Penal Code 417 PC: Brandishing a Weapon or Firearm
Is it illegal to threaten someone with a weapon in California? Yes, it is illegal to brandish a deadly weapon in California as per 417 PC.
Brandishing a weapon is a misdemeanor offense in the state of California, and therefore those convicted under 417 PC face a fine of up to $1,000. They may also receive a prison sentence of between 30 days and 6 months. The text of 417 PC allows exceptions for self-defense or the defense of others.
What Is Considered Brandishing a Weapon Under 417 PC?
417 PC defines brandishing a weapon as showing or exhibiting a weapon. The weapon does not have to be waved at someone; even something like lifting a shirt to show that they are armed is “brandishing a weapon.” It does not matter if the weapon is loaded or not or if the other person noticed the weapon or the threat or not. For example, if you threaten someone else with a weapon at a bar, but they are too drunk to notice, you can still be charged with brandishing a weapon under 417 PC.
One of the legal elements of brandishing a weapon, as defined by 417 PC, is that the intention is to threaten or intimidate someone else. The weapon must be exhibited in an angry, threatening, or rude manner. If the defendant is armed and their weapon is exposed while they are reaching for something, this does not meet 417 PC’s definition of brandishing a weapon because there was no intent.
417 PC Elements of the Crime
When prosecuting a defendant for brandishing a weapon, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to satisfy the requirements of 417 PC:
- The defendant showed or drew a deadly weapon in someone else’s presence or used a deadly weapon in an argument or fight
- The manner in which the defendant did so was angry, rude, or threatening
- The defendant’s actions were not in self-defense
The defendant does not have to approach the other person with the weapon or even attempt to hurt them with it in order to be charged under 417 PC. If the weapon in question is a knife, it does not need to be pointed at the victim or held to their throat. The defendant will be charged with 417 PC for putting a knife on the table in order to threaten the other person.
If the person brandishes a weapon and actually causes serious injury or death, then they will not be charged under 417 PC. They will be charged with a more serious offense of brandishing a weapon with bodily injury.
417 PC Legal Defenses to Brandishing a Weapon Charges
As a misdemeanor crime, the defendant should take 417 PC charges seriously. They will face at least 30 days in county jail, but the judge can sentence them to up to 6 months in jail, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Anyone facing 417 PC charges should speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately following arrest.
A criminal defense lawyer prevents self-incrimination and can help handle the case to ensure a more favorable result. They will help build a defense from the very start of the case to ensure success.
Some of the possible legal defenses to 417 PC brandishing a weapon charges are:
- Self-Defense or the defense of others – If the defendant can prove that they were acting in self defense or to defend others, then they cannot be convicted of 417 PC. For example, if the defendant was attacked or threatened and the jury finds it is reasonable that they feared for their safety, then brandishing a weapon is considered justifiable. Brandishing the weapon or the force used to fight back must be considered a reasonable amount of force compared to the threat.
- The weapon was not brandished in an angry, rude, or threatening manner – Disproving any of the elements of the crime will help the defendant to avoid conviction. 417 PC requires the weapon be brandished or displayed in a manner that is angry, rude, or threatening. If the defendant can prove that the weapon was not displayed in that way, then they cannot be convicted.
- There was no deadly weapon – 417 PC only applies to deadly weapons and firearms. If the defendant was brandishing a weapon that does not meet the definition of a deadly weapon, they cannot be convicted under 417 PC.
417 PC Penalties
417 PC is charged as a misdemeanor, so the penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 and a county jail sentence. The law gives judges some discretion in setting the prison sentence. A 417 PC conviction carries a minimum 30 day sentence and maximum 1 year sentence in county jail.
There are two circumstances where 417 PC will be charged as a felony:
- A firearm is brandished at a daycare center while it is operating
- A firearm is brandished in the presence of a law enforcement officer performing their duties
As a felony offense, 417 PC carries a penalty of up to 3 years in state prison.
Frequently Asked Questions About 417 PC
What Is Considered a Deadly Weapon?
Any weapon that has the potential to cause severe bodily injury or death is considered a deadly weapon by 417 PC. This includes firearms, knives, broken bottles, baseball bats, explosives. Firearms are considered deadly weapons even if they are unloaded.
Is 417 PC a “Wobbler?”
A wobbler is a crime that may be charged in two different categories depending on the circumstances. 417 PC is a wobbler because in most cases, it will be charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the weapon is brandished in a daycare center or in the presence of a law enforcement officer performing their duties, then it may be charged as a felony. All other situations will be charged as a misdemeanor offense. If it is charged as a felony, then the penalty for 417 PC is up to $1,000 in fine and up to 3 years in state prison.
Can a 417 PC Conviction Affect the Immigration Status of Non-Citizens?
Yes. It may affect the immigrant’s ability to receive a visa and green card and may even result in the deportation of the non-citizen, even if they have a valid green card or visa. Firearm offenses are seen as deportable offenses in immigration law.
A 417 PC for brandishing a deadly weapon that is not a firearm may not affect a non-citizen’s immigration status.
Can a 417 PC Conviction Be Expunged?
Yes, as a misdemeanor offense, a 417 PC conviction is eligible for expungement provided the person:
- Has successfully served their probation and/or jail time
- Is not currently serving jail time for another crime
The judge may also use their discretion to expunge the 417 PC conviction if the person violated a condition of their probation.
If I Am Convicted of 417 PC, Will It Affect My Gun Rights?
One misdemeanor conviction of 417 PC will not affect your gun rights. In California, convicted felons cannot purchase or possess a firearm. Also, someone who has had 2 or more 417 PC convictions cannot purchase or possess a firearm.
So if you have only had one misdemeanor 417 PC charge, you will be allowed to possess a firearm once you have been released from prison and your probation is complete.