brandishes a weapon and causes serious bodily injury, he or she can be charged with a more serious offense under Penal Code 417.6 PC. A person who brandished an imitation firearm can be charged under Penal Code 417.4 PC.
Note that it is not necessary for a weapon to be pointed at someone for it to be “deadly.”4
Example: John is arguing with his girlfriend and grabs a hammer and a baseball bat. These objects are deadly weapons under the circumstances, no matter if he points them at his girlfriend or approaches her while waving them in the air.
As to cases involving an unloaded or loaded firearm, a defendant can be guilty of a crime even if the alleged victim was not aware that the accused had a gun.5
Example: Jose angrily takes out his concealed carry gun and waves it at a drunken bar patron. While the patron may not have realized there was a gun (because intoxicated), Jose is still guilty of a crime.
2. Are there legal defenses?
A defendant can raise a legal defense to try and beat a brandishing charge. In any case, the D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Three common defenses are:
- no threatening behavior, and/or
- no deadly weapon or firearm.
A person is innocent under this law if he or she was acting in justifiable self-defense or the defense of another person. A person lawfully acts in self-defense when he:
- reasonably believes that he, or another person, is about to suffer imminent harm, and
- he fights back with no more force than is reasonably necessary to defend against the danger.6
Example: It is appropriate self-defense when Carol points a broken bottle at Mark after he threatens to rape her. Here, the threat makes her believe that she is about to be harmed and the use of a broken bottle is not excessive force under the circumstances.
2.2. No threatening behavior
Recall that a person is only guilty under this statute if he or she brandished a weapon or gun in a “rude, angry, or threatening” manner (as determined by the facts of the case). This means it is a defense for an accused to show that he or she did not act in such a way.
2.3. No deadly weapon or firearm
PC 417 only applies if a defendant was armed with a “deadly weapon” or a firearm. Therefore, a defense is for the defendant to show that he or she did not have one of these objects.
3. What are the penalties for 417 PC?
Most violations of this statute are charged as misdemeanors.7 The offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for three months up to one year. Brandishing a firearm capable of being concealed is also a misdemeanor if it occurs in a public place or on public property, carrying three months to one year in jail, and/or up to $1,000 in fines.8
Brandishing is a misdemeanor even if it occurs on school property. But note that if a person brandishes a firearm on the grounds of a day-care center while it is open for use, this crime becomes a wobbler. This means the person can be charged with either:
- a misdemeanor offense (a misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to a one-year jail sentence), or
- a felony (a felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in California state prison).9
The same penalties apply if a person brandishes a firearm in the presence of a peace officer or police officer or other law enforcement officer who is engaged in his/her duties.10
4. Does this crime lead to deportation of noncitizens?
A conviction may have negative immigration consequences.
Firearm offenses can mean that:
This means a brandishing conviction can prove detrimental if the act was done with a gun.
5. Can a conviction be expunged?
People convicted of this crime are entitled to an expungement of their criminal record provided that they:
- successfully complete probation, or
- complete a jail term (whichever is relevant).
If a party violates a probation term, he or she could still possibly get the offense expunged. This, though, would be in the judge’s discretion.
Under Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement releases an individual from virtually “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of the conviction.12
6. Does a conviction affect a person’s gun rights?
A conviction under PC 417 may have a negative effect on the convicted party’s gun rights.
According to California law, convicted felons are prohibited from acquiring or possessing a gun in California. The same holds true for people with two or more convictions under PC 417.
Therefore, a defendant will lose his or her gun rights under this law if:
- his offense is charged as a felony, or
- he is convicted under the statute more than once.
7. Are there crimes related to the brandishing of a weapon?
There are three criminal charges related to brandishing a weapon or firearm. These are:
- assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1
- assault with a firearm – PC 245a2, and
- assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury – PC 245a4
7.1. Assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1
Under Penal Code 245a1 PC, a person commits this crime if he or she:
- commits an assault, and
- does so using a deadly weapon.
Unlike Penal Code 417, this law requires a showing that a defendant intended to harm the alleged victim.
7.2. Assault with a firearm – PC 245a2
Per Penal Code 245a2 PC, a person commits a crime if he or she commits an assault with a firearm.
Like PC 245a1, this code section requires a showing that the accused intended to harm the alleged victim.
7.3. Assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury – PC 245a4
Penal Code 245a4 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:
- commit an assault, and
- to do so by using force likely to produce “great bodily injury.”
“Great bodily injury” is a legal term that means significant or substantial bodily harm.
7.4. Criminal threats – PC 422
Penal Code 422 PC makes it a crime to threaten to kill or physically harm another person. As a wobbler, it can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
Contact us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 417 PC in Los Angeles County or elsewhere in California, we invite you to contact our criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation and legal advice.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys serve clients throughout all of the state of California, such as San Bernardino County, Glendale, Orange County, Riverside, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, San Diego, Sacramento, and the Bay Area.
For similar accusations in Nevada, please see our article on: “Nevada Laws for ‘Drawing a Deadly Weapon in a Threatening Manner’.”
- California Penal Code Section 417 PC.
- CALCRIM No. 983 – Brandishing Firearm or Deadly Weapon. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).
- See same. California Penal Code 16520 PC. See also People v. Brown (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1. People v. Aguilar (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1023. People v. Aguilar (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1023. People v. Stutelberg (2018) 29 Cal.App.5th 314. People v. Godwin (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1562.
- People v. Sanders (1995) 11 Cal.4th 475.
- People v. McKinzie (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 789.
- Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instruction 3470 — Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide).
- California Penal Code 417 PC.
- See same. (For purposes of this section, “daycares” do not include schools, including high schools for being away a certain number of feet of such school property.) See also In re Zorn (1963) 59 Cal.2d 650. See also People v. Strider (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 1393.
- See same.
- See same.
- See INA 237 (a) (2) (A).
- California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.