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Are loaded and concealed handguns illegal to carry in a motor vehicle

In a classic episode of COPS, the officer pulls over a citizen for speeding, turning without using a signal, running a red light, or any number of reasons. The car citizen comes to a complete stop on the shoulder of the road and the officer approaches the car and asks for a license and registration. Additionally, the officer asks if they know why they were pulled over and the citizen affirms or denies the reason. The officer, while waiting for the citizen to retrieve their license and registration, notices that all passengers appear nervous, fidgety, and attempting to hide something. The officer asks the driver if there is anything in the vehicle that might be illegal such as drugs, weapons, or alcohol. The driver responds negatively until the officer notices the passenger reach under their seat. The officer has all passengers exit the vehicle and after establishing probable cause searches the vehicle and discovers a loaded firearm.

Situations such as the one explained above happen countless times in the United States and even in the State of California. Was this an example of an illegal act or violation of the law? The law would argue…it depends. It is, in fact, illegal in the State of California in accordance with PC 25610, to carry a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle if the driver or passenger(s) does not have the following exceptions:

  • In possession of a state issued concealed carry permit
  • Is an officer of the law in the performance of their duties
  • Firearm is in an open holster or belt
  • Firearm is in a locked container in the trunk of the vehicle

What if the firearm is in a book bag or an unlocked firearm case in the trunk of the vehicle? It is a violation of PC 25610, as this statute specifically states:

(a) Section 25400 shall not be construed to prohibit any citizen of the United States over the age of 18 years who resides or is temporarily within this state, and who is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm, from transporting or carrying any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, provided that the following applies to the firearm:

(1) The firearm is within a motor vehicle and it is locked in the vehicle’s trunk or in a locked container in the vehicle.

(2) The firearm is carried by the person directly to or from any motor vehicle for any lawful purpose and, while carrying the firearm, the firearm is contained within a locked container.

(b) The provisions of this section do not prohibit or limit the otherwise lawful carrying or transportation of any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person in accordance with the provisions listed in Section 16580.

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law Group patiently await your call.

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