Understanding California’s 10-20-Life Gun Sentencing Enhancement
California has arguably some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Some of these laws affect a person’s right to own a gun, while others impose harsh penalties on individuals who commit crimes while using a gun. Until recently, individuals who used a gun to commit certain crimes were subject to mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment under the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement law.
A recent change in the law gives judges the discretion to remove the sentencing enhancement in certain situations. However, if you use a gun to commit a felony in Los Angeles you can still face serious and aggravated criminal consequences.
10-20-Life Sentencing Enhancement
The 10-20-Life Sentencing enhancement, also known as “use a gun and you’re done,” was implemented in 1998 as a way to deter people from committing crimes while using a firearm. Crimes that involve guns are more likely to cause serious bodily injury and/or death. If you use a gun to commit one of the specific crimes specified in Penal Code 12022.53 PC you will face the possibility of additional time in prison.
Under the original sentencing guideline, the additional term of imprisonment (above and beyond the penalty for the underlying crime) was mandatory. A recent change in the law allows judges to remove the sentencing enhancement from consideration when it would be “in the interest of justice” to do so.
When Does the 10-20-Life Enhancement Apply?
The 10-20-Life enhancement will apply when you commit any of the following felony offenses:
- Assault with intent to commit a specified felony
- Assault with a firearm of a peace officer or firefighter
- Rape or sexual penetration in concert
- Lewd act on a child
- Oral copulation
- Sexual penetration
- Assault by a life prisoner
- Assault by a prisoner
- Holding a hostage by a prisoner, and
- Any felony punishable by death or life in prison.
The “use a gun and you’re done’ enhancement also applies to any attempt to commit these felony offenses, with the exception of assault.
Additional Penalties Under the Use a Gun and You’re Done Law
The 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement adds a term of imprisonment to your sentence. The length of the penalty depends on how you used the gun in your crime.
Enhancement For Using a Gun
A term of up to 10 years will be added to your criminal sentence if you “use” a gun in the commission of any of the defined felonies. A gun does not have to work properly or be loaded to trigger the sentencing enhancement. Simply displaying a firearm, discharging it, or using it to strike another person would be sufficient to satisfy the “use” requirement.
Enhancement for Firing a Gun
A term of up to 20 years will be added to your criminal sentence if you discharge a firearm in the commission of a crime. Discharging requires you to intentionally fire the weapon by pulling the trigger.
Enhancement for Causing Bodily Injury or Death
Your criminal sentence will be extended by 25 years to life if you use a firearm and proximately cause another person to suffer a great bodily injury or death. The injury or death does not necessarily have to be caused by a gunshot wound. If you fire a weapon and set off a course of events that eventually result in the injury or death of another person, you can be considered to have been the proximate cause of that harm.
Judges Have the Discretion to Dismiss Enhancement
Judges, as of January 1, 2018, have the power to remove the sentencing enhancement when doing so would be in the “interest of justice.” Judges will now review each individual situation on a case-by-case basis and determine if the sentencing enhancement is just. If applying the additional term of imprisonment would be unfair or unjust, they may proceed with applying the penalty that is defined for the underlying crime. Judges may be more inclined to drop the sentencing enhancement for first-time offenders, those individuals who exhibit remorse for their actions, and/or those who were not in full control of their actions.
Contact an Attorney for Help
If you are facing criminal charges and the possibility of extra time in prison for using a firearm it is important to speak with an attorney. Call the Rodriguez Law Group today to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys. We understand that your future is at stake and will fight to get the best possible resolution in your criminal case.