In California, possession of illegal weapons can be either a felony or misdemeanor, depending upon the weapon possessed and, in some cases, the discretion of the prosecutor. By the way, Penal Code Sections 19910 through 22810 are merely re-classifications of weapons that were controlled or prohibited under the old Penal Code Section 12020(a). Some weapons falling under control of the California Penal Code are: BB guns, blowguns, booby-traps, imitation firearms, knives, knuckles, nunchakus, Saps, shurikens, stun guns, and tear gas. I've often found it ironic that the legislature thought it prudent to outlaw a person who “assembles, maintains, places, or causes to be placed a boobytrap device”, making it a straight felony, but failing to define exactly what a boobytrap actually is.
Although many people believe possession of some or most of these weapons is a strict liability crime, eg possession alone is sufficient to convict, some weapons, such as knives, shivs or billys, must be possessed with the requisite intent that they be used as weapons. This means if you are driving down the road with a golf club or baseball bat in your car, you are only possessing a dangerous or deadly weapon if you admit to the cop that you have it for that purpose. Innocent possession of such tools or sports equipment is not illegal, but its another great reason not to speak to a cop, since they will often obtain damaging admissions by asking you if “it could be used in self-defense”, ie as a weapon.
I recently handled a violation of 21810 PC, where my client was given a pair of “metal knuckles”. He put them in the center console of his car. When an officer went snooping (never allow a cop to search your car, unless you are on 4th Amendment waivers), it didn't matter that my client had forgotten they were there, and had no intention of using them. Fortunately I was able to convince the prosecutor of his innocent nature, and the matter resolved for the equivalent of a parking ticket, but it could have actually resulted in a felony conviction if not handled properly.
Most weapons that have no innocent purpose can be illegal to possess, but the Penal Code is tricky and its never in your best interest to submit to a search or speak with law enforcement. If you have been charged with possessing an illegal weapon in Vista, San Diego, or anywhere in California, call today for a free consultation, I am Joel Bailey at Bailey Criminal Defense, and I would be happy to help.
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