California has strict and complex laws regarding guns and weapons. The laws are considered to be some of the toughest in the US. California gun laws determine who can possess firearms and specify which types of guns are legal and which are not.

Making certain modifications to a weapon, such as changing the ammunition or increasing the magazine capacity, can also make it illegal. There are weapons that are prohibited by law, and if you are found in possession of these weapons, you can face prosecution.

Being convicted of charges related to prohibited weapons can lead to severe penalties and have long-lasting effects on your life. Seeking legal assistance early in your case can help you contest the accusations and aim for a favorable outcome. At the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we are prepared to provide you with the necessary legal support to fight against the charges of possessing prohibited weapons.

What California Law Bars You from Doing with a Prohibited Weapon?

Under Penal Code 16590 PC, knowingly engaging in any of the following actions constitutes a criminal offense:

  • Manufacturing.
  • Importing into California.
  • Selling.
  • Lending.
  • Possessing.

a generally prohibited weapon.


If you are aware that you have a weapon that falls under the category of prohibited weapons, you are violating the law. Under California law, the prosecutor is not needed to show that you intend to use the weapon. The court only requires the prosecution to show that you knew the object was a prohibited weapon.

For example, Ken visits a swap meet and purchases an antique cane. However, he does not know that the cane secretly has a sword inside it. Later, when he tries to bring it with him through airport security, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) discovers the hidden blade.

In this situation, Ken has not violated PC 16590 because he had no idea that the cane was a prohibited weapon. The cane had a sword that could be used as a weapon.


In California, the possession of prohibited weapons is strictly forbidden. This means you cannot have these weapons in your possession, whether in your home, vehicle, or on your person. You are said to “possess” a weapon, either constructively or actually.

Actual possession means you held the weapon or had immediate access to it. Actual possession occurs when you have the weapon on your person, either on your body or in an item you hold or wear. For example, a backpack or purse.

Constructive possession means you lack immediate access to the weapon but can control it. For example, after an out-of-state trip with his friends, Cliff takes a set of brass knuckles to his home in California with him. The next day, law enforcement officers apprehended Cliff after a tip-off from one of Cliff’s friends. Even though Cliff was not carrying the metal knuckles when he faced arrest, he still had control over them since they were in his home.

People And Weapons Exempt From Prosecution

While possessing prohibited weapons is generally prohibited, certain exceptions and exemptions apply. Some individuals, such as law enforcement officers, members of the military, and authorized security personnel, may be exempt from prosecution when it comes to possessing certain weapons. These exemptions are in place to accommodate legitimate purposes and ensure public safety.

Similarly, certain weapons may be exempt from prosecution under specific circumstances, for example:

  • Antique firearms.
  • Unloaded firearms in film and television production.
  • Weapons possessed by forensic laboratories.
  • Weapons possessed by museums, libraries, and historical societies.
  • When surrendering a generally prohibited weapon to the police.

Generally Prohibited Weapons, Per California PC 16590

Under California PC 16590, a comprehensive list of generally prohibited weapons is outlined. The following weapons are prohibited in different parts of PC 16590 but are grouped and listed under this particular section:

Prohibited Knives and Edged Weapons

California Penal Code 16590 specifies several types of knives that are deemed illegal. These knives are designed for concealment and pose a significant risk due to their potential for silent and effective attacks. Among the prohibited knives are:

  • Air gauge knives, California PC 20130.
  • Belt buckle knives, California PC 20410.
  • Cane Swords, California PC 20510.
  • Lipstick case knives, California PC 20610.
  • Shobi-zue (concealed knives within staffs or canes), California PC 20710.
  • Writing pen knives, California PC 20910.
  • Ballistic knives, California PC 21110.
  • Concealed dirks or daggers, California PC 21310.
  • Throwing Stars (shuriken), California PC 22410.

Prohibited Melee Weapons

These weapons are often associated with close-quarter combat and can cause severe harm or injury. Prohibited melee weapons include:

  • Metal or brass knuckles, California Penal Code 21810.
  • Nunchakus (commonly known as nunchucks), California Penal Code 22010.
  • Leaded canes, billy clubs, blackjacks, sandbags or sand clubs, saps, and slungshots, California Penal Code 22210.

Prohibited Firearms and Firearm Modifications

Possessing certain firearms and firearm modifications is strictly regulated by California Penal Code 16590. The aim is to prevent the use of firearms that are easily disguised, modified, or capable of causing significant harm. Prohibited firearms and modifications include:

  • Camouflaging firearm containers, California Penal Code 24310.
  • Cane guns, California Penal Code 24410.
  • Firearms that are not immediately recognizable as firearms, California Penal Code 24510.
  • Undetectable firearms, California Penal Code 24610.
  • Wallet guns, California Penal Code 24710.
  • Unconventional pistols, California Penal Code 31500.
  • Large-capacity magazines (holding more than 10 rounds), California Penal Code 32310.
  • Multi-burst trigger activators, California Penal Code 32900.
  • Short-barreled rifles or shotguns, California Penal Code 33215.
  • Zip guns, California Penal Code 33600.

Prohibited Ammunition and Explosives

California PC 16590 prohibits certain types of ammunition and explosives to curb dangerous projectiles and explosive devices. These include:

  • Concealed explosive substances (excluding fixed ammunition), California Penal Code 19100.
  • Metal military practice hand grenades or metal replica hand grenades that can be readily modified into functioning hand grenades, California Penal Code 19200.
  • Flechette darts or ammunition made of flechette darts, California Penal Code 30210.
  • Explosive bullets or bullets containing explosive agents, California Penal Code 30210.

Legal Defenses to Penal Code 16590 Violations

You have several legal defenses if you face charges related to prohibited weapons. These defenses can help you contest the charges and potentially mitigate the consequences you may face.

Momentary Possession

If you are arrested for possession of a prohibited weapon momentarily, such as holding it while considering a purchase in a gun store, you can raise the defense of momentary possession. This defense argues that you had no intention of permanently possessing the weapon and, therefore, did not commit a crime.

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to establish that you reasonably knew the prohibited weapon was in your possession and that you had control over it. If they cannot demonstrate this, you may be acquitted under this defense.

No Prohibited Weapon

According to PC 16590, you can only be found guilty if you have performed an act with a weapon explicitly listed as prohibited. Therefore, in building your defense, you can argue that while you may have possessed a weapon, it does not fall under the category of prohibited weapons as listed in the statute. This defense rests on the premise that the weapon you possessed does not match the characteristics and criteria outlined in the law.

Insufficient Evidence

Prosecutors often have an easier time convincing a jury of the actual possession of a prohibited item. They can present various forms of evidence, such as photographs of the weapon in your possession, eyewitness accounts, or surveillance footage. However, proving constructive possession can be more challenging for the prosecution.

To establish constructive possession, the prosecutor must prove that you knew the weapon was in your possession and that you had control over it. Your defense attorney can argue that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate your knowledge and control over the prohibited weapon, making it harder for the prosecution to secure a conviction.

No Knowledge

If you never knew that the object in question was either a prohibited weapon or had the potential to be used as a weapon, the court cannot convict you. Your lawyer can present a defense by asserting that you did not have the requisite knowledge regarding the weapon-like characteristics or the prohibited status of the object.

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the weapon's prohibited nature. Your defense attorney can challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution, scrutinize the circumstances surrounding your possession of the object, and argue that you lacked the necessary awareness.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

In some cases, the behavior of prosecutors can cross legal, professional, and ethical boundaries in their quest for convictions. This type of misconduct may involve introducing false evidence, failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, discriminating during the jury selection process, or using improper arguments during trial.

Your defense team can present evidence of prosecutorial misconduct to the judge, potentially leading to a dismissal of the charges, a motion for a new trial, or an admonishment to the jury to disregard specific comments and evidence presented by the prosecution.

Unlawful Search And Seizure

Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you are protected from illegal searches and seizures. Law enforcement officers must obtain a legal search warrant before searching or seizing property. If a search is conducted without a warrant, it must fall under certain exceptions to be considered lawful.

In the context of prohibited weapons, if the police gather evidence against you due to an unlawful search and seizure, that evidence can be excluded from your criminal case. This exclusion may lead to reduced charges or even the dismissal of the case altogether.

Note that authorities can search without a warrant if they have a valid legal excuse, such as probable cause or exigent circumstances. However, you can challenge the legality of the search and seizure if you believe it was conducted unlawfully.

Police Misconduct

There have been instances where officers engaged in illegal behavior to make arrests and forward cases to the District Attorney's office. Such misconduct may include coercing confessions, planting or fabricating evidence, bribery, and even extortion.

Your defense attorney can conduct independent investigations to uncover any illegal acts committed by the arresting officers that may have led to the charges against you. If evidence of police misconduct is found, it can be presented in court to have your case dismissed or to strengthen your position in negotiations.

You Have A Valid Permi

While California law generally prohibits the possession of these weapons, there are exceptions for those who have gone through the proper legal channels. The requirements and procedures for obtaining permits can vary depending on the specific type of prohibited weapon.

For example, individuals may obtain permits for certain firearms or other restricted weapons for legitimate purposes, such as self-defense or professional use.

Having a valid permit can serve as a defense against charges under Penal Code 16590. Demonstrating that you lawfully obtained the weapon and possess the necessary permissions can undermine the prosecution's case against you.

Penalties For A 16590 PC Conviction

Possible penalties for violating Penal Code 16590 can include both misdemeanor and felony charges, depending on the nature and severity of the offense.

  • Misdemeanor Conviction

If charged as a misdemeanor, the potential penalties include:

  • A maximum county jail sentence of up to one year.
  • Fines of up to $1,000.
  • Felony Conviction

Certain PC 16590 violations can be charged as felonies, resulting in more severe penalties:

  • A state prison sentence ranging from 16 months to 3 years.
  • Additionally, fines of up to $10,000 may be imposed.

Immigration Consequences

Immigration issues can significantly impact immigrants, green card holders, and visitors on temporary visas who face charges under California PC 16590. Examples of consequences include:

  • Deportation or removal - Certain offenses related to prohibited weapons can be classified as crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs) or aggravated felonies under immigration law. Conviction of such offenses can trigger deportation or removal proceedings, potentially leading to the loss of immigration status and removal from the United States.
  • Inadmissibility - A 16590 PC conviction can render non-U.S. citizens inadmissible, meaning they may be denied entry or re-entry into the United States. This can apply to individuals seeking to obtain or renew visas, adjust their immigration status, or even return as lawful permanent residents.

Having Your Conviction Expunged

Expungement is a legal process that allows individuals to have their criminal records cleared or modified. Expungement eligibility and procedures can vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case.

In California, you are eligible for a PC 16590 conviction expungement if you have completed probation or have served your sentence in county jail, paid all fines and restitution, and are not currently facing any other criminal charges.

To initiate the expungement process, you must file a petition with the court where you were convicted. The petition will outline your request to have your conviction expunged and provide supporting documentation.

The court will evaluate various factors when considering your expungement petition, including your criminal history, the nature of the offense, your conduct since the conviction, and the impact of expungement on your rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

If your expungement petition is granted, your conviction will be set aside, and a "dismissal" will be entered in your case. This means that you can legally and truthfully state that you have not been convicted of the offense for most purposes.

Does A Conviction Affect Gun Rights?

A conviction under Penal Code 16590 can significantly affect your gun rights. California law imposes strict restrictions on individuals convicted of certain offenses, including those related to prohibited weapons. These restrictions aim to prevent individuals with criminal records from possessing firearms.

If your conviction is classified as a felony, you will generally lose your right to own or possess firearms. Felony convictions result in a permanent prohibition on firearm ownership, and you will be prohibited from obtaining a firearms license or purchasing firearms.

Misdemeanor convictions related to prohibited weapons can also impact your gun rights, although the restrictions may not be as severe as for felony convictions. In California, some misdemeanor offenses can result in a ten-year prohibition on firearm ownership. During this period, you will be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.

Related Offenses To Prohibited Weapons

There are not only specific weapons mentioned but also related offenses that can be associated with their possession, use, or sale. These include:

Carrying A Loaded Firearm In Public, Penal Code 25850

Carrying a loaded firearm in public, as defined under Penal Code 25850, involves certain elements that must be proven for someone to be convicted of this offense. The elements typically include:

  • You are physically holding or having immediate control of the loaded firearm.
  • The firearm is loaded with ammunition, which means bullets or cartridges are in the firearm's chamber or attached magazine.
  • You are in a public place or on a public street while carrying a loaded firearm.

If found guilty of the offense, potential penalties may include:

  • Up to one year in county jail.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • Probation.
  • Seizure and forfeiture of the firearm.

Common defenses include:

  • Illegal search and seizure - If the firearm was discovered during an unlawful search or seizure by law enforcement, it may be possible to challenge the admissibility of the evidence based on a violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights.
  • Necessity - If carrying the loaded firearm was necessary to protect oneself or others from immediate harm, it might be considered a valid defense.
  • Lack of knowledge - If the defendant was unaware that the firearm was loaded or did not have knowledge of its presence, it might be a valid defense.

Carrying An Unloaded Firearm In Public, Penal Code 26350

You violate PC 26350 when physically holding or having immediate control of an unloaded firearm. The statute requires that the firearm not be loaded with ammunition, meaning there are no bullets or cartridges in the firearm's chamber or attached magazine. Also, you should be in a public place or on a public street while carrying the unloaded firearm.

Carrying an unloaded firearm in public is considered a misdemeanor offense in California. The potential penalties may include the following:

  • Up to one year in county jail.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • Probation.
  • Seizure and forfeiture of the firearm.

You could mount a defense against your charges using similar legal defenses to PC 25850.  Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can assess the specific details of your case and determine the most appropriate defense strategy based on the circumstances.

Brandishing a weapon, Penal Code 417

You could face charges for brandishing a weapon if:

  • You draw, exhibit, or use a deadly weapon or firearm in the presence of someone else.
  • The weapon's drawing, exhibiting, or use is done in a way that is rude, angry, or threatening, demonstrating an intent to intimidate or provoke fear in others.

Brandishing a weapon is generally considered a misdemeanor offense in California, but it can also be charged as a felony in certain situations. The potential penalties may include the following:

  • Misdemeanor Brandishing: Up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Felony Brandishing: Felony brandishing charges can result in imprisonment for up to three years in state prison.

Some of the defenses that you could use to fight your prohibited weapons are:

  • False Accusation or Misidentification. If the evidence supports that the defendant was falsely accused or mistakenly identified as the individual who brandished the weapon, it can be a viable defense strategy.
  • Self-defense. If the defendant reasonably believed that they or others were in immediate danger of harm and using the weapon was necessary for self-defense, it might be considered a valid defense.
  • Lack of intent. If the defendant did not intend to threaten or intimidate others with the weapon, it might be a valid defense.

Find a Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If you have been arrested for making, selling, or carrying a weapon generally prohibited in Pasadena, you will need a skilled and determined lawyer to defend you against these charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, our lawyers have many decades of experience successfully defending suspects facing PC 16950 charges. We can also assist you. Call us today at 626-628-0564 to schedule a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be available to assist you when you call.