Weapon Possession and Child Endangerment: A News-Based Legal Analysis
Posted on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 at 11:16 am
By Rachel Silber, Spolin Law Criminal and Civil Rights Law Clerk
On Sunday, March 19th, Manhattan Beach Patch reported a hit-and-run outside Los Angeles International Airport around 9am. The 41-year old man who was suspected of the hit-and-run allegedly had a loaded handgun inside his Chevy Avalanche, along with a 12-year-old child. Safety precautions led officers to remove the suspect from his vehicle, where he is described as becoming aggressive towards the officers and trying to jump back into his car. Officers then pushed the suspect to the ground, where he was taken into custody. The 12-year-old child who was in the vehicle said that there was a loaded handgun in the car. Police later reported they had found a loaded Glock semi-automatic pistol in the suspect’s center console. The suspect was booked under charges of possession of a stole firearm, outstanding warrants, child endangerment, and resisting arrest.
California Penal Code section 25605 outlines rules relating to possessing a handgun. The Penal Code states a handgun may in certain circumstances be possessed by a legal resident over the age of 18, so long as the handgun stays within that person’s place of residence, business, or private property (California Penal Code § 25605). It is illegal to openly carry guns unless one has obtained the proper license to carry a concealed weapon. Obtaining concealed weapon licenses in California is extremely difficult. One of the many requirements is outlined in Penal Code section 31645, which necessitates a passing score on a firearms and safety test. However, one is not permitted to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon if they are deemed lacking in moral character, or have no special purpose to carry a weapon. Whether the alleged hit-and-run suspect had a license to carry a concealed weapon is unclear. However, the fact that he was arrested outside terminal 2 of LAX indicates that he violated the restrictions that prohibit weapons in school zones, buildings housing governing officials, polling places, and public transit facilities. LAX being a public transit facility, carrying a weapon in its vicinity is illegal.
The courts do not take gun laws lightly, and California has a reputation for forcefully enforcing gun law violators. Prosecutors routinely offer uncompromising plea deals to those charged with weapon-related offenses, and courts are loath to undercut these offers. The result for those with illegal firearms can amount to significant jail or prison time as well as substantial fines.
California Penal Code 273a defines child endangerment as, essentially, putting a child through physical or mental pain, allowing injury to a child under the adult’s supervision, or placing a child in a dangerous situation. This penal code is different from child abuse, as it allows for punishment even if a child doesn’t directly suffer injury. Child endangerment prosecutions can be initiated as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the case. A misdemeanor results in up to one year in county jail, whereas a felony results in up to six years in a state prison. It is common that if proof arises where a child is placed in a situation with risk of great harm, the suspect will be charged with a felony. The suspect has yet to have a court hearing, but due to the circumstances of the situation, it will not be surprising if he is charged with a felony. Endangering a 12-year-old child with a loaded Glock outside the terminal of one of America’s business airports has the potential to involve significant jail or prison time. Nonetheless, as with all criminal cases reported in the news, there may be more to the story than law enforcement has reported. For example, there is a possibility that the suspect may have been lawfully carrying a firearm and simply forgot that it was inside his vehicle when he entered the vicinity of the airport. However, we will have to save any discussion of possible defenses for another day or, perhaps, another blog post.