CA Penal Code 12020

Dangerous Weapons

Unlawful Manufacturing, Selling, or Possessing Dangerous Weapons

California exercises a strict policy regarding manufacturing, selling, and/or possessing dangerous weapons.  Dangerous Weapons include over 20 different weapons including: pistols, handguns, brass knuckles, short-barreled shotguns, etc. (For a full list of dangerous weapons, read the full CA Penal Code 12020)[1].  CA Penal Code 12020 is a wobbler, meaning it could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case and your criminal record.

To be convicted of CA Penal Code 12020 the prosecutor must prove the two elements of the crime:

  1. That you manufactured, imported, sold, gave, lent, and/or possessed any of the dangerous weapons listed in the Penal Code, and
  2. That you knowingly did so and knew that the the object was either a weapon, or that it could be used as a weapon

If the prosecutor cannot prove those two dependent variables than a conviction should not take place.  However, if you are found guilty of manufacturing, selling, or possessing dangerous weapons as a misdemeanor you could face:

  1. Informal probation
  2. Up to one year in a county jail
  3. Up to $1,000 in fines
  4. Could lead to deportation

If you’re found guilty of manufacturing, selling, or possessing dangerous weapons as a felony you could face:

  1. Formal probation
  2. If granted probation, up to one year in a county jail.  If probation is denied, up to 3 years in state prison
  3. Up to $10,000 in fines
  4. Revocation of your right to own/possess a firearm
  5. Could lead to deportation

Prosecuting CA Penal Code 12020

As previously stated, the prosecutor must prove the two elements of the crime:

  1. That you manufactured, imported, sold, gave, lent, and/or possessed any of the dangerous weapons listed in the Penal Code, and
  2. That you knowingly did so and knew that the object was either a weapon, or that it could be used as a weapon

The first problem for prosecutors is proving that you knowingly manufactured, imported, sold, lent, and/or possessed either a weapon, or an item that could be used as a weapon.  If you didn’t know that you were possessing a dangerous weapon because perhaps you thought it was a fake, then you can’t be charged with the crime.  An important thing to note is that the prosecutor does not need to prove that you used the item, only that you knew it was capable of being used as a weapon.

If you bought an object from somebody else and you did not know it could be used as a weapon, or if you did not think to use it as a weapon then you cannot be charged of the crime.

California law makers had specific intentions when drafting CA Penal Code 12020.  Their intention was to outlaw the possession of any item that is ordinarily used for illegal activity.  In other words, all items that are easily concealed and short and can effectively be used to commit a crime.  Prosecutors must prove that you used an item that fits these criteria in order for a conviction.

If for instance, you hit somebody with a mug and they sustained great bodily injury you cannot be charged with possessing a dangerous weapon because a mug is traditionally not used to commit a crime.  Though you could be charged with a subsequent offense.

Defending CA Penal Code 12020

There are several techniques that a skilled criminal defense attorney can employ to prove your innocence if you’re being charged with manufacturing, selling, and/or possessing a dangerous weapon.  The first thing that your attorney will do is make sure the weapon was legally seized.

The police can legally arrest you for CA Penal Code 12020 if they have:

  1. Reason to believe that you were engaging in criminal activity
  2. A search warrant to legally search your property
  3. Your consent to search you

If the police seize the weapon by illegal means then your attorney will try to have the evidence dismissed.  If the evidence is dismissed then the prosecutor will not have a case and will subsequently have to drop the charges.

The second strategy that your criminal defense attorney will likely prove is that you did not knowingly possess the weapon.  As previously stated, you must knowingly, carry the weapon, if it can be proved that were unaware that the weapon was in your possession then you will not be charged.

For example, maybe you unknowingly grabbed the wrong suitcase and a gun was stashed inside.  On your way home you get pulled over for speeding, the officer asks to look inside the suitcase, you consent, and then he finds the gun.  Subsequently you get arrested for CA Penal Code 12020.  Your criminal defense attorney will then prove that you unknowingly possessed the gun because you accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase, because you have not fulfilled the requirements of the crime a conviction will not take place.

If you have a permit to carry the concealed weapon then you cannot be charged with CA Penal Code 12020.  This defense strategy only pertains to firearms and does not allow a person with a permit to carry any dangerous weapon.

There are specific scenarios that the law states that exempt people from a CA Penal Code 12020 arrest.  These are all listed in the PC and range from self-defense schools to movie props.  If relevant, your criminal defense attorney will prove that your arrest is exempted by the state as a part of one of the specific scenarios.

Expunging a CA Penal Code 12020 Conviction

If you were convicted of CA Penal Code 12020 as a misdemeanor and were granted informal probation then you can have the case expunged from you criminal record.  Expungement can only be achieved if you successfully completed your probation term without any violations.

For a full understanding on this process read the Expungement Article.

 

References

[1] http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/cacode/PEN/3/4/2/1/2/s12020

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