Penal Code 12020 | Generally Prohibited Weapons


Penal Code 12020 – Generally Prohibited Weapons

California’s laws restrict and prohibit the possession, manufacture, importation, and sale of many types of weapons that are considered generally dangerous or unusual. Penal Code 12020 laid out the main restrictions regarding prohibited weapons, though this statute was repealed and broken up into separate laws in 2012. It’s still important to understand what weapons are prohibited under the law.

Weapons Prohibited Under California Law

There are many weapons that are generally prohibited in California, either completely banned or requiring a permit/license for possession [1]. Examples include:

  • Short-barreled shotguns/rifles
  • Metal or plastic knuckles
  • Nunchakus
  • Concealed dirks or daggers
  • Cane guns
  • Ballistic knives
  • Metal military practice hand grenades
  • Saps and blackjacks
  • Shuriken (throwing stars)

There are exceptions allowing police, military, and certain other authorized persons to possess some prohibited weapons. But in general, these types of weapons are banned for the average civilian [2].

Penalties for Possessing Banned Weapons

Under former PC 12020, possession of a prohibited/banned weapon was prosecuted as a felony offense. Penalties upon conviction included [3]:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail or state prison
  • Up to a $10,000 fine

Harsher punishment applied to possession of dangerous weapons at schools or government buildings. The court also had discretion to reduce wobbler offenses to misdemeanors with lighter penalties.

Recent Changes to California’s Prohibited Weapons Laws

As mentioned above, Penal Code 12020 was repealed in 2012 and broken up into separate statutes regulating each prohibited weapon [4]. For example, short-barreled shotguns are now covered under PC 33215. Some other changes include [5]:

  • Restrictions added in 2010 on bullet buttons allowing rapid detachment of ammunition magazines
  • Exemptions added for possession of nunchakus on school premises for martial arts training
  • Clarification that BB devices and airsoft guns are not considered prohibited weapons

Defenses to Prohibited Weapons Charges

There are several legal defenses that a criminal defense attorney may use to fight charges of possessing banned weapons [2]:

  • You did not knowingly possess the prohibited item
  • You reasonably believed the weapon was not prohibited
  • The weapon is an antique or replica exempt under the law
  • You have a valid permit/license for the weapon
  • The search revealing the weapon was unlawful

An attorney can argue these defenses at trial or in negotiations with prosecutors to get charges reduced or dismissed.

Related Weapons Charges

Other weapons charges carrying penalties in California include [2]:

  • Carrying a concealed firearm – PC 25400
  • Possession of an assault weapon – PC 30600
  • Brandishing a firearm – PC 417
  • Carrying a loaded firearm in public – PC 25850

A skilled criminal defense lawyer can fight any weapons charges you may be facing.

Consult an Attorney if Facing Charges

Never try to represent yourself if accused of possessing prohibited or banned weapons. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate if you have valid defenses and work to get charges reduced or dismissed. Don’t leave your future to chance – get skilled legal help fighting weapons charges.