California’s 10-20-Life law, also known as the “use a gun and you’re done” law, adds additional penalties when you use a gun during the commission of certain crimes. The law was originally enacted in 1998 to deter people from using guns to commit violent crimes and it recently went through some changes allowing judges more leeway in sentencing, a change widely celebrated by Oceanside violent crimes lawyers.
Additional Penalties for Using a Gun
The law adds what are known as “enhancements” to existing criminal penalties when certain conditions are met. Hate crimes and gang laws are also enhancements as they are not charges that can go forward on their own, but only added to existing charges. While not part of the 10-20-Life law, carrying a gun and drugs at the same time can result in sentencing enhancements as well.
The 10-20-Life rule adds, as the name implies, 10 years, 20 years or life imprisonment to a sentence if a gun was used in the commission of certain crime. The gun doesn’t need to actually be fired. In fact, just having a gun, even one that doesn’t work and isn’t loaded, is enough to qualify for the sentencing enhancement.
The maximum number of years added to a sentence depends on each type of gun violation. If the gun wasn’t fired, 10 years can be added. If it was fired but no one was seriously injured, 20 years can be added. If someone was seriously injured or killed by the gun, anywhere from 25 years to life imprisonment can be added to the base penalty for the crime. Before the law was changed, these enhancements were largely mandatory, but now judges have more leeway in sentencing, which is why it is so important to work with a top Oceanside weapons attorney in order to ensure you receive the minimum possible sentence.
Crimes Carrying the Enhancement
With sentencing enhancements this serious, it shouldn’t be surprising that the law only applies to very serious charges. Crimes that qualify for the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement include murder, mayhem, kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, aggravated assault of a peace officer, rape, sodomy, assault with intent to commit a felony, child molestation, oral copulation and any other felony punishable by life in prison or death, such as terrorism.
For example, if you commit a carjacking without a weapon, you could be sentenced to nine years in prison. If you carried a gun though, you could have 10 years added to your sentence. If you fired the gun, but didn’t shoot someone, you could have 20 years added to your sentence. If you shot someone and injured them, you could face life imprisonment.
It’s worth noting that possession and or use of a firearm while committing lesser felonies will also result in an additional prison term, though not as much as the additional sentences imposed by the 10-20-life rule.
These enhancements are very serious. It is critical that anyone charged with using a gun during the commission of these crimes contact an Oceanside violent crimes defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not speak to the police alone.
If you have been charged with a crime and you carried or used a weapon, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Oceanside weapons lawyer Peter M. Liss.
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