California statutory law, specifically, California Penal Code § 26100, defines the crime of “discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle.” This statute is often referred to as California’s “drive-by shooting” law, although the statute is officially listed as “Loaded Firearm in a Motor Vehicle” in the California Vehicle Code.
This statute prohibits more than the discharge of a firearm at another person from a motor vehicle. Although this offense is commonly referred to as our state’s “drive-by shooting” law, the law does not require that the car is moving for an alleged perpetrator to be guilty of the offense.
California Penal Code § 26100 prohibits:
- A driver knowingly allowing another person to bring a gun into a car the driver owns or is driving;
- A driver knowingly allowing another person to discharge a gun from within a car the driver owns or is driving;
- Anyone willfully and maliciously shooting at another person from within a car; and
- Anyone willfully and maliciously firing a gun from within a car.
A violation of California Penal Code § 26100 is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the State of California’s interpretation of the offense’s factual circumstances. Thus, accidentally discharging a firearm from a car may result in a misdemeanor charge, whereas intentionally shooting at another person is likely to result in a felony charge.
Anyone driver or owner of a car that allows a passenger to carry a gun in the car, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or a maximum $1,000 fine.
Driving or owning a car and allowing a passenger to discharge a firearm from it is also a “wobbler offense” and anyone convicted of the charge as a misdemeanor faces up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or a maximum $1,000 fine.
If convicted as a felony, the punishment is 16 months, or two, or three years in the California state prison, and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
For the more serious offense of discharges a firearm at another person, it is an automatic felony. If convicted of this offense, the punishment is three, five, or seven years in the state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
In 2019, Californians who commit violent crimes face very serious penalties, especially since most violent crimes may be categorized as felony offenses. If convicted, defendants may be sentenced to jail, fines, restitution, probation, and parole. They may also lose the right to own or possess a weapon, as well as other penalties that are not insignificant. Committing any of these offenses may ultimately result in extended sentences without the chance of early release. However, retaining experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result.
John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. Certification as a Specialist in Criminal Law is the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices have decades of experience defending individuals charged with violent felonies. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.