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Penal Code 20170 PC | Imitation Firearms

Penal Code 20170 PC – Imitation Firearms in California

If you’re in California and thinking about displaying or exposing an imitation firearm in public – don’t do it! It’s illegal under Penal Code 20170 PC. An “imitation firearm” includes things like toy guns, BB guns, replicas, and anything else that looks like a real gun. I know, it sounds kinda silly to get in trouble just for showing your friends a fake gun. But this law is meant to prevent people from getting scared or making false police reports when they see what looks like a real gun. Keep reading and I’ll explain everything you need to know about this law.

What is an Imitation Firearm?

Okay first, what counts as an “imitation firearm?” Penal Code 20170 says it’s:

  • A BB device
  • A toy gun
  • A replica of a firearm
  • Anything else that looks so much like a real gun that people would think it’s real

So things like airsoft guns, BB guns, pellet guns, and hyper-realistic toy guns count. Pretty much anything that could fool someone into thinking it’s a real gun and not a toy.

What is a Public Place?

Now what exactly is a “public place” where you can’t show an imitation firearm? Basically any place the public has access to, like:

  • Sidewalks
  • Streets
  • Parks
  • Parking lots
  • Front yards
  • Cars – even if they’re not moving!
  • Buildings open to the public like malls, schools, libraries

So pretty much anywhere outside of your home is considered a public place. You can’t just whip out your BB gun on the sidewalk or in a park. Even if you’re inside a car driving on public roads, that counts as a public place.

Examples of Violations

To make things more clear, here are some examples of what would violate Penal Code 20170:

  • Tony points a toy rifle at his friend’s chest while they’re in a department store – illegal!
  • Kelly takes a replica handgun out of her purse while waiting in line for a movie – also illegal
  • Roberto shows his friends a BB gun while they’re hanging out in a public park – you guessed it, illegal

So anytime you openly display or expose an imitation firearm in a public place, you’re breaking the law. Don’t do it!

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Are There Any Defenses?

Okay okay, I know this law sounds really strict. But there are some defenses you can use if you get charged under PC 20170:

It Wasn’t an Imitation Firearm

If the object you had really wasn’t an imitation firearm, you aren’t guilty. For example, if you just had a wooden prop or a regular toy. The law only applies to things that reasonably look like real guns.

You Weren’t in Public

You also aren’t guilty if you weren’t in a public place. For example, if you were just showing your friend an airsoft gun inside your own home. The law only applies to public places.

You Qualify for an Exemption

There are some exemptions to the law too. It doesn’t apply if the imitation firearm is used:

  • In a movie or theatrical production
  • For regulated hunting
  • As part of a wall display or in a presentation case
  • In a parade

So people who use imitation firearms for these purposes are off the hook.

What Are the Penalties?

Most of the time, violating PC 20170 is just an infraction. That’s like a traffic ticket – no jail time, just a fine. The fines are:

  • 1st offense – $100 fine
  • 2nd offense – $300 fine

But if you get caught 3 or more times, it becomes a misdemeanor. That can mean up to 1 year in county jail, a fine up to $1000, or both. So it gets pretty serious if you’re a repeat offender!

Related Laws

There are other laws related to imitation firearms too:

Brandishing a Weapon – PC 417

This law makes it illegal to draw or exhibit any deadly weapon in a rude, angry or threatening manner. Brandishing an imitation firearm could be charged under this law as well as PC 20170.

Cane Guns – PC 24410

It’s illegal in California to make, sell, or possess a cane gun – a firearm concealed inside a cane or walking stick. Cane guns are considered imitation firearms in many cases.

Weapons at Airports – PC 171.5

You can’t carry a weapon or imitation weapon past the security checkpoint at an airport. This includes imitation firearms.

Get Legal Help

So in summary, you can’t openly show imitation firearms in public places in California. If you get charged under PC 20170, an attorney can help defend you. They may be able to get the charges reduced or even dismissed. Don’t risk a misdemeanor – talk to a lawyer before your court date.

For more info, check out these helpful resources:

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