The law in California prohibits specific weapons. When arrested for possessing weapons, you face severe punishment. The law outlines different categories in which these weapons fall, whether it is legal or illegal to possess them, and the person who cannot or can possess them. Although these laws are strict, an accused can still seek legal help.
When law enforcement officers arrest you in Chula Vista for manufacturing, possessing, selling, and distributing weapons, you want to seek legal help immediately. Start by speaking with a California attorney conversant with prohibited weapon laws.
At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, our attorneys have handled countless similar cases. We can use various defenses to convince the judge to reduce the charge, lessen the charge, or drop the case. So, we do everything possible to ensure you obtain the best possible case outcomes.
What are Prohibited Weapons in California?
According to California laws, PC 16590 outlines the weapons considered prohibited. The law is against the manufacturing, selling, or possession of weapons. The prohibited weapons are:
- Firearms like rifles or shotguns.
- Sharp-pointed weapons like knives.
- Explosives and ammunition.
- Melee weapons like brass and metal knuckles.
The target of the law is to ensure people do not modify, manufacture, distribute, import, sell, or possess these weapons that are easy to seal and use, posing a threat to the safety of society. Usually, the weapons are made to be used for unlawful and criminal purposes since they are lethal and highly effective.
Laws Governing Prohibited Weapons
According to PC 16590 of the statute, specific laws lay the basis for these dangerous weapons. The following are the commonly prohibited weapons in California and their particular sections.
Gun Modification and Prohibited Firearms
- Cane guns, zip guns - PC 33600, PC 24710.
- Undetectable firearms - PC 24610.
- Pistol without a bore - PC 31500.
- Any firearm that is not recognized by the law - PC 24510.
- A large-capacity magazine - PC 32310.
- Bump stock - PC 32900.
- Brass or metal weapons - 21810 PC.
- Billy clubs, leaded canes, blackjacks - 22210 PC.
- Nunchucks - 22010 PC.
Sharp/Edged Weapons and Knives
- Shobi-Zeus - 20710 PC.
- Writing pen knives - PC 20910.
- Cane swords - 20510 PC.
- Ballistic, belt- buckle - PC 20410.
Explosives and Ammunitions
- Bullets and shells made from flechette darts - 30210 PC.
- Any volatile agents concealed apart from fixed ammunition - 19100 PC.
- Bullets consisting of combustible substances or explosive bullets - 30210 PC.
Unlawful Activities Involving Prohibited Weapons
According to California laws, it is unlawful to engage in any of the following activities:
- Manufacturing - The law is against the manufacturing of these prohibited weapons. Also, it is illegal to modify a prohibited weapon to change its initial state. When you do so, you face charges for possession of prohibited weapons. Similarly, it is illegal to manufacture any of the weapons listed above.
- Offering to sell - It is a crime to sell any of the prohibited weapons. Under the law, you face conviction regardless of whether you are the one who made the weapon or not. The prosecutor will only want to know whether you offered the weapon for sale.
- Import of prohibited weapons - The law is against importing any prohibited weapon into California. When the police find you possessing an illegal weapon, even from a different state, you will face charges for possessing prohibited weapons.
- Possession - Possession means owning or controlling a prohibited weapon in California. It is a crime to possess illegal weapons in California. If arrested for possessing the weapon, you face conviction.
- Lending - If you possess a prohibited firearm, it is against the law to lend it. You and the person receiving the weapon will face prosecution for assessing the prohibited weapon within the state.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
Before you face conviction for possession of a weapon in California, there are several aspects the prosecution team must prove. The following are the key elements the prosecutor must prove:
Constructive or Actual possession
The prosecution team proves the police found you manufacturing, designing, keeping, concealing, or purchasing and selling the weapon. The prosecutor may argue that you possessed the alleged weapons. Also, the prosecutor may argue you were in constructive possession of the weapons.
You Knew the Weapons Could be Used for Unlawful Activities
The prosecutor must also show that you knew the alleged weapons could be used to commit unlawful activities. In this case, the prosecutor focuses more on the weapon's purpose, regardless of size. The purpose of the prohibited weapon should be to cause significant harm. Again, the prosecutor may argue you possessed the prohibited weapon intending to sell it to be used in committing harmful activities.
You Engaged in Activities Related to Prohibited Weapons
Lastly, the prosecutor must show you engaged in unlawful activities related to the alleged weapons. The activities might include possession, receiving, offering, manufacturing, or selling the prohibited weapons. You will only face a felony charge if you know the tool in your possession is a prohibited weapon or if someone could use it as a weapon.
You can enter an innocent plea when you show the alleged weapon could qualify as a weapon or be used for similar purposes. The prosecutor does not necessarily require you to have the intent to use the weapon, provided you possess it.
Penalties for Possession of prohibited weapons in California
Based on your criminal history and the facts surrounding your case, the prosecutor may charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony charge. However, the law exempts the defendants from possessing military hand grenades or metal replicas, which the law considers a criminal infraction.
Penalties for Felony Charges
When the prosecutor files a felony charge, you will serve a probation term of 12 months. You can also remain behind bars for either 16 months, 24 months, or 36 months. You might also pay fines in addition to the jail term.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Charges
When the prosecutor decides to file a misdemeanor charge, you will also face less severe charges than a felony charge. For example, you will face a 12-month jail term, probation, or both.
You might also face additional charges for possession of prohibited weapons in California. If you are an immigrant, you might face deportation. However, a misdemeanor charge will not lead to losing your rights to possess a gun; a felony charge results in a ban on manufacturing, selling, purchasing, using, possessing, or owning a firearm. However, if the criminal court reduces your charge to a misdemeanor, you might possess or own a gun.
When the court orders you to serve a probation term, you may lodge a petition to ask the court to expunge your criminal records after completing your probation term. The court will investigate whether you complied with all conditions and terms of the probation. If you violated the conditions, the court might deny you the petition.
Remember, clearing your criminal records will not restore your firearm rights. So, if you face a charge for possessing prohibited weapons in California, you want to speak with your attorney. The attorney will listen to your case, evaluate it, and help you discover the best option.
People and Weapons Exempted from Prosecution
The following are the legal exemptions for prosecution under California PC 16590:
- Possessing, selling, or transferring the weapon to the law enforcement agency.
- Using unloaded prohibited weapons or weapon equipment for a movie, television production, video, or any method of entertainment.
- When returning the alleged prohibited weapon to the police.
- Possessing forensic lab item.
- Possession of the alleged weapon by libraries, historical societies, or museums.
What are the Legal Defenses to Fight the Prohibited Weapon Case
Facing a charge for possessing a prohibited weapon does not necessarily mean you will face a conviction. A criminal defense attorney can assess your situation to determine the best defense that suits your case. The following are the potential defenses your attorney can apply to fight the charge:
Law enforcement officers have a lot of pressure to fight weapon-related cases. Due to the pressure, law enforcement officers tend to make unlawful arrests and forward the details to the district attorney. Police misconduct might include extortion, bribery, fabricating or planting evidence, and coercing confessions.
Your criminal defense lawyer may conduct their own investigations to determine the case's facts. These investigations uncover unlawful acts committed by law enforcement officers during the arrest. If you have a similar situation, you can present evidence to show you are a victim of police misconduct. The court will, in turn, dismiss or reduce the charge.
Another potential defense to fight the charge is entrapment. You can argue that you were lured or coerced into committing the illegal activity. For example, when law enforcement officers set a trap against you, they might have an undercover official persuade you to own the prohibited weapon.
Again, if the undercover police suspect you are a member of a particular gang group, they might ask you to purchase a prohibited weapon. As an upright person, the law allows you to fight temptation. However, when the law enforcement officer insists on you, you might agree to their wish. In this situation, you are not guilty of possessing a prohibited weapon because you are a victim of entrapment.
Illegal Seizure and Searches
Before the police officers arrest you, they must have a valid arrest warrant. If law enforcement officers do not have an arrest warrant, they must have a lawful excuse. However, the police officers may conduct the arrest without an arrest warrant in the following situations:
- Inspection searches at the airport.
- Seizures and searches incidental to the legal arrest.
- When the arrestee agrees to the searches.
- Seizures and searches of weapons in plain view.
- When law enforcement officers have probable cause to believe your vehicle has evidence of a criminal offense.
Without a legal arrest warrant or legal excuse, the court considers the evidence collected unlawful. Your criminal defense attorney can also file a motion to suppress the evidence gathered through illegal seizures and searches. When granted the motion, the court will consider dropping the case.
Lack of Knowledge
The prosecutor must prove that you knew the tool you possessed was a prohibited weapon or that it could be used as a weapon. However, you can claim that you did not know the object you possessed was a weapon. The prosecutor must show that you knew the tool was a weapon. Otherwise, the court will drop the case.
It might be easy for the prosecutor to convince the criminal court judge of actual possession. The prosecutor only needs a photo of the alleged weapon in your car, eyewitness accounts, and surveillance footage.
However, proving constructive possession might be challenging. The prosecution team must show you knew about the weapon's possession and that you also controlled the weapon. For example, you move into John's apartment. Several weeks later, the law enforcement officers raid the apartment and find drugs, nunchakus, brass knuckles, and a revolver. The police arrest you for being a member of a suspicious gang group.
In this case, the prosecutor must prove you knew the alleged weapon was in the apartment. So, you could argue that you didn't know John was a member of an active gang group, and therefore you could not suspect he controlled any weapons. So, you are not guilty of possessing weapons.
In California, the law requires lawyers to comply with lawful, ethical, and professional conduct. However, several prosecutors and attorneys use their power to cross ethical lines when securing convictions. Remember, criminal misconduct may occur in any court proceeding phase. The following are ways in which prosecutorial misconduct may take place in California:
Presenting false evidence - The introduction of false evidence might include untrue or unfounded character, false statements by a witness, or hearsay statements. Character evidence includes the prosecutor introducing your previous bad actions to prove your guilt in your current case.
Discrimination at jury selection - Jury discrimination involves the prosecutor using ethnicity, sex, religion, and other criteria when selecting or excluding a jury.
Uncovering exculpatory evidence - What is exculpatory evidence? It is commonly known as Brady material. It shows the defendant should either face a lesser charge or the court should dismiss the case.
You Have the Authority
If you have a firearm permit, it does not mean you can carry a prohibited weapon. As per the law, having a prohibited weapon is a crime, even with a gun license. However, you could have a permit to possess the prohibited weapon.
For example, the Department of Justice can permit you to use the firearm as a prop in a documentary or movie. Again, when you are a licensed gun dealer, the law can allow you to trade with other buyers from different states. If this is your case, you can present your permit to possess the prohibited weapons. In return, the court will drop the case.
Expungement of Criminal Records
When convicted of the offense, you face the above penalties. The law also allows you to delete a criminal record after completing your sentence or probation. Therefore, your attorney can petition to have your records expunged after you complete your probation term. Although the prosecutor will challenge your petition, your criminal defense attorney will do everything possible to ensure your criminal record is deleted.
If the criminal court accepts the petition, your criminal records are deleted. Expunging a felony record does not mean you will restore your right to possess a firearm. Note that expunging your criminal records is essential to your future.
Many people with a criminal record find it challenging to cope with life. For example, it becomes difficult to secure a new job. A potential landlord can deny you the opportunity to rent a house. A criminal record exposes your past criminal history to the entire public. So, your college, landlord, and employer can see the criminal record.
Expunging a criminal record gives you equal opportunities with other people. To delete a criminal record, you must work closely with a criminal defense attorney conversant with the California legal system.
Crimes Charged Alongside Possession of Prohibited Weapons
The judge may decide to reduce your charge to a less severe offense. Also, the judge may charge you with possession of a prohibited weapon along with other criminal offenses. The following are the primary offenses charged alongside possession of a prohibited weapon in California:
Brandishing a Weapon or Gun
You can face prosecution for violating California PC 417 when you draw or exhibit a gun in a threatening way and use it in a way other than self-defense. You also face prosecution if you brandish the prohibited weapon because the weapon can be dangerous. Before you face conviction for the crime, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- You were not acting in self-defense.
- You drew or exhibited a gun in the presence of another person.
- You used the alleged weapon to fight or quarrel.
- You acted in an angry, rude, and threatening manner.
When the defendant brandishes a weapon and causes severe injuries, you face a conviction for violating PC 417.6. It is against the law to brandish or wave a firearm at any person intending to inflict severe body injuries. Severe body harm includes:
- Serious disfigurement.
- Bone fracture.
- Wounds that require suturing.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Loss of function in your body part.
The Legal Penalties
When you violate California PC 417, you face a misdemeanor charge. The penalties for the misdemeanor charge include the following:
- A jail term between three months and 12 months.
- When you brandish a gun in public, you face a jail term of three to twelve months in addition to fines.
When you brandish a firearm in a school compound, you also face the above penalties. Again, when you brandish the weapon in a day center, the law considers the offense a wobbler. A misdemeanor charge will attract a jail term of up to twelve months. A felony conviction will attract a jail term of up to 36 months.
The Legal Defenses
Brandishing a weapon in California can affect your future. So, you want to seek legal advice immediately after your arrest. A criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charge. The attorney will gather sufficient evidence to help you fight the charge. The following are the potential defenses the attorney can use:
- Mistaken identity
- Police misconduct
- Insufficient evidence
Carrying an Unloaded Gun in Public
You can be arrested when you carry an unloaded firearm openly in your car. After your arrest, the law enforcement officers will take you into custody. Before you face conviction for carrying an unloaded weapon in public, the prosecutor must prove the critical elements of the crime. The elements include:
- You possessed a firearm, or you owned the unloaded weapon.
- You either carried the weapon in person or in your car.
- You carried the weapon in a public location or on a public street.
What are the Legal Penalties?
You face severe penalties when you carry an unloaded gun in public. The law considers several aspects to determine your penalties. For example, the judge can consider your past criminal conviction and the facts surrounding the case. The crime attracts a misdemeanor charge. The punishment includes a 12-month jail term.
The Legal Defenses
A conviction for carrying an unloaded weapon in California can significantly impact your personal and professional lives. However, with the help of a competent criminal defense attorney, you can fight the charges. The attorney can use a variety of defenses to fight the charges. The defenses include:
- Mistaken identity
- You did not carry an unloaded weapon in public.
- Insufficient evidence
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Violating PC 16590 is a severe crime in California, especially when the prosecutor files a felony charge. The potential penalties include hefty fines and extensive jail terms. Therefore, when law enforcement officers arrest you for breaking prohibited weapon laws, you want to seek legal help as soon as possible.
At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we offer legal help when charged with a crime. We start by evaluating your case, collecting enough evidence, and developing a solid defense to fight the charge. If you seek our services in Chula Vista, do not hesitate to work with us. Call us today at 619-877-6894 to speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys.