Booby Trap Crimes
(PC 20110(a) & 20110(b)) Law & Defense
It is illegal to place, maintain, or possess a booby trap in California (PC 20110). A booby trap is a concealed or camouflaged device designed to cause great bodily injury when triggered by an action of any unsuspecting person coming across the device. Booby traps may include, but are not limited to, guns, ammunition, or explosive devices attached to trip wires or other triggering mechanisms, sharpened stakes, and lines or wire with hooks attached (PC 16310).
PC 20110 Laws
… any person who assembles, maintains, places, or causes to be placed a booby trap device is guilty of place or maintain a booby trap device (PC 20110(a) Abbrev.).
Any person who possesses any device with the intent to use the device as a booby trap guilty of possession of a booby trap (PC 20110(b) Abbrev.).
For example, if the defendant sets up a booby trap to protect her marijuana plants then she may be charged with a violation of PC 20110(a) [Place or maintain a booby trap]; however, if the defendant possesses the booby trap that she intends to set up, but she has not actually set the booby trap in place, then she may be charged with a violation of PC 20110(b) [Possession of a booby trap].
Also, if the defendant did not personally set the booby trap in place, but she maintains the booby trap, then she may be charged with a violation of PC 20110(a) [Place or maintain a booby trap].
To maintain a booby trap means to either continue to keep the booby trap in existence while knowing that the booby trap is in existence, continue to enable or preserve the booby trap’s engaging mechanisms, or continue to provide camouflage for the booby trap.
To possess a booby trap means to either knowingly keep the booby trap within one’s control (constructive possession), or to knowingly and physically keep the booby trap on one’s person (actual possession).
For example, if the defendant stores an unused booby trap in her personal storage for later use then she is likely in violation of PC 20110(b) ,because she has constructive possession of that booby trap; however, once the defendant retrieves the booby trap from her storage and drives it to her marijuana farm, then she is in actual possession of that booby trap.
PC 20110 Penalties
The crime of place or maintain a booby trap is charged as a felony (PC 20110(a)). The crime of possession of a booby trap is charged either as a misdemeanor, or alternatively as a felony (PC 20110(b)).
PC 20110(a) Jail Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of place or maintain a booby trap, and the defendant is not granted a probation sentence after her conviction, then she may face a jail sentence of either two (2) years, three (3) years, or five (5) years in jail.
Note: Whether the defendant receives a 2, 3, or 5, year jail sentence after a conviction for PC 20110(a) depends on many factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, the level of sophistication of the booby trap, the terms of any negotiated plea bargain between the defendant and the prosecutor, and more.
PC 20110(b) Misdemeanor Jail Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of possession of a booby trap as a misdemeanor, and the defendant is not granted probation, then she may face up to one (1) year in the county. The judge has discretion to sentence the defendant to a jail term of less than a year in PC 20110(b) cases. In fact, the judge can sentence the defendant to no jail time in any PC 20110(b) case where the interest of justice would be served by such a sentence.
PC 20110(b) Felony Jail Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of possession of a booby trap as a felony, and the defendant is not granted probation, then she may face up to sixteen month (16), two (2) years, or three (3) years in the county jail.
Note: Whether the defendant receives a 16 month, 2, or 3, year jail sentence after a conviction for PC 20110(b) depends on many factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, the level of sophistication of the booby trap, the terms of any negotiated plea bargain between the defendant and the district attorney, and more.
PC 20110(b) Wobbler: The crime of possession of a booby trap is classified as a wobbler crime. This means that the crime may be charged either as a felony, or alternatively as a misdemeanor (the crime “wobbles” between two classifications). When a wobbler crime is initially charged as a felony the defendant might have those charges reduced to a misdemeanor. This is true even if the district attorney objects to the reduction. This happens when the judge finds that the interest of justice is best served by reducing the felony charges to misdemeanor charges. On the other hand, misdemeanor charges could be increased to felony charges where additional aggravated facts are discovered by the prosecutor after the initial filing of the misdemeanor charges. To learn more, see Wobblers.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision as opposed to an actual jail sentence. Probation sentences are allowed in both PC 20110(a) and PC 20110(b) cases, but a probation sentence is not guaranteed. Whether or not a probation sentence is ordered after a conviction in a booby trap case depends largely on the defendant’s criminal history, or lack thereof, the level of sophistication of the booby trap, the terms of any negotiated settlement between the defendant and district attorney, and more.
Probation Conditions: If the defendant is granted a probation sentence then that probation sentence will come with conditions of probation. The conditions of probation in booby trap crimes will usually include stay-away orders (criminal protective orders), pay court fines and fees, pay restitution to the state, commit no crime (misdemeanor or felony), and more. Felony probation, also called formal probation, follows a felony conviction and the condition of probation are substantially more restrictive on the defendant’s liberty. Also, felony probation is supervised by a probation officer. Misdemeanor probation, also called informal probation, follows a misdemeanor conviction and the probation supervision is monitored by the court.
Note: Sometimes a probation condition will require the defendant to serve a jail sentence; however, when a jail is ordered as a condition of probation that jail sentence may usually be served alternatively on work release. Also, jail sentences that are served as condition of probation are usually much shorter than the jail sentence that the defendant faced if she had not been granted probation.
Note: If the defendant is placed on probation, and she subsequently violates a condition of that probation sentence, then she could face additional charges of violating probation. If the allegations of any probation violation are found true by a judge then the defendant could face additional punishment, including an actual jail sentence. If the defendant commits a new criminal offense while on probation then the defendant could face a simultaneous prosecution of the probation violation charge and the new criminal charge.
PC 1170(h) Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty, or pleads “no contest,” to a violation of PC 20110, and the defendant is not granted a probation sentence, then the defendant might have her actual jail sentence split or suspended under California’ new PC 1170(h) law. Essentially, a split sentence is a sentence that is served partially in jail and partially out of jail on work release. A suspended jail sentence is a sentence that is not served unless the defendant violates a condition of her out of custody release. In addition, PC 1170(h) sentencing means that the defendant will serve any incarceration in a local county jail, as opposed to a state prison.
For example, if the defendant is found guilty of place or maintain a booby trap (PC 20110(a)), and the defendant is thereafter ordered to serve three (3) years of incarceration, then that incarceration will be served in a local county jail and the defendant might be entitled to split that actual jail sentence in half (1/2 in jail and 1/2/ on work release). Alternatively, if the defendant is ordered to serve a three (3) year suspended sentence for the same conviction, then the defendant will not serve a single day in jail after her sentencing unless and until she violates a condition of that suspended sentence. To learn more, see Penal Code 1170(h) Sentencing.
Three Strikes Law: Neither the crime of place or maintain a booby trap, nor the crime of possession of a booby trap is considered a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law. This assumes that no actual injury is caused by the defendant’s booby trap. When injury or death is caused by the defendant’s booby trap then the defendant is likely to be charged with more serious or violent crimes which are considered strike offenses, such as murder, attempted murder, mayhem, attempted, mayhem, etc. For more information, see Serious Crimes and Violent Crimes.
Additional Penalties: In addition to any jail or probation sentence, if the defendant is found guilty of any PC 20110 crime, she could face any of the following additional penalties: immigration consequences, military service consequences, professional licensing consequences, restitution orders, restraining orders, civil lawsuits, violation of probation or parole for subsequent criminal conduct, court fines and fees, relinquishment of firearms, and more.
PC 20110 Defenses
Common defenses to a criminal charge of place or maintain a booby trap (or possession of a booby trap) include, but are not limited to, the following: insufficient evidence, statute of limitations, coerced confession, illegal search and seizure, unreasonable delay in filing criminal charges (Serna Motion), and more. A full discussion of these different common defenses can be found at Defenses to Crime. However, some defenses to booby trap charges deserve special attention:
Emergency or Necessity: In some cases, a person can have actual possession of an object, but that possession is only momentary and for the purpose of making that object safe. For example, if the defendant encounters a booby trap in the woods and she takes possession of that booby trap so that another person will not accidentally engage the trap, then the defendant will have only “fleeting possession” and for a legal purpose. Under a scenario similar to this the defendant would likely succeed on a defense of necessity.
Self-Defense: A person is not privileged to use a booby trap to defend her property, including her home; however, if the booby trap is being used for the limited purpose of self-defense against an immediate threat of bodily harm, and the booby trap is suspended immediately after the threatened harm to the defendant ceases, then placing a booby trap might be permissible in some situations. For more information, see Self Defense.
Post-Conviction Options: After a conviction of any PC 20110 crime the defendant might have several post-convictions options, including: Appeal of the criminal conviction, expungement of a criminal record, early termination of probation, certificate of rehabilitation, and more.
Note: If the defendant was arrested for a booby trap crime, but she was never prosecuted, or she was prosecuted but found not guilty after a trial, then she might petition the court to have her PC 20110 arrest sealed and destroyed. For more information, see Seal & Destroy an Arrest Record.
To learn more about the crimes related to booby traps, including PC 20110(a) and 20110(b), contact our attorneys for a free consultation. Our team or criminal defense lawyers are available every day to discuss your rights and defense options. There is no charge for initial in-office consultations and we can even visit local jails for consultations, including Adelanto Detention Center, Glen Helen Detention Center, and more. Call today!
Quick Reference Sheet
Crime: Place or Maintain a Booby Trap
Code: PC 20110(a)
Wobbler:: Yes. PC 20110(a) is not a wobbler crime. This means that PC 20110(a) is only charged as a felony.
Incarceration: PC 281 jail sentence range: 2, 3, or 5 years (if probation not granted).
Probation: Probation is allowed in PC 20110(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 20110(a) is covered under PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any incarceration ordered after a conviction, that is not part of a probation sentence, is served in a county jail, and that jail sentence may be split or suspended.
Strike: PC 20110(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
CIMT: PC 20110(a) is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
Firearms: PC 20110(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.
Bail: $25,000 (Felony) in San Bernardino) County 
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