Prohibited Weapons

California weapons laws can be confusing. Particular weapons are deemed legal under the law, while some become illegal the moment they are modified, for example, when their magazine capacity is increased, or the type of ammunition is changed. However, some weapons are entirely prohibited per California statute. It is illegal to possess, sell, or manufacture these weapons, called generally prohibited weapons.

The laws against prohibited weapons are quite severe. If accused of breaking any of them, you risk facing an extended period in prison and hefty fines, among other fines. You need to consult a skilled criminal lawyer to minimize these risks.

At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, we boast criminal attorneys with decades of experience and understanding of California law. We will aggressively represent you, developing a strong defense strategy to ensure you obtain the most favorable outcome. Call us if you are arrested or charged for a consultation, during which you will share your case details.

The Law on Prohibited Weapons

PC 16590 is the law on prohibited weapons, also called possessing or selling dangerous weapons. Per this law, knowingly importing weapons into California, manufacturing, lending, possessing, or offering for sale generally prohibited weapons is an offense.

For the court to convict you of PC 16590 violation, the D.A. must demonstrate that:

  • You manufactured, possessed, caused the manufacture of, imported into the state, sold, kept/exposed/offered for sale, bought, lent, received, or gave an item considered a prohibited weapon,
  • You were aware you were doing any of the above,
  • You knew the item was a prohibited weapon meant for illegal use or capable of being used for criminal purposes.

A prohibited weapon is an item deemed inappropriate for general use and possession without approval by the law or an exemption order. PC 16590 lists various weapons prohibited in California. The weapons are:

Prohibited firearms, including:

  • Wallet guns, zip guns, or cane guns under PC 24710, PC 33600, and PC 24410
  • Unconventional pistols, according to PC 31500
  • Firearms usually not immediately identifiable as so, according to 24510 PC
  • Undetectable firearms, according to PC 24610
  • Rifles and short-barreled shotguns, per PC 33215

Prohibited ammunition/firearm equipment, including:

  • Multiburst trigger activators, under PC 32900
  • Bullets that have explosive agents under PC 30210
  • Camouflaging gun containers, according to PC 24310

Prohibited swords and knives, including:

  • Writing pen knives, under PC 20910
  • Air gauge knives under PC 20310
  • Shobi-Zeus, according to PC 20710
  • Cane swords, under 20510 PC
  • Lipstick case knives, under 20610 PC
  • Belt-buckle knives, according to PC 20410
  • Ballistic knives, under PC 21110

Prohibited martial art weapons

  • Shurikens, under PC 22410

Other generally prohibited weapons

  • Sandclubs, sandbags, slingshots, blackjacks, or batons, per 22210 PC
  • Metal replica grenades/grenades for military practice under PC 19200
  • Lead canes, according to PC 22210
  • Brass knuckles, under PC 21810

Definition of Key Terms

Questions usually arise under this law on the definitions of possess and knowingly.

You will only be convicted under 16590 PC if you acted out while aware that an item is considered a prohibited weapon or qualifies for use as a weapon.

Remember that the prosecutor does not need to demonstrate that you intended to use the item as a weapon illegally. They only must prove you were aware that the device could be utilized as a weapon. Additionally, the prosecutor does not have to prove the object works perfectly to be a weapon. If you are accused of selling, manufacturing for sale, or possessing for sale of a weapon under PC 16590, the D.A. must also show you intended to sell the weapon.

Regarding possession, PC 16590 provides that a person possesses an item either actually or constructively. It is deemed actual possession when the weapon is in your hand, in the pocket of your clothing (trousers or shirt), or in something you are carrying, for example, your backpack or purse, or you can immediately access it. You possess a weapon constructively when you cannot immediately access it yet can control it or are entitled to have control over it.

Weapons and Persons Exempt from Being Charged Under 16590 PC

Certain situations and people are exempt from being prosecuted under 16590 PC. These situations and people include:

  • When turning a prohibited weapon over to the police
  • When a prohibited weapon is possessed by, transferred, or sold to police agencies
  • When a person of curio/antique possesses relic ammunition and firearms
  • When a museum, library, or historical society possesses these weapons
  • When unloaded weapons are used in video, TV, or movie productions
  • When a forensic laboratory possesses the prohibited weapons

Legal Defenses Against Prohibited Weapons-Related Violations

You can fight 16590 PC violation charges with a solid defense strategy. Common defenses include:

It Was Not a Prohibited Weapon

A conviction under 16590 PC occurs only when you do something with a prohibited weapon. That is, any of the items listed under 16590 PC. Therefore, as a defense, your attorney can argue that, although you might have done something with a weapon, the weapon is not considered prohibited per PC 16590.

You Did Not Know the Item Is Prohibited

Remember that you can only be convicted of violating 16590 PC if you were aware that the weapon you sold, manufactured, imported, lent, possessed, or offered to sell was generally prohibited or could be used as one. That means your lawyer can successfully argue that you lacked this knowledge.

Illegal Search/Seizure

Most charges under PC 16590 arise after a law enforcement officer stops a person and performs some kind of investigation. However, know that a police officer cannot search a person or seize property when they lack a legitimate search warrant. Without a validly issued warrant, they must provide a lawful excuse for lacking one. If a law enforcement officer gathers evidence after an illegal search or seizure, that evidence could be removed from the case. That means the charges may be reduced or dismissed altogether.

You Are Exempted From PC 16590 Prosecution/You Hold a Validly-Issued Permit

The judge will dismiss your case if you are one of the persons exempted from facing charges under 16590 PC. Your lawyer must prove you fall under one of the categories of people exempt from the prohibited weapons law.

They could show the judge a permit that approves your use of prohibited weapons in forensic laboratories or a license to manufacture or sell those weapons. Remember, the permit allowing you to carry a concealed weapon does not permit you to carry prohibited weapons, so you can present it as a defense.

Momentary Possession

Perhaps you had a generally prohibited item only because you had found it and were handing it over to the police. Or, it could be you were in a firearm store and briefly held a generally prohibited weapon while considering whether or not to buy it, and the police walked in, saw you holding the weapon, and arrested you. In either of these cases, you can argue that you only possessed the weapon temporarily; therefore, you did not commit any crime.

Insufficient Evidence

The prosecuting attorney can easily prove actual possession under PC 16590. They can present eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage showing you possessed the weapon, or a photograph of the prohibited item in your car. Demonstrating constructive possession, however, can be challenging. The D.A. must prove you had control of the weapon or the right to control it. Failure to which your lawyer can argue the insufficient evidence defense.

Consider this example: Anthony moves in to live with Patrick. One week later, working on a tip, law enforcement officers raided Patrick's house and found a revolver, brass knuckles, nunchakus, and drugs. The officers arrest Anthony. They also take Patrick into custody, as they suspect he is also part of the gang to which Anthony belonged.

In this case, the D.A. must demonstrate Patrick knew or should reasonably have known about the weapons' presence in Anthony's house. The D.A. could introduce past communications and witnesses to confirm Patrick knew Anthony was a street gang member; thus, it is more likely Anthony kept weapons in his house.

But if Patrick was not aware that Anthony was part of a gang, he may not have been aware that Anthony had prohibited weapons hidden in his house. Patrick is, therefore, not criminally liable under 16590 PC.

Consequences for a PC 16590 Conviction

Violating 16590 PC is considered a wobbler offense. A wobbler is a crime the D.A. can charge as a felony or misdemeanor, considering the defendant's criminal history and case facts.

If charged with a misdemeanor violation, you will be subject to a jail term of 12 months and a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars upon a conviction. And if charged with a felony violation, you will serve three years, two years, or sixteen months in jail and face a fine that does not exceed ten thousand dollars.

Being convicted of violating 16590 PC will not subject you to adverse immigration consequences. A non-U.S. citizen can sometimes be labeled inadmissible or deported if found guilty of an offense. An instance of this is where an immigrant is found criminally liable for an aggravated felony or a crime of moral turpitude.

However, California courts have held that violating PC 16590 is not an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. A conviction, therefore, will not result in deportation or being labeled inadmissible.

However, being convicted under PC 16590 can negatively affect your firearm rights. Under California law, it is illegal for convicted felons to own or possess a gun. Remember that violating PC 16950 can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. Therefore, if you are accused and found guilty of felony conduct involving a prohibited weapon, you will forfeit your firearm rights.

You can request a 16590 PC conviction record expungement. A court will grant you an expungement if you successfully served your jail or probation sentence, whichever the judge imposed. An expungement will favor you since it removes many challenges associated with a criminal conviction.

Related Offenses to a PC 15690 Violation

Various offenses are related to unlawful acts with prohibited weapons. Some of these crimes include:

PC 25850, Publicly Carrying  a Loaded Gun

PC 25850 is the state's law that criminalizes carrying a loaded gun and doing so in a motor vehicle or publicly. Remember, you are criminally liable under this statute when the weapon is any gun. Additionally, the weapon does not need to be prohibited per PC 16590.

A simple PC 25850 violation is deemed a misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of up to 12 months and a maximum of 1,000 dollars in fines. However, certain aggravating circumstances can change a violation of PC 25850 from a misdemeanor to a felony or wobbler. 

PC 26350, Publicly Carrying an Unloaded Gun

PC 26350 is the state's law criminalizing carrying an unloaded gun publicly. Remember, you can lawfully carry an unloaded firearm privately, for example, in a private residence. Violating PC 26350 is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine not exceeding 1,000 dollars.

PC 417, Brandishing a Weapon

417 PC describes what brandishing a weapon is. You violate this law when you draw or exhibit a gun or any other deadly weapon or use a dangerous weapon during a fight. Remember that this law is not restricted to just guns. It can also apply to any item qualifying as a dangerous weapon.

PC 417 violations are mostly misdemeanors, punishable by a jail sentence not exceeding 12 months. Brandishing a gun that can be concealed is equally a misdemeanor if the crime happened on public property or in a public area. It is punishable by a jail term of up to 12 months and up to $1,000 in fines.

Find an Experienced Weapon Crimes Attorney Near Me

If you have been charged with selling, possessing, or manufacturing a prohibited weapon, you need an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to fight for you. At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, we have lawyers devoted to aggressively defending against weapon charges and assisting clients in securing the most favorable outcome for their cases. We can do the same for you. You only have to call us at 562-308-7807 to share your case details.