California weapon laws can be a little confusing. Some statutes legalize possession and use of specific weapons, while others illegalize those weapons when modifications are made. For instance, changing the type of ammunition of a legal weapon is illegal in the state. But, there are weapons that the law prohibits in California. They are referred to as generally prohibited weapons. You could face serious criminal charges in Riverside, CA, for manufacturing, selling, or even possessing a prohibited weapon, resulting in a lengthy prison time and a hefty fine.
But, we can help you fight your charges to avoid a conviction and its consequences. Our lawyers at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm have the skills and knowledge needed to help you through the legal process until you obtain a favorable outcome for your case.
Generally Prohibited Weapons in California
Prohibited weapons are listed under California PC 16590. This law is sometimes called the sale or possession of dangerous weapons. The weapons mentioned under this statute are illegal in various sections of the state law but listed under this law. Prohibited weapons appear in multiple categories:
Prohibited firearms include the following:
Short-Barreled Rifles and Firearms — California PC 33215
It is illegal for any person to do the following with short-barreled rifles or shotguns:
- Offering or keeping them for sale
- Importing them into California
- Lending or giving them away
A short-barreled rifle is a rifle with either of the following:
- A barrel/barrels that are shorter than sixteen inches
- An overall length of not more than 26 inches
A short-barrel shotgun is one with either:
- One or more barrels of not more than eighteen inches
- One whose overall length does not exceed 26 inches
Short-barreled shotguns are also called sawed-off shotguns.
Violating this law could result in misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances of your case. The maximum penalty for this offense is three years in prison and hefty fines. A misdemeanor conviction could attract a one-year jail term.
California PC 24610 makes the following acts illegal when performed with undetectable firearms:
- Importing into California
- Offering and keeping for sale
- Giving or lending
Undetectable firearms are also called ceramic or plastic guns. They are weapons that metal detectors can not detect. Anyone found guilty of violating this law can face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances of their case. Penalties for a conviction under this statute include prison time for one to three years and hefty court fines.
Firearms Not Easily Recognizable as Firearms
California PC 24510 makes it illegal for any person to manufacture, cause to manufacture, import into California, keep or offer for sale, expose, give, lend or possess any gun that is not immediately recognized as a gun. The offense can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of your case. It is punishable by time behind bars and a hefty fine, according to the specific offense committed.
California PC 31500 makes it unlawful for anyone to do the following acts with an unconventional pistol:
- Manufacturing or causing another person to manufacturer
- Importing into California
- Keeping, offering, or exposing for sale
- Giving away, or lending to another person
The offense is punished by jail time for not more than one year of jail time, depending on the details of the case.
An unconventional pistol is a firearm that bears the following characteristics:
- Lacks a rifled bore
- Has one or more barrels shorter than eighteen inches, with its overall length not exceeding 26 inches
Cane Guns, Zip Guns or Wallet Guns
A cane gun is a weapon that is usually enclosed inside an object and can be disguised as a walking cane. You can fire it while it is inside that object.
A zip gun is an improvised firearm. It refers to any other firearm that a licensed manufacturer or gunsmith has not manufactured.
A wallet gun is any firearm that can be enclosed or mounted in a case. Cases for these guns resemble a wallet. They can be fired while still held in their cases. Thus, they are capable of being disguised in a purse or pocket.
California laws make it unlawful for any person to do the following acts with a cane, zip, and wallet guns:
- To manufacture or cause another person to manufacture
- Import into the state
- Expose, offer or keep for sale
- Lend or give
The offense is a wobbler, which means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of your case. Punishment includes time in jail/prison, and a hefty fine, according to the specific violation.
Prohibited Knives and Swords
Some edged weapons like knives and swords are among weapons that are unlawful.
A ballistic knife is a type whose blade is detachable and could be ejected to a significant distance when you press a trigger or operate a switch on its handle.
California PC 21110 is the statute that makes it unlawful for anyone to manufacture, import into the state, sell, possess or give away a ballistic knife. A violation of this law is a wobbler. It means that the district attorney can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony based on the details of your case and your criminal history.
As a misdemeanor offense, the violation is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of not more than $1,000. The judge can place you on misdemeanor probation in place of time in jail.
As a felony offense, the violation is punishable by three years in jail and a fine of not more than $10,000. Again, the judge could place you on felony probation.
A belt-buckle knife is integrated into a belt buckle and features a sharp blade of about two inches.
California PC 20410 makes it unlawful for anyone to do the following acts with a belt-buckle knife:
- Manufacture or cause another person to manufacture
- Import into the state
- Give away
A violation of this statute is a wobbler. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony, or misdemeanor, depending on the details of your case and your criminal history.
As a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by one year in jail or misdemeanor probation and a fine of $1,000. As a felony, the crime is punishable by three years in prison, felony probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Air Gauge Knives
An air gauge knife is any object resembling an air gauge with a concealed knife.
California PC 20310 makes it an offense for anyone to manufacture, import, give or sell an air gauge knife. The crime is a wobbler in California, which means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of your situation.
A conviction under this statute could result in prison or jail time and a significant fine. For instance, possessing an air gauge knife could result in misdemeanor charges, punishable by one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A felony charge is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Prohibited Ammunition and Firearm Equipment
California laws also prohibit specific types of ammunition and firearm equipment. Examples include the following:
Camouflaging Gun Containers
California PC 24310 makes it unlawful to do the following acts with a camouflaging gun container.
- Manufacturer or cause another person to manufacture
- Import into the state
- Keep, offer, or expose for sale
- Give or lend away
A camouflaging gun container refers to any object that holds a firearm but does not necessarily look like it contains any gun. The container has a concealment element that could allow a person to sneak a firearm out or in without being noticed. Camouflaging gun containers are also designed to allow users to fire a gun without removing it from its container.
A violation of this law attracts misdemeanor or felony charges, based on the details of your case. You will likely receive three years in prison if convicted of a felony offense under this statute.
Bullets Containing an Explosive Agent
California PC 30210 makes it unlawful for any person to manufacture, cause another person to manufacture, import into the state, sell, possess or give bullets or ammunition containing a dart or an explosive agent. The offense attracts misdemeanor or felony charges, punishable by a maximum of three years in jail and court fines of up to $10,000.
A Multiburst Trigger Activator or Bump Stock
California PC 32900 makes it unlawful for anyone to possess, use, manufacture or give away bump stocks. Bump stocks or multi-burst trigger activators are firearm accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle's ability to fire.
Some firearm modifications are illegal. Bump stocks are modifications made on semi-automatic rifles to cause them to fire continuously as long as the user keeps the weapon on their shoulder. It makes a semiautomatic rifle function more like an automatic rifle.
Possessing a bump stock is a wobbler offense. A misdemeanor conviction is punished by up to one year in jail, while a felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Prohibited Martial Arts Weapons
California laws prohibit certain weapons used in martial arts. Examples include:
Shurikens — California PC 22410
This law makes it unlawful for anyone to make, sell, import, give away or possess a shuriken/ninja star or throwing star.
Shurikens are metal objects that resemble a star with projecting points or blades.
A violation of this law is a wobbler offense. The prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the details of your case.
A misdemeanor conviction attracts a maximum of one year in jail, while a felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Nunchakus — California PC 22010
This law makes it unlawful for anyone to make, cause to make, import, give away, possess or sell nunchakus. The offense is a wobble, meaning it can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor.
Nunchaku is a traditional weapon used in martial arts, also called a karate stick. It comprises two sticks or rods connected at one end by a short rope or chain.
Other Weapons Prohibited in California
California law prohibits so many other weapons not included in the listed categories. Examples include the following:
Leaded canes or batons are unlawful under Penal Code 22210. This statute makes it illegal for anyone to manufacture, sell, possess, import, or give away a leaded cane. The offense can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the details of your case.
A leaded cane can be a staff, crutch, rod, or stick weighted with lead to be used as a weapon. This statute applies to all short and weighted objects that can be used to strike a person, like a baton.
California PC 21810 makes it unlawful for anyone to manufacture, import, give away, sell or possess metal or brass knuckle.
A brass knuckle is a metallic device worn on the hand to increase a person's force of punch or injury.
A violation of this law is a wobbler, charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the details of your case and your criminal history.
A misdemeanor conviction is punished by one year in jail and a fine of $1,000, while a felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
General Elements of Crimes Against Prohibited Weapons
If you face charges for possession, sale, transfer, or manufacture of any prohibited weapon, the prosecutor must prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty. Generally, laws against prohibited weapons make it unlawful for anyone to knowingly do the following with any prohibited weapon listed under California PC 16590:
- Cause to manufacture
- Import into California
- Offer for sale
The general element of these crimes is 'knowingly' having a prohibited weapon, whether after manufacture or for sale or giving away.
According to this statute, you will only be guilty knowing that the object in your possession is a dangerous weapon or can be used as a dangerous weapon. Remember that the district attorney does not need to demonstrate that you intended to use the object in your possession as a weapon. What is important is that you knew or should have known that the object could work as a dangerous weapon.
After entertaining her boyfriend and his friends the entire afternoon, Terry realizes that one of them left a beautiful cane in her house. She decides to drop it off at her boyfriend's house on her way to work. Unfortunately, an officer stops her right outside her gate. She later finds out that the cane had concealed a weapon in it.
Terry is not guilty of being in possession of a prohibited weapon. She did not know the beautiful cane left in her house was a prohibited cane gun.
The second general element of this offense is possession of a prohibited weapon.
California law defines possession as actual or constructive. Actual possession occurs when you hold an item in your hands or have quick access to it. It applies when a person carries a prohibited weapon in their body or in what they are wearing or holding, like a purse or in pockets.
Constructive possession occurs when you do not have quick access to an item but have control over it or a right to access or control it. It could apply when you face an arrest for possessing or importing prohibited weapons that you have hidden in your or your friend's house.
People Exempted from Prosecution Under This Law
Some situations and people are exempt from prosecution under the law against prohibited weapons. Some of them are:
- Law enforcement agencies are exempted from prosecution for selling, possessing, or transferring a prohibited weapon
- Schools teaching martial arts are exempt from prosecution for possessing nunchakus
- People running curio or antique shops are exempt from prosecution for possessing a relic firearm
- Historical societies like museums and libraries are exempt from prosecution for possession of prohibited weapons
- Using an unloaded prohibited weapon in television, movie, or video production is allowed
- Forensic laboratories can possess unlawful weapons
- You will not face prosecution if you turn over a generally illegal weapon to the police
How To Fight Your Charges under California PC 16590
A violation of any law against prohibited weapons attracts serious charges, punishable by a lengthy time behind bars and hefty fines. A conviction will also leave you with a damaging criminal record that would affect various aspects of your life, including your efforts to find suitable employment. Thus, it would be best to fight your charges to avoid a conviction. The help of a skilled criminal defense attorney goes a long way in ensuring you obtain a fair outcome for your case. Fortunately for you, several legal defense strategies are available that your attorney can use to compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. Some of these strategies are:
There Was No Prohibited Weapon
Charges under California PC 16590 can only hold in the presence of a prohibited item. The statute lists all illegal weapons in the state in various categories. The court will dismiss your charges if the prosecutor cannot provide evidence of the prohibited weapon.
For instance, if you face charges for having an air gauge knife. The prosecutor must provide adequate proof that you were indeed in possession of the said weapon and that the weapon is a prohibited weapon. In the absence of a weapon or in the presence of a weapon that is not illegal, your charges will not hold. The judge will dismiss your charges.
You Did Not Act Knowingly
A violation of California PC 16590 requires you to have knowingly possessed, manufactured, caused to manufacture, sold, or transferred a prohibited weapon. If you committed any of these acts unknowingly, you would not be guilty of your charges. Remember, the law does not require you to know the weapon but to understand that the object in your possession can be used as a weapon.
Your attorney can convince the court that while the weapon was in your possession, you did not know that it was a weapon in the first place or that it could be used as a weapon.
Your Arrest Was Illegal
California laws require the police to follow specific procedures when searching and to arrest suspected offenders. The arrest can be illegal if these procedures are not adhered to. Any evidence gathered through an unlawful arrest is inadmissible in court.
You can use this defense if you feel you were a victim of an illegal search and seizure by the police. It could be that the police did not have a search warrant, or they went beyond the provisions of the warrant in their possession. Or that the arresting officer did not read your Miranda rights. If that is the case, your attorney can compel the judge to dismiss any evidence gathered through the illegal search and seizure. That could leave the prosecutor with little or no evidence to obtain a conviction.
Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Are you or someone you know facing charges for illegally manufacturing, possessing, selling, or transferring a prohibited weapon in Riverside, CA?
It could be a tough time for you, considering the gravity of your charges. But a skilled attorney can smoothen the legal process and help you fight your charges in court to help you avoid a conviction and its serious consequences. We have extensive experience handling gun-related cases at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Our team can use our best strategies to compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. Call us at 951-946-6366, and let us work together for a favorable outcome for your situation.