Understanding California’s 10-20-Life Law

California’s “Use a Gun and You’re Done” law imposes additional penalties when you commit certain crimes using a gun. The penalty enhancement was originally implemented in 1998 as a way to deter you from using guns to commit violent crimes. The thought was that if you knew that you could face additional time in prison for using a gun, you may think twice before acting. However, the California sentencing law has negative effects. Since the sentencing guidelines were mandatory, judges were required to impose incredibly harsh criminal sentences when they were not always warranted. Recently, lawmakers proposed a change to the state’s gun sentencing enhancement. Under the newly-changed law, judges will have some discretion in whether or not to order additional jail time.

Original 10-20-Life Sentencing Enhancement

Under the original sentencing enhancement law, you would be required to serve additional time in prison if you were convicted of committing certain felonies using a firearm.

10-20-Life Felonies

The 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement applied to all of the following felony crimes:

  • Murder
  • Mayhem
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Assault with intent to commit a felony
  • Aggravated assault of a peace officer
  • Rape
  • Sexual penetration in concert
  • Sodomy
  • Lewd acts on a child
  • Oral copulation, or
  • Any felony punishable by life in prison or death.

The 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement also applied to any attempt to commit one of these felonies.

Sentence Enhancements

The “Use a Gun and You’re Done” sentencing enhancement is also known as the 10-20-Life rule. This name comes from the maximum sentence that can be imposed for each type of gun violation.

Using a Gun

If you “use” a gun to commit any of the crimes described in Penal Code 12022.53 PC a term of up to 10 years will be added to your criminal sentence. What does it mean to “use” a gun for the purposes of the sentencing enhancement? The term is defined rather broadly to include displaying or discharging a gun or using the weapon as a blunt instrument. You can face additional time in prison even if the gun you had wasn’t loaded or didn’t work.

Firing a Gun

If you intentionally fire a gun, but do not seriously injure or kill another person, while committing one of the crimes defined in 12022.53 PC a maximum of 20 years can be added to your criminal sentence.

Causing Bodily Injury or Death

If, while committing one of the crimes defined in 12022.53 PC, you use a gun and cause another person to suffer a great bodily injury or death, your criminal sentence will be extended by a period of 25 years to life.

New 10-20-Life Sentencing Enhancement Rules

The outcry over the negative effects of the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement prompted California lawmakers to make some important changes to the law. Judges in California are now empowered to remove the sentencing enhancement when its application would be unjust. Since the facts and issues in criminal cases can vary significantly, it is important to give the judges handling specific cases the authority to make crucial sentencing decisions. Judges can now review each individual case (and consider mitigating and aggravating factors) to determine whether the sentencing enhancement should apply. If applying the enhancement would not be in the interest of justice, the judge can impose the penalties for the underlying crime without aggravation.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

If you have been charged with a felony and accused of using a gun it is important to speak with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney. Judges now have the ability to remove the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement at their discretion. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will increase the chances of avoiding the enhancement and limiting the consequences of your arrest. Call the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC today to request an initial consultation and learn more.

Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC
1230 Columbia Street Suite 565
San Diego, CA 92101