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Prohibited Weapons Law & Defense
(CalCrim No. 2500 et seq.)

Information on the crime of possession of prohibited weapons, also generally prohibited weapons, is found at California penal code section 16590 (formerly PC 12020(a)).

Generally prohibited weapons include (Partial List):

  • An air gauge knife (PC 16140 & 20310)

  • A ballistic knife (PC 16220 & 21110)

  • A belt buckle knife (PC 16260 & 20410)

  • A cane gun (PC 16330 & 24410)

  • A cane sword (PC 16340 & 20510)

  • A concealed dirk or dagger (PC 16470 & 21310)

  • A large-capacity magazine (PC 16740 & 32310)

  • Brass metal knuckles (PC 16920 & 21810)

  • A nunchaku (PC 16940 & 22010)

  • A short-barreled rifle or shotgun (PC 33215)

  • A shuriken [Throwing Star] (PC 17200 & 22410)

  • A zip gun [Makeshift gun] (PC 17360 & 33600)

In order for the district attorney to prove that the defendant possessed a generally prohibited weapon, he or she must prove:1) the defendant possessed one of the generally prohibited weapons listed above (Possession may be actual or constructive. Constructive possession means that the defendant had the right to control the possession of the weapon), and 2) the defendant knew that he or she possessed the prohibited weapon.


All generally prohibited weapons listed under may be charged as felonies or as misdemeanors.

Jail: When prohibited weapons crimes are charged as a felony, the defendant may face a maximum jail sentence of three (3) years. When charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face a maximum jail sentence of one (1) year.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence, with or without an actual jail sentence, is available for both felony and misdemeanor convictions of generally prohibited weapons charges.

PC 1170(h): If the defendant is not granted a probation sentence in a generally prohibited weapons conviction, the the defendant may serve his or her sentence in a county jail as opposed to a state prison. Also, that jail sentence may be split or suspended. A split jail sentence is one that may be served partially out of jail on work release and a suspended sentence is a jail sentence that may never have to be served if the defendant obeys the conditions of his or her out of custody sentence.


Note: If the defendant is not granted a probation sentence he or she may serve his or her incarceration in a county jail (even for a felony conviction), and that jail sentence may be split or suspendedSplit sentence is one that is served partially in custody and partially served out of custody on work release or house arrest (electronic monitoring). A Suspended jail sentences is a sentence that may never have to be served as long as all of the conditions of probation are fulfilled.

CIMT: Generally prohibited weapons charges are not considered crimes of moral turpitude, but to be safe for immigration concerns, records of conviction should be ambiguous as to the type of weapon possessed, especially if the crime involves a firearm such as PC 16590, 24410, 24510, 24610, 33215, and 33600.

Firearm Prohibition: Convictions for felony possession of a generally prohibited weapon carry bans on ownership or possession of a firearm.

In addition to any jail sentence, if the defendant is convicted of generally prohibited weapons, he or she will be punished with fines, possible restraining orders (criminal protective orders), restitution to victims, harsh probation terms, enhanced penalties for future criminal violations, civil lawsuits, and more.

Common Defenses

Licensed Dealer: A person licensed or legally permitted to posses, for transfer or sale, an otherwise prohibited weapon is not in violation of the law. Permits exists to legally transfer and possess some weapons, including martial arts weapons (nunchaku, shuriken, etc.), firearms (CCW permits), film permits for modified weapons, and more.

Momentary Possession: Possession of a prohibited weapon for only a fleeting moment is not a violation of the law in some circumstances. For example, if the defendant is handed a nunchaku from a licensed dealer of weapons, while the defendant is considering a purchase of the weapon, then the possession is only momentary, and the defendant is not in violation of the law.

Other common defense to charges of generally prohibited weapons offenses include: statute of limitations, coerced confession as to possession of the weapon, intoxication, insanity, insufficient evidence, jury nullification, and more.

If you have been charged with possession of generally prohibited weapons, or PC 16590 & 12020(a), contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Call today!


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Loma Linda, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Chino, Upland, Fontana, San Bernardino, Victorville, Hesperia, Highland, Redlands, Rialto, Yucaipa, Colton

Prohibited Weapons (Full List)

  • 16590(a) An air gauge knife, PC 16140 & 20310.

  • 16590(b) Ammunition that contains or consists of a flechette dart, PC 16570 & 30210.

  • 16590(c) A ballistic knife, PC 16220 & 21110.

  • 16590(d) A belt buckle knife, PC 16260 & 20410.

  • 16590(e) A bullet containing or carrying an explosive agent, PC 16510 & 30210.

  • 16590(f) A camouflaging firearm container, PC 16320 & 24310.

  • 16590(g) A cane gun, PC 16330 & 24410.

  • 16590(h) A cane sword, PC 16340 & 20510.

  • 16590(i) A concealed dirk or dagger, PC 16470 & 21310.

  • 16590(j) A concealed explosive substance, other than fixed ammunition, PC 16510 & 19100.

  • 16590(k) A firearm that is not immediately recognizable as a firearm, PC as prohibited by Section 24510.

  • 16590(l) A large-capacity magazine, PC 16740 & 32310.

  • 16590(m) A leaded cane or an instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slingshot, PC 16760 & 22210.

  • 16590(n) A lipstick case knife, PC 16830 & 20610.

  • 16590(o) Metal knuckles, PC 16920 & 21810.

  • 16590(p) A metal military practice hand grenade or a metal replica hand grenade, PC 19200.

  • 16590(q) A multiburst trigger activator, PC 16930 & 32900.

  • 16590(r) A nunchaku, PC 16940 & 22010.

  • 16590(s) A shobi-zue, PC 17160 & 20710.

  • 16590(t) A short-barreled rifle or shotgun, PC 17170 & 33215.

  • 16590(u) A shuriken, PC 17200 & 22410.

  • 16590(v) An unconventional pistol, PC 17270 & 31500.

  • 16590(w) An undetectable firearm, PC 17280 & 24610.

  • 16590(x) A wallet gun, PC 17330 & 24710.

  • 16590(y) A writing pen knife, PC 17350 & 20910.

  • 16590(z) A zip gun, PC 17360 & 33600.

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