What is Assault With a Firearm in California?

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When a person receives a charge of assault with a firearm, the penalty of this conviction is dependent on what type of firearm was used, under what circumstances the firearm was used, and who it was used on.

The charge may also be lowered if it is shown that there was no ammunition in the firearm, such as a magazine or a bullet in the chamber. For legal assistance with an assault with a firearm charge, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC today.

What is Assault With a Firearm?

California Penal Code 245 covers the specifics of variable circumstances for which a person may receive a conviction of assault with a firearm.

While the word “assault” implies that someone hit another person, in the case of a firearm, pointing the muzzle of the firearm at a person is considered an assault.

Such an action implies that harm is intended by the person holding the firearm pointed at another person, the victim, and that further action (a shooting) may follow.

What is the Criminal Penalty for Assault with a Firearm?

For such an action, the penalty would be from two, three, or four years in state prison, or under lesser circumstances, county jail from six months to one year. A fine of $10,000 or less, may also be applied.

While not explicitly defined, the defendant holds a revolver, pointing it at another person, for whatever reason the defendant has.

When a defendant holds a semiautomatic firearm pointed at another person, the penalty is higher, with time in a state prison from three, or six years, up to nine years.

The next level up is assault using a machinegun (PC 16880), an assault firearm (PC 30510 or 30515), or a .50 BMG rifle (PC 30530), which can serve time in state prison from four, or eight, to 12 years.

Penalties for Assault with a Firearm on a Police Officer or Firefighter

When a defendant commits assault with a firearm on a police officer or firefighter, the lesser penalty is four, six, or up to eight years in state prison.

When a semiautomatic firearm is used, the penalty is five, seven, or nine years in state prison. When a machine gun, assault firearm, or .50 BMG rifle is used, then the penalty is six years, nine years, up to 12 years in state prison.

The Defense of the Charge

  • You were acting in self-defense of either yourself or another person
  • Your intent was not to cause harm to another but to protect against harm being done by anyone present,
  • No present ability, which means the firearm was not loaded and there was no bullet in the chamber, such as in a semiautomatic firearm.

Unfortunately, a police officer may misinterpret a scene, or may also have an overbearing, belligerent personality, and may take steps that are beyond his or her legal right while making an arrest.

Such a situation may include screaming at a defendant or holding a firearm to the defendant’s head after already putting on the handcuffs.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with assault with a firearm, contact the experienced assault and battery attorneys at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC today for a consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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