California’s gun and weapons laws are arguably the most stringent and complex in the country. The statutes govern who can possess guns and also outline the firearms you can own and those it deems illegal. Added to this complexity is that some weapons become illegal when you make certain modifications, including changing the ammunition type or increasing the magazine's capacity. However, the law prohibits the possession of certain weapons. If found to have these weapons, you will face prosecution.
As you will see, conviction on prohibited weapons charges results in significant penalties and life-changing consequences. Early intervention in your case will help you challenge the allegations to secure a favorable outcome. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney team is ready to offer you legal assistance to fight the prohibited weapons charge.
Prohibited Weapons in California
Penal Code 16590 outlines the guns and weapons prohibited in California. Other sections of the Penal Code address the weapons in great detail. PC 16590 seeks to aggregate all weapons that the law bans people from designing, possessing or selling since offenders use them to achieve their criminal and unlawful acts.
Here is a look at each weapon in specific categories and the statutes you violate if you possess, design, manufacture, or sell.
- Cane guns — Penal Code 24410
- Firearms not immediately recognizable as firearms — Penal Code 24510
- Undetectable firearms — Penal Code 24610
- Wallet guns — Penal Code 24710
- Unconventional pistols — Penal Code 31500
- Short-barreled rifles and shotguns — Penal Code 33215, and
- Zip guns — Penal Code 33600
Prohibited Ammunition or Firearm Equipment
- Camouflaging firearm containers — Penal Code 24310
- Bullets with explosive agents — Penal Code 30210, and
- Large-capacity magazines — Penal Code 32310
- Multi-burst trigger activators — Penal Code 32900
Prohibited Swords or Knives
- Air gauge knives — Penal Code 20310
- Belt-buckle knives — Penal Code 20410
- Cane swords — Penal Code 20510
- Lipstick case knives — Penal Code 20610
- Shobi-Zeus — Penal Code 20710
- Writing pen knives — Penal Code 20910
- Ballistic knives — Penal Code 21110
- Concealed dagger or dirk — Penal Code 21310
Prohibited Martial Arts Weapons
- Nunchakus — Penal Code 22010
- Shurikens — Penal Code 22410
Other Prohibited Weapons
- Concealed explosive material other than fixed ammunition — Penal Code 19100
- Metal replica grenades or metal military practice grenades — Penal Code 19200
- Brass or metal knuckles — Penal Code 21810
- Leaded canes, batons, slungshots, billy clubs, blackjacks, saps, or sandbags — Penal Code 22210
What the Law Restricts You From Doing With Prohibited Weapons
Penal Code 16590 makes it a crime to knowingly manufacture, import into California, offer to sell, possess, or lend any of the listed guns and weapons. Before addressing each element in detail, let us look at what prosecutors must prove for the court to find you guilty.
- You manufactured, possessed, or caused to be imported into California, offered, kept, or exposed for sale, bought, lent, received, or gave a prohibited weapon,
- You knew that you manufactured, possessed, or caused to be imported into California, offered, kept, or exposed for sale, bought, lent, received, or gave a prohibited weapon, and
- You knew that the weapon or gun could be used for unlawful means or that the illegal weapon was intended for unlawful means.
Additionally, the weapon does not have to be in working condition for the court to find you guilty under PC 16590.
You Act Knowingly
The law does not require the state to prove you intended to use the object as a weapon for illegal means. They only need to prove that you knew the object was a weapon or that it could be used as such. as a weapon.
Proving intent is challenging for prosecutors, especially if you innocently purchase an item not knowing it is a weapon.
For example, Dorian purchases an antique cane to give to his father. Unbeknownst to him, the cane conceals a sword. He walks with it to the airport and is stopped by airport authorities after discovering the hidden blade.
Dorian is not guilty of a PC 16590 violation. He bought the cane and believed it to be one. He did not know that the cane concealed a hidden blade, nor did he know that the cane was capable of being used as a weapon.
Possession of a Prohibited Weapon
If the state charges you with possession of a prohibited weapon for sale, it must prove that you intended to sell it. Legally, you possess the weapon when you have the following:
- Actual possession — When you hold it, it is in your person, or you have immediate access to it
- Constructive possession — When you do not have immediate access to the weapon, but you have a right to control the weapon or control it. For example, having a prohibited gun in your house is constructive possession, even if the gun belongs to your partner.
Weapons and People Exempted from Prosecution Under PC 16590
The legal exemptions from prosecution include the following:
- Transferring, selling, or possessing to sell to law enforcement agencies
- Forensic laboratories possessing prohibited items
- Possession of nunchucks by institutions training martial arts
- Use of unloaded prohibited firearms or firearm equipment for video, movie, or television production or similar forms of entertainment
- Possession of prohibited weapons by museums, historical societies, and libraries
- When turning the restricted weapon to law enforcement officers
Defenses You Can Raise in a Prohibited Weapons Case
You can raise the following defenses to challenge the allegations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assess your circumstances and determine the ideal defense to assert on your behalf.
A bulk of the pressure to fight gun-related crimes falls on police officers. In some cases, officers engage in illegal behavior to arrest and forward the cases to the District Attorney's office. Some of the misconduct police officers engage in includes coercing confessions, planting or fabricating evidence, bribery, and extortion, among others.
Criminal defense attorneys conduct independent investigations to determine the facts of the case. The investigations could uncover the illegal acts committed by the arresting officers that formed the basis of your charges. Your attorney will present evidence in court to have your case dismissed.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Police officers need a valid warrant to search and seize any material they can use as evidence in court. In the absence of a search warrant, officers should have a legal excuse. Some of the circumstances allowable by law in which police officers can search without a warrant include the following:
- Inspection searches, for example, at airports
- When the defendant consents to the search or seizure
- Searches and seizures incidental to lawful arrests
- When police officers have probable cause to believe a car contains evidence of a crime
- Searches are conducted by officers of a suspect’s outer clothing when he/she is temporarily detained — Police officers use these searches to look for weapons that the suspect could use against them.
- Searches and seizures of weapons that are in plain view
Without a legal search warrant or a legal excuse, any evidence they obtain in the search is illegal. Your attorney will file a Penal Code 1538.5 motion seeking to suppress evidence obtained in the illegal search and seizure. If granted, your case will likely be dismissed.
The Law Exempts You From Prosecution
Your case will be dismissed if you fall into any of the above mentioned categories of people exempted from prosecution under PC 16590. Your attorneys must prove that you fall into any of the classifications. He/she will present your license to sell or manufacture the weapons or a permit authorizing the use of the weapons in martial arts training centers or forensic labs.
It is important to note that a permit to carry concealed weapons (CCW) does not allow you to have a prohibited weapon.
Since prosecutors will assert that you knew that the object in your possession was a prohibited weapon or could be utilized as a weapon, you can always challenge this allegation by asserting that you lacked the knowledge. It is upon the prosecution to prove the knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors have it easier to convince a jury of the actual possession of a prohibited item. They only have to present a photo of the weapon in the car, eyewitness accounts, or surveillance footage of the weapon in your possession.
Proving constructive possession is challenging. The prosecutor must establish you knew the weapon was in your possession and that you had control over it.
For example, Pat moves into Joe’s apartment. A week later, police raided and searched the residence and found drugs, a revolver, nunchakus, and brass knuckles. The police also take Pat into custody on suspicion of being a member of the same street gang Joe was a part of.
In this scenario, the prosecution must prove that Pat reasonably knew the prohibited weapons were in the house. The state could introduce witnesses and past communications to confirm that Pat knew that Joe was a gang member. Therefore, it is likely Joe had weapons in the house.
However, if Pat did not know that Joe was an active gang member, he could not have known that a prohibited weapon was hidden in the house. Therefore, Pat is not guilty under PC 16590.
The legal profession expects all attorneys to adhere to legal, professional, and ethical conduct. Prosecutors wield significant power. Some use this power to cross legal, professional, and ethical lines to secure convictions. It is important to note that this misconduct is not limited to a criminal trial. It can happen at any stage of the court process, including pretrial and sentencing.
Some of the conduct that meets the prosecutorial misconduct threshold include:
- Introducing false evidence — False evidence includes unfounded or untrue character evidence, hearsay statements, or false accounts by witnesses. Character evidence is inadmissible per Evidence Code 1101 and refers to the prosecution introducing your past bad acts as evidence of your guilt in the current case.
- Failing to disclose exculpatory evidence — Exculpatory evidence is commonly referred to as Brady material. It suggests that the defendant is not guilty or that the court should impose a lesser sentence.
- Discrimination during the jury selection process — Jury discrimination means prosecutors used religion, sex, ethnicity, or other similar criteria as a basis to select or exclude a potential juror.
- Using improper arguments, which include arguing facts not submitted into evidence, giving inflammatory comments, or commenting on your decision not to testify.
Your attorney will submit the evidence showing the misconduct to the judge. If satisfied, the judge can dismiss the charges, grant a motion for a fresh trial, or admonish the jury to ignore specific comments and evidence presented by the prosecution.
You could have been in a gun store and held on to a prohibited weapon while you considered purchasing it. Police officers later walk in, find you with the device and arrest you. You can assert that you held on to the device temporarily. Thus, you committed no crime.
Penalties If Convicted of a Prohibited Weapons Charge
You face misdemeanor or felony charges for a PC 16590 violation. Prosecutors will decide what charges to pursue based on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history.
If convicted of a misdemeanor violation, you will face the following penalties:
- A jail sentence of up to one year
- A fine of up to $1,000, or both.
If convicted of a felony violation, you will face the following penalties:
- A jail sentence of 16 months, two or three years
- A fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Additional Penalties if Convicted of Using Prohibited Weapons
Possession of prohibited weapons will not generally adversely impact a non-citizen immigration status. However, should the state, through ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), believe the case warrants deportation, you will be deported and marked inadmissible. In most cases, this decision is reached if your case has aggravating circumstances, like being charged with a violent felony alongside the prohibited weapons charge.
A conviction for a PC 16590 charge can hurt your second amendment rights. Per Penal Code 29800, felons are barred from owning, possessing, purchasing, or handling firearms. If convicted of felony charges, you will lose your gun rights.
Expunging Your Conviction
Expungement under Penal Code 1203.4 allows you to request the courts remove your conviction from the records to eliminate the hardships associated with a criminal record. You can expunge your PC 16590 conviction if you complete your jail sentence.
Assault Weapons and Rifles
Penal Code 30600 prohibits the transportation, manufacturing, distribution, giving away, selling, or importing of BMG rifles and assault weapons.
Prosecutors must prove that you knowingly committed any of the acts mentioned above knowing or should have reasonably known the weapons had characteristics similar to a.50 BMG rifle or assault weapon under PC 30600.
Section 30510 of the Penal Code lists more than 70 types of guns classified as assault weapons. These include 12-gauge shotguns with strikers, all AK-47 rifles, and Uzi submachine guns.
PC 30515, on the other hand, lists semiautomatic centerfire rifles as assault weapons. The Tavor Bullpup, Bushmaster semi automatics, and micro-Uzi submachine guns form part of the list.
It is important to note that the .50 BMG is not an assault weapon.
Penalties Upon Conviction Under PC 30600
A violation of PC 30600 attracts felony penalties that include the following:
- A jail sentence of four, six, or eight years or
- Formal probation instead of jail time.
Offenses Related to Prohibited Weapons
Three offenses are related to prohibited weapons charges. Prosecutors could choose any three to charge you alongside or as an alternative to the prohibited weapons charge. The three are:
- Brandishing a weapon — A crime under PC 417
- Carrying a loaded firearm in public — A crime under PC 25850
- Carrying an unloaded gun in public — A crime under PC 26350
- Brandishing a Gun or Weapon
You will face prosecution under PC 417 when you exhibit or draw a deadly weapon or a firearm in a threatening manner and use it in a brawl or in any way other than self-defense. The state will charge you with a PC 417 violation and the prohibited weapons violation charge when you brandish any restricted weapon since these weapons can be deadly.
However, the courts will only find you guilty if it is proven that:
- You exhibited or drew a firearm or deadly weapon in another person’s presence
- You did so in a threatening, rude, or angry manner, or
- You used the gun or weapon in a quarrel or fight, and
- You were not defending yourself
If you brandish a gun and cause serious bodily harm to another person, you will face penalties under Penal Code 417.6 for brandishing a firearm and causing grave bodily injury. PC 417.6 makes it a crime for any individual to wave or brandish a gun at another and intentionally inflict serious physical harm on the victim.
Serious bodily injuries refer to physical impairments that include the following:
- Bone fracture
- Loss of consciousness
- Serious disfigurement
- Wounds requiring suturing, and
- Loss of functionality of an organ or limb
Serious bodily harm is less severe than great bodily injury (GBI).
Penalties for Brandishing a Firearm or Weapon
You will face misdemeanor penalties if convicted of a PC 417 violation. You could face:
- A jail sentence of three months to one year, or
- A jail sentence of three months to one year, a maximum fine of $1,000 if you brandish a firearm in public capable of being concealed
You will face the above penalties if you brandish a weapon on school grounds. The offense becomes a wobbler when you brandish the gun or weapon on day-center property. If convicted of misdemeanor charges, you will face a jail sentence of up to one year. If convicted of a felony violation, you will face up to three years in prison.
PC 417.6 violations are wobbler offenses. Misdemeanor violation convictions result in jail sentences of up to one year, while felony violation convictions result in up to three years in prison.
- Carrying a Loaded Firearm in Public
It is a crime under PC 25850 to carry a loaded gun in public or a car unless you have a CCW permit. Prosecutors will have to prove the following as accurate:
- You had a loaded gun in your vehicle or on your person
- You knew you were carrying the gun
- You were in public at the time or in a location where it is illegal to discharge your firearm.
Penalties for a PC 25850 Violation
Carrying a loaded gun in public or in a car is a misdemeanor offense punishable by the following penalties:
- Up to one year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Your charges become wobblers if you have a prior conviction for a misdemeanor drug offense. Misdemeanor penalties remain unchanged. However, for the felony charge, you will receive the following sentences:
- Up to three years in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000 or both
- Carrying an Unloaded Firearm in Public
It is a violation of PC 26350 to openly carry an unloaded and exposed handgun in public or in a car. A jury will only find you guilty if:
- You had an unloaded or exposed handgun
- You carried the firearm in your vehicle or on your person, and
- You did so while in a public street or public location
Penalties for Carrying an Unloaded Firearm in Public
You will face misdemeanor penalties for a Penal Code 26350 violation. The offense is punishable by:
- Up to one year in jail
- A maximum fine of $1,000 or both
Contact a Gun and Weapons Offenses Near Me
Are you or a loved one under investigation, or have you been arrested for making, carrying, selling, or distributing a prohibited weapon?
If so, you require legal assistance from experienced and aggressive attorneys. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney understands California's criminal justice system and is well-versed in gun and weapon laws. Our attorneys will review your case and formulate a winning strategy. Contact us today at 424-333-0943 to schedule an initial, free, no-obligation consultation.