May 21, 2012 By Paul Wallin

California’s 10-20-Life Law Under the Microscope

California enacted one of the harshest gun laws in the nation in 1996 with the so-called “use a gun and you’re done” legislation. PC 12022.53 is a sentencing enhancement law, in that it is applied in addition to a sentence already imposed on an individual. For instance, a person who is convicted of robbery faces both the sentence for that crime and a term of 10 or 20 years, or even life, if a gun was involved.

The law answered concerns of a public which had grown weary of increasing gun violence. However, some say it goes too far. In a nutshell, the law:

  • Imposes a mandatory additional sentence of ten years for a crime in which a gun was involved.
  • Adds a mandatory 20 additional years to a sentence if the gun was discharged during the crime.
  • Requires an additional 25 years-to-life be added to a sentence of a person convicted of a crime in which a gun was fired, and in which an individual either was seriously injured or killed.

The 10-20-Life enhancement is not added to every crime, however. Only specific serious felonies apply, such as kidnapping, assault, robbery, carjacking, mayhem, and murder. If a person is convicted of attempting to commit any one of these or the other 19 felonies listed in the law the enhancement applies as well.

Two issues seem relevant in arguing whether this law is appropriate. First, is it effective? Has the rate of serious crime involving guns been substantially reduced since the law took effect? Violent crimes have diminished in California. However, it is unclear whether a correlation exists between the larger number of individuals receiving extended sentences under this law and the reduced crime rate.

The second issue that should be considered is whether the law is too harsh. Detractors of “use a gun and you’re done” argue that a person can spend ten years behind bars for a gun that was not loaded or didn’t work at all. 20 years can be imposed for a gun that misfires. Indeed, 20 years is seen as a very harsh sentence when the gun does not actually hurt the victim.

Regardless of which side one takes in the argument, the 10-20-Life law seems to be here for the duration. If an individual faces charges for a violent crime, particularly if this enhancement applies, it is vital that he hires a criminal defense attorney with experience in such matters.

If you are facing charges for a crime in which you used a gun, it is in your best interest to secure the legal services of a firm that has over 40 years of experience representing clients like you. Call the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich for a consultation at 1-888-749-0034.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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