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16590 PC Weapons Prohibited by the California Penal Code

June 26, 2021 California Penal Code

The California statute makes manufacturing, selling, and/or possessing certain dangerous weapons a crime is Penal Code 16590 PC. This refers to  such items as brass knuckles, nunchakus/nunchucks, sawed off shotguns and ballistic knives.

Defendants may be able to beat a charge under this statute with legal defenses including no prohibited weapon, no knowledge, unlawful search and seizure or a combination of these.  This is one of those wobbler crimes, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

At most, this offense carries time in county jail for up to three years.

In this article, our California criminal defense attorneys will explain to you:

  1. What weapons are generally prohibited in California?
  2. What activities are illegal in connection to these weapons?
  3. What legal defenses can be used against a prohibited weapons charge?
    1. The no prohibited weapon defense
    2. The no knowledge defense
    3. The unlawful search and seizure defense
  4. What penalties are connected to  a 16590 PC prohibited weapons conviction?
  5. Can a prohibited weapons conviction be expunged from my record?
  6. Does a prohibited weapons conviction affect gun rights?
  7. What offenses are related to 16590 PC Prohibited Weapons?
    1. PC 25850 – the Carrying a loaded firearm in public offense
    2. PC 26350 – the Carrying an unloaded firearm in public offense
    3. PC 417 – the Brandishing a weapon offense

1. What weapons are generally prohibited in California?

Penal Code 16590 PC outlines the list of weapons that are generally prohibited in California State as follows:

Firearms

  • short-barreled shotguns and rifles 33215 PC
  • undetectable firearms 24610 PC
  • firearms that are not immediately recognizable as firearms 24510 PC
  • unconventional pistols 31500 PC
  • Penal Codes 24410 PC cane guns, 24710 PC wallet guns, and 33600 PC zip guns,

Firearm equipment/ammunition

  • camouflaging firearm containers, 24310 PC
  • bullets containing explosive agents, 30210 PC,
  • multiburst trigger activators –32900 PC
  • Prohibited knives/swords
  • ballistic knives –21110 PC
  • belt-buckle knives,20410 PC
  • lipstick case knives,20610 PC
  • cane swords,20510 PC
  • shobi-zues,20710 PC
  • air gauge knives,20310 PC
  • writing pen knives,20910 PC

Martial arts weapons

  • nunchakus,22010 PC
  • shurikens,22410 PC

Other weapons

  • brass knuckles,21810 PC
  • leaded canes,22210 PC
  • metal military practice grenades or metal replica grenades,19200 PC
  • batons, blackjacks, slungshots, sandclubs, or sandbags,22210 PC

2. What activities are illegal in connection to these weapons?

Pursuant to this statute, it is a crime for a person to knowingly manufacture, import into the state, offer for sale, lend or possess any weapon generally prohibited by law.

Questions often arise under these laws as to the definitions of the terms “knowingly” and “possess”.

Knowingly – A person is only guilty under this statute if he acts while knowing that an object is a weapon or capable of being used as a weapon.

In court, the District Attorney is not burdened to prove that the accused intended to use the object as a weapon.  Demonstrating that the defendant knew the object was capable of being used as a weapon is sufficient.

Possess – California legislation says that a person “possesses” an object when he or she either actually possesses it or constructively possesses it.  An person has “actual” possession of something when he holds it or has immediate access to it.  This includes when a person has a weapon somewhere on his or her person or inside of something he is holding or wearing.  On the other hand, a person has “constructive” possession of something when he or she doesn’t have immediate access to it, but nonetheless has control of it or the right to control it.

Certain people and situations are exempt from prosecution under the prohibited weapons statute as follows:

  • Weapons that are sold or transferred to, or possessed by, law enforcement agencies,
  • possession of nunchakus by schools that teach martial arts,
  • possession of collectible or relic firearms or ammunition by persons of antique or curio,
  • possession of collectible or relic weapons by historical societies, libraries, and museums,
  • use of unloaded weapons in the production of movies, television, and/or videos,
  • when an individual turns a generally prohibited weapon over to law enforcement, and
  • possession of such weapons by forensic laboratories.

3. What legal defenses can be used against a prohibited weapons charge?

A smart and skilled defense attorney has a few good weapons in his arsenal to defeat this charge, so to speak.  Here are three common defenses to this charge. 

a. The no prohibited weapon defense

The way this no prohibited weapon defense works is for the defense to claim that while the accused may have had a weapon, it was not a prohibited weapon as listed in the statute.

b. The no knowledge defense

When using the no knowledge defense, the defendant simply says that he did not know that the item in question was a prohibited weapon, or that it was capable of being used as a weapon.

c. The unlawful search and seizure defense

Often, charges under this statute arise after an officer stops a suspect and conducts a search or investigation.  Knowing that authorities cannot conduct a search or take property without a valid search warrant, the defense can attack an unlawful search to beat this charge. If there is no warrant, then they must have a legal excuse for not having one and conducting the investigation anyway.

If the police gather evidence from an unlawful search and seizure, then that evidence can get excluded from a criminal case.  This means that charges against the defendant could get reduced or even dismissed.

4. What penalties are connected to  a 16590 PC prohibited weapons conviction?

As we mentioned earlier, this crime is a wobbler offense that can charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If a misdemeanor, the penalties are time in county jail for up to one year, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

As a felony, the offense caries jail for up to three years, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

A conviction under this statute will typically not have any negative immigration consequences.

5. Can a prohibited weapons conviction be expunged from my record?

People can indeed get a 16590 conviction expunged.  A court will award an expungement provided that the defendant successfully completed probation or the jail term, whichever sentence they got.

6. Does a prohibited weapons conviction affect gun rights?

A felony conviction under prohibited weapons can have a negative impact on a person’s gun rights.  California law states that convicted felons are prohibited from owning or possessing a gun.  A misdemeanor does not affect gun rights. 

7. What offenses are related to 16590 PC Prohibited Weapons?

There are three other offenses related to the generally prohibited weapons statute:

  • carrying a loaded firearm in public – PC 25850,
  • carrying an unloaded firearm in public – PC 26350, and
  • brandishing a weapon – PC 417.

If you still have questions after reading this article, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Spodek Law Group for expert legal advice specific to your unique circumstances.  Call us today! 

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