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Penal Code 16590 California’s Prohibited Weapons Laws- IE-Criminal Defense

I. PC 16590: Prohibited Weapons in California


Under PC 16590, California criminalizes the manufacturing, selling, or possession of what is deemed to be a dangerous or prohibited weapon. Common examples of these would be brass knuckles, nunchakus, or short-barreled shotguns. You can find the entire list here:

To be found guilty under PC 16590 the prosecution must prove:

  1. You knowingly;
  2. Manufactured, sold, or possessed;
  3. An illegal weapon as defined under PC 16590

II. What does this mean?


You can only be found guilty under this section if you know that the object is a weapon or is capable of being a weapon. It does not need to be shown or proved that you actually intended to use the weapon, as possession itself is penalized. Possession here can mean actual or constructive possession. Actual possession would mean the item is physically being carried by you. Constructive possession can happen if you can exercise control over the item or you have the right to exercise control over that item either yourself or with another person. That is why more than one person can possess a prohibited weapon at the same time. An example would be two roommates who have brass knuckles in a safe in their home that they both have access to.

Certain types of people are excluded from being prosecuted under this section, including police offices or law enforcement agencies. Another exemption would be the possession of nunchakus by schools for the purposes of teaching martial arts.

III. Penalties


A violation under PC 16590 is a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged under this section with a misdemeanor or a felony charge. The charge will depend on the amount of illegal weapons seized, your criminal history, and the specific facts of your case that lead to your arrest. If you are convicted under this section as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to upwards of one year in County Jail. If you were to be convicted of this section as a felony, you could be sentenced to State Prison for upwards of 16 months, two or three years. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You would also lose possession of any prohibited weapon through a police seizure and destruction. You can also be subject to a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on if you are charged with this violation as a misdemeanor or a felony.

This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. You could also face a loss of your Professional License if convicted, and if you are not a legal resident, you would face Deportation in Immigration Court since the offense is deportable or you can be marked as inadmissible, in that it is a crime using a firearm.

IV. Common Defenses


  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Violation of Rights
  3. Insufficient Evidence

There are numerous defenses that can be used to assist in your case. For example, the prosecution is required to prove that the weapon you had was in fact a prohibited weapon as listed in the section. Simple possession of a weapon, or a firearm, for example, is not enough. It must be shown that your weapon is prohibited, otherwise, there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty for this crime.

As noted above, if you lack knowledge that the item you possess is a weapon, or could be used as a weapon, then you can also not be found guilty here. This protects people who are harmless transporters, who know nothing about what is in the item they are moving, are never told, and have no reason to believe it is a prohibited weapon. Of course, being actually told that the weapon is a prohibited weapon, but not actually seeing it, as it is concealed in transport, is not going to act as a defense. Failing to show knowledge of the prohibited weapon or that the item can be used as a prohibited weapon, would show there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of this crime.

V. Call Today


A conviction for PC 16590 can force you into losing your job, and your freedom. Not only this, but you could lose your ability to ever own or possess a firearm for the remainder of your life with a felony conviction under this section. Even simple possession can land you in custody for up to three years. You need to be protected. Our Ontario PC 16590  attorney has successfully defended hundreds of people charged with firearm crimes under PC 16590. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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