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PC 25800: Armed Criminal Action: Law, Penalty, & Defense

PC 25800 Laws

Information on the crime of armed criminal action can be found at California penal code section 25800(a). A person commits the crime of armed criminal action when she carries a loaded firearm with the intent to commit a felony (PC 25800(a)).

Note: Armed criminal action is similar to the crime of carrying a loaded firearm, but with the additional element of intent to commit a felony by the person carrying the loaded firearm. Proof of the defendant’s intent can be express, such as where the defendant confesses to the crime, but usually, proof of the defendant’s intent to commit a felony is proved by circumstantial evidence.

For example, if the defendant is caught with a loaded firearm while she is attempting to break into a home, then the defendant may be charged with both attempted felony burglary of a residence, and armed criminal action. The circumstances of the defendant’s attempted residential burglary is the evidence that shows the defendant intended to commit a felony (residential burglary is charged as a felony). The fact that she has a loaded firearm on her person at the time of her attempted residential burglary, coupled with the circumstances of her attempted felony break in, allows the district attorney to charge her with armed criminal action.

PC 25800 Penalties

Per PC 25800(b), armed criminal action is charged either as a felony, or alternatively as a misdemeanor. This means that the crime of armed criminal action is classified as a wobbler crime (See Wobbler Crime below for more information).

Felony Jail Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of a violation of PC 25800(a) as a felony then the defendant may face up to three (3) years in a state prison. It is possible for a defendant to be sentenced to a shorter period of incarceration in some situations. The length of actual incarceration is dependent on many factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, the presence of any injury to a victim, the sophistication of the defendant’s criminal conduct, the terms of any plea agreement between the defendant and the district attorney, and more.

Misdemeanor Jail Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of a violation of PC 25800(a) as a misdemeanor then the defendant may face up to one (1) year in a county jail.

Probation Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of either a felony, or misdemeanor violation of PC 25800, she may be placed on probation. Probation is period of supervision by a probation officer (felony cases), or monitoring by the court (misdemeanor cases). Probation sentences, as opposed to an actual jail sentence, is allowed in armed criminal action cases, but a probation sentence is not guaranteed. Whether or not the defendant is granted a probation sentence after a conviction for PC 25800(a) depends on many factors, including the disposition of any plea agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, the presence or absence of any penalty enhancement that bars a probation sentence, and more.

Terms of Probation: Both felony and misdemeanor probation sentences carry conditions of probation. If the defendant does not follow her conditions of probation, then she may be found in violation of probation. The defendant may also be charged with new crimes if the defendant’s criminal conduct is the reason for the violation of probation.

Note: Felony probation conditions tend to be harsher on the defendant’s travel options and personal liberty restrictions than misdemeanor probation conditions. Either way, probation terms are supposed to have some connection to the defendant’s crime and her rehabilitation (nexus requirement). Common conditions of probation in misdemeanor PC 25800 cases include criminal protective orders, payments of court fines and fees, work release or house arrest orders, commit no violations of the law orders, and more.

Prison v. Jail: Felony armed criminal action violations carry possible prison sentences. As stated, the defendant may be placed on felony probation, with or without some type of alternative to jail such as work release, but if the defendant is incarcerated after a felony conviction, then that incarceration is served in a state prison. This is because PC 25800 is not covered by California’s new PC 1170(h) sentencing law. Also, incarceration related to felony PC 25800(a) violations may not be split or suspended (also called “joint suspension”).

Three Strikes Law: PC 25800(a) is not considered a strike offense under California law. However, keep in mind that many PC 25800(a) charges are charged along with other crimes, such as attempted robbery, attempted burglary, etc., and these crimes are often considered strike offenses under California Law. For more information, see Three Strikes Law, Serious Crimes, & Violent Crimes.

Firearm Prohibition: If the defendant is convicted of felony armed criminal action, then the defendant may lose her firearm privileges for life. If the defendant is convicted of misdemeanor armed criminal action, then the defendant will lose her firearm privileges for at least ten (10) years.

More Penalties: In addition to the penalties listed above, if the defendant is found guilty of PC 25800(a), she could face any of these additional penalties: immigration consequences, military service consequences, criminal protective orders, professional licensing consequences, civil lawsuits, court fines and fees, restitution orders, and more.

PC 25800 Defenses

Common defenses related to armed criminal action violations include: statute of limitations (3 years for both misdemeanor and felony violations of PC 25800(a)), insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit a felony, illegal search and seizure, insanity, entrapment, coerced confessions, double jeopardy, and more.

Note: A discussion of many types of defenses commonly used in criminal cases may be found at Criminal Defenses. However, some common defenses related to PC 25800(a) deserve special treatment here because of their respective idiosyncrasies related to violations of armed criminal actions.

Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is a time limit that the prosecutor has to bring formal charges against a defendant. If the prosecutor does not file charges within that time limit then the prosecutor is barred from ever prosecuting the defendant for that alleged offense. Ordinarily, misdemeanor violations of almost every crime carry a one-year statute of limitations. This period begins to run from the date that the defendant is alleged to have committed the crime; however, in PC 25800(a) cases, misdemeanor statute of limitations mirrors the felony charges for the same offense, which is three years.

In sum, the statute of limitations for both misdemeanor and felony charges of armed criminal action is three years from the date of the alleged offense.

Double Jeopardy: Double jeopardy is a defense that prevents a person from being prosecuted for the same offense more than once. Double jeopardy law is discussed further at Double Jeopardy, but for purposes of PC 25800(a) violations, it is not uncommon for the district attorney to charge the defendant with armed criminal action and carry a loaded firearm simultaneously. Also, multiple charges might be allowed under Double Jeopardy law, but multiple convictions for the same conduct is prohibited.

Plea Agreement: A plea agreement is a contract between the district attorney and the defendant whereby the district attorney agrees to mitigated charges, or mitigated penalties, or both, in exchange for the defendant’s agreement to plead guilty or no contest to a particular crime.

A plea agreement is not a defense in the sense that the criminal charges are dismissed, or the defendant is ultimately vindicated after a trial; rather, a plea agreement is a means to ensure a lighter charge, or sentence, or both, without risking a trial and the possible maximum penalties associated with a conviction after trial.

Note: Common plea agreements in wobbler cases, including armed criminal action, include an agreement by the district attorney reduce the felony charges to misdemeanor charges (reclassify the criminal charges). This offer is sometimes made to the defendant where the interest of justice is best served by negotiating with the defendant. Also, probation sentences, as opposed to jail sentences, are common offers made by district attorneys as part of plea negotiations. Keep in mind that the defendant does not have a right to enter into plea negotiations, and even if the defendant does enter into plea negotiations with the district attorney, the offer made to the defendant, if any, does not always include a “get out of jail” term.

For more information on PC 25800(a), armed criminal action, contact our law firm today. Our lawyers offer free consultations, and we are available every day of the week to answer all of your questions. Call today!


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