What Is Armed Criminal Action in California?

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Armed criminal action is a crime that not everyone is familiar with. Still, in California, it is a serious crime.

So, what is armed criminal action? When a person carries a loaded firearm with the intent to commit a felony, they commit the crime of armed criminal action.

This means that someone can be convicted of armed criminal action even if they do not actually commit the felony, as long as they had the intent to do so while carrying a loaded gun.

Armed criminal action is often charged in conjunction with other crimes, such as robbery, burglary, and assault.

It is essential to be aware of the law on armed criminal action, especially if you own or carry a firearm.

If you are charged with armed criminal action in California, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney online or call 619- 304-2058 immediately.

What Are the Key Elements of Armed Criminal Action?

Under section 25800 of the California Penal Code, the prosecution must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of armed criminal action in California:

  • You carried a firearm that you knew was loaded, and 
  • You carried the firearm with the intent to commit a felony;

You can be convicted of armed criminal action in California even if you do not actually commit a felony, as long as you have a loaded firearm and intend to commit a felony.

What Is Considered a Loaded Firearm in California?

firearm is any device designed to shoot a projectile through a barrel using an explosion or combustion.

A firearm is considered loaded if it has ammunition in the chamber or magazine, even if it is not ready to fire.

For example, a pistol with bullets in the magazine or a shotgun with shells in the magazine tube of the barrel is considered loaded, even if the chamber is empty. 

Common Examples of Armed Criminal Action

Examples of armed criminal action include carrying a loaded gun while:

  • Physically assaulting someone,
  • Sexually assaulting someone,
  • Committing a kidnapping,
  • Carjacking a vehicle, or
  • Robbing a bank.

In simple terms, you can face an armed criminal action charge if the police find a weapon on you and have evidence that you have committed or are about to commit a crime.

What Are the Penalties for Armed Criminal Action?

Armed criminal action is a “wobbler” offense in California. This means the prosecutor decides whether to charge it as a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties are:

  • Up to one year in county jail,
  • A fine of up to $1,000, or 
  • Both.

If charged as a felony, the penalties are:

  • Sixteen months, two years, or three years in state prison;
  • A fine of up to $10,000; or 
  • Both.

The specific armed criminal action sentence will depend on the circumstances of the case, such as the defendant’s criminal history and the type of felony the defendant intended to commit.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Armed Criminal Action Statute?

There are some exceptions to the armed criminal action law.

For example, it is not a crime to carry a loaded gun in your own home or business or while traveling to or from your home or business. Law enforcement officers and other licensed individuals also have some exemptions.

What Are the Defenses to an Armed Criminal Action Charge?

Some common defenses to armed criminal action charges include:

  • Self-defense—if you can show that you used force only because you reasonably believed that you or someone else was in immediate danger of being harmed;
  • Statute of limitations—if the prosecution does not bring charges within three years of the date of the crime;
  • Illegal search and seizure—if the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights when they searched you or your property or seized evidence; and
  • Insufficient evidence—if the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Criminal defenses have different rules and requirements. That’s why it’s important to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your case.

What Are Some Related Offenses?

In California, several related offenses are frequently charged alongside an armed criminal action charge.

Carrying a Loaded Firearm

It is illegal to have a loaded firearm on your person or in your vehicle in a public place unless you have a valid concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit. It is also against the law to: 

  • Carry a firearm in violation of the Gun-Free School Zone Act,
  • Carry a loaded gun while you are an unregistered owner,
  • Carry a stolen firearm, or
  • Carry a gun while an active member of a gang. 

If charged with a misdemeanor, you could face up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both. If convicted of a felony, you could face up to three years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Carrying a Concealed Firearm

This law makes carrying a concealed gun on your body or in your vehicle illegal unless you have a valid CCW permit. Carrying a concealed weapon is also prohibited if: 

  • You are a convicted felon; 
  • The gun is stolen, and you knew it was stolen; 
  • You are an active member of a gang;
  • You are not the weapon’s registered owner; or
  • You fall into a category of people not permitted to own or obtain a firearm.

If charged with a misdemeanor, you could face up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.

You could also receive misdemeanor probation. If convicted of a felony, you could face up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Consult an Experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Being charged with a crime can be very scary and confusing.

California has many different laws, and prosecutors can be very aggressive. That’s why it’s essential to have a lawyer who knows the law and can help you fight your charges.

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, is a nationally-recognized defense law firm. We have decades of experience helping people who have been charged with armed criminal action and other serious crimes.

If you have been charged with a crime, don’t hesitate to contact us online or call 619-304-2058 to schedule a free consultation. We’ll walk you through your legal options and rights and work hard for the most favorable resolution to your case.

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.