When you are arrested and charged with prohibited weapons, whether you intended to use the gun or not, possible punishment includes imprisonment, hefty fines, or both. You could also lose your right to own, possess, or handle guns and firearms. Being arrested and charged will put you and your family under stress.

When these charges are made against you, your record is marred negatively. A criminal record could hinder you from landing new employment opportunities. The best defense against prohibited weapons charges is hiring an attorney who understands the justice system and could vigorously defend you. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we understand and navigate the provisions laid down by the law. We will ensure that you achieve a favorable outcome from the whole process.

Definition of Prohibited Weapons

The Californian law grants its citizens the right to possess and control legal weapons. The regulations laid down are perplexing in that some guns are legal but gain illegal status when modified while others are outrightly illegal. However, the law prohibits some weapons, making it unlawful to sell, manufacture, or possess them.

Penal code section 16590 shows a list of the prohibited weapons and other parts of the penal code used for such weapons. Possessing, selling, and designing these banned weapons that can easily be concealed is against the law. These weapons can be used to commit a crime and terrorize the public.

The list below shows different types of prohibited weapons that you might be charged for possessing, selling, or modifying, and the penal code used to charge you. Whether you are aware of the potential harm these weapons carry does not carry much weight in a court of law.

You will be charged under PC 16590 when you are:

  • Possessing
  • Manufacturing or enabling the manufacture of these weapons
  • Lending
  • Selling
  • Giving
  • Exposing for sale the following prohibited weapons

Guns and Firearms Modifications

  • Magazines with over ten rounds capacity PC section 32310
  • Zip guns PC 33600
  • Cane guns PC 24410
  • Firearms that are unidentifiable as firearms PC 24510
  • Firearms that cannot be detected PC 24610
  • Containers that hide or make it hard to identify firearms PC 24310
  • Wallet guns PC 24710
  • Bore-less pistols PC 31500
  • Rifles and shotguns that have short barrels PC 33215
  • Bump stock PC 32900


  • Flechette-made bullets, shells, and darts PC 30210
  • Military hand grenades PC 19200, except the permanently inactive ones that can not be modified into functional hand grenades
  • Explosive bullets PC 30210

Knives and Edged Weapons

  • Cane swords PC 20510
  • Ballistic knives PC 21110
  • Concealed dirks PC 21310
  • Pen knives PC 20910
  • Lipstick knife PC 20610
  • Throwing stars PC 22410
  • Knives that are hidden inside a cane, or use mechanical operation PC 20710

Melee and Martial Arts Weapons

  • Slingshots, sand clubs, sandbags PC 22210
  • Metal knuckles PC 21810
  • Nunchakus PC 22010

For Penal code 16590 to be effected, the prosecution must prove to the court beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted knowingly, that the object could be used, or was a weapon.

You should note that a court can convict you without the prosecution having to prove that you intended to use the object as a deadly weapon. The prosecution needs to prove that you were aware that the item could cause an injury or damages when used as a weapon.

Exemptions to the Law

There are several instances where the law exempts you from being charged with possession of prohibited weapons. These instances are:

  • If you are a law enforcement officer, you can transfer, sell, and possess weapons.
  • If you have clearance from the justice department to manufacture, transport, sell or even possess rifles and short-barreled shotguns.
  • For martial school teachers, possession of weapons like nunchucks is allowed in the schools where the training occurs.
  • If you own or operate a curio shop, you can have antiques or relics classified as prohibited weapons and can be used as deadly weapons.
  • When you are handing over the prohibited weapon to law enforcement officers, and
  • Forensic laboratories are allowed to handle these banned weapons in their course of work.

Possession of prohibited weapons is a serious crime, and the prosecution must prove to the court that you were not legally allowed to possess, own, or handle the guns.

Your defense team should prove to the court that you had the authorization to possess, handle, sell, and own the prohibited weapons. This is done when they prove that you kept the guns under the following instances:

  • The prohibited weapon was unloaded and was used for movies, television, or video productions.
  • You work in a museum, gallery, or historical society granted the right to possess these prohibited weapons. You had no intention to use the object as a weapon and cause bodily harm and damages.

Under California law, the prosecution must provide facts that prove to the court you violated Penal code 16590. These facts are and not limited to:

  • You were involved in the manufacture or caused the manufacture, kept the prohibited weapons to sell, lent or gave away the prohibited weapons to other individuals, sold the guns, or helped import the guns into California. The prosecutor must also prove that you kept or facilitated the purchase of the prohibited weapons.
  • When it comes to possession of prohibited weapons, you do not necessarily need to have them with you physically for charges against you to hold in a court. In a court, possession can either be actual or constructive. Actual possession is when you are arrested with the real weapon in your pocket or in your hands. For a constructive possession charge to hold in court, you will need to have the gun down within easy access or be in a position to control it.
  • You are charged under PC 16590 when you know or are aware that the object is a prohibited weapon and can also be used as a weapon. The court will find you innocent when you are not aware that the object could act as a weapon. For example, if you bought a walking cane from a curio shop, and later when going through metal detection in an airport, the authority there realizes a hidden sword inside your walking cane. The court will not find you guilty of possessing prohibited weapons since you were unaware that the walking cane had a hidden blade. However, you will be guilty of possession if the prosecutor can prove that you knew the object had the potential to act as a weapon.
  • Most weapons prohibited by the law are usually easy to conceal, making them useful when used to attack. Therefore, the prosecution has the responsibility of proving beyond a reasonable doubt to the court that the object was used or was intended to cause bodily harm.
  • When you are charged with selling prohibited weapons or manufacturing them, the prosecution must prove your intention to sell the said objects.

Penalties for Possessing, Selling, Importing, and Manufacturing of Prohibited

When you face charges for possessing, selling, importing, or manufacturing generally prohibited weapons in San Jose, your sentence will be under California penal code 16590. This crime is charged as a wobbler, which means that the prosecution could have you convicted of felony charges or a misdemeanor according to the evidence available against you.

If the court finds you guilty of committing a misdemeanor charge, possible punishments are:

  • Serving time in the county jail for not more than one year
  • Pay a fine not exceeding $1000
  • Both the imprisonment and fine

If you are charged with a felony, you face harsher penalties like:

  • Imprisonment ranging from 16 months to a maximum of three years, depending on the severity of your crime in state prison
  • A fine not exceeding $10000,
  • Face both imprisonment and pay a fine

You should also note that once you receive a felony conviction, you will lose all your rights to own, possess, or even handle a gun in your lifetime. The only way you can have your gun rights restored is if you can convince the court to charge your crime as a misdemeanor and not a felony.

Legal Defenses Against Prohibited Weapons

When you are charged under California law PC 16590, there are several ways that you can defend against the charges:

The Weapon was Unprohibited

PC 16590 shows a list of the prohibited weapons, and you will only be charged and found guilty when you are found in possession of a prohibited weapon listed under California PC 16590. Your defense lawyers must prove to the court that even though you had the weapon with you, it was not under the statute that governs California.

Not Aware

The law states that you must know that the object could be used as a weapon for you to be convicted and that it is a prohibited weapon. The prosecution must prove that you possessed and carried a prohibited weapon intentionally. Therefore, your defense attorney's responsibility is to show the court that you were not aware that you had prohibited weapons when the prosecution raised the charges against you.

The Search and Seizure Was Unlawful

When you face charges under PC 16590, the police officers carry out investigations before they accuse you of violating the law. If police officers believe that you are involved in unlawful activities, they can investigate you under this belief.

The law states that a police officer or any law enforcement officer can only search and seize any of your property when they have a valid warrant issued by a judge, and they must follow the warrant's terms to the letter. The law enforcement officers must produce a legal excuse if they do not have a valid warrant when they come to search for you or your properties. You can also let the police search you and your property voluntarily without a valid subpoena.

Your defense team can have charges against you dropped or reduced if the arresting officers used evidence against you that they gained unlawfully. Or if the police obtained the evidence against you by coercing you into submitting it, the court can exclude this evidence from your case.

Police Entrapment

If the police persuaded, coerced, or even lured you into any unlawful activities, you could defend yourself against the charges by proving that you were entrapped or forced.

Police Misconduct

Some law enforcement officers can behave in an inappropriate manner that could be useful for your defense. If a police officer is found guilty of the following, then you can have the charges against you dismissed:

  • The police coerced you to confess.
  • Performed an unlawful search to capture and seize the weapons
  • Set you up or planted the evidence
  • Violates your rights as a citizen

Insufficient Evidence

Your conviction for contravening PC 16590 once the prosecution proves to the court that you were guilty of constructive or actual possession of prohibited weapons. The prosecutor must, therefore, produce evidence to prove your guilt to the court of law.

Your defense attorney should prove to the court that the evidence presented against you is not sufficient for the prosecution's charges. Without adequate evidence, the court can dismiss the case laid against you.

Related Offenses

There are several other laws related to prohibited weapons in California. You could face additional charges if you are found guilty of these laws on top of your current charge of possessing or carrying banned weapons. These include:

Publically Carrying Loaded Firearm

In California, it is a crime to carry a loaded gun or firearm in public. If you are found guilty, your charge will be under PC 25850. Under this law, you will be found guilty and convicted if you are found with a firearm in public or a vehicle even if it does not fall under the prohibited weapons list under PC 16590.

Carrying a Concealed Firearm PC 25400

The law prohibits you from carrying a concealed firearm in your motor vehicle or on your body, and if you are found guilty, your charge will be under PC 25400. The court will penalize you with either imprisonment or charge you with hefty fines.

Publically Carrying an Unloaded Firearm PC 26350

You will have committed a crime in California if you carry an unloaded gun in public. However, it is not a crime to carry unloaded firearms in private. If your crime is charged as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced up to a one-year jail term, charged a fine that does not exceed $1000. When the offense is charged as a felony, you could receive severer punishment of imprisonment of up to three years in jail, a fine not exceeding $10000, receive both the fine and imprisonment, and lose your right to possess a gun.

Switchblade Possession PC 21510

If you are found to have a switchblade with a blade, which is two or more inches long, your charges will be under penal code 25510. When the court finds you guilty, you will be sentenced to a jail term of up to six months, be out under probation, or pay a fine that does not exceed a maximum sum of $1000. The court can also have you serve both the imprisonment and pay the fine as well.

Carrying Concealed Dirks and Daggers PC 21310

PC 21310 treats carrying concealed dirks, daggers, a knife that is missing a handguard but can be used to stab, or other tools that can cause bodily harm as a wobbler. The knives can be used as stabbing weapons when you expose their sharp edges or lock their blades in place.

If convicted of the crime as a misdemeanor, your sentence will be an imprisonment period that doesn't exceed one year. If your case obtains a felony judgment, the court will have you incarcerated for a maximum period of three years, and you will lose your gun rights.

Weapon Brandishing PC 417

When you commit a crime of brandishing a weapon in California, your charges will be under PC 417. The prosecution must prove that you drew an object to fight or used a gun to fight. It is essential to know that the law also applies to other items that can act as deadly weapons.

Once you are found guilty of this crime, you will have to serve a jail term that does not exceed three years or pay a fine of up to $10000. It is important to note that if the prosecution decides to have your case as a felony, you will receive higher penalties and the right to own or possess a gun in your lifetime.

Find a San Jose Criminal Attorney Near Me

With the regular weapon laws continually changing, you might unintentionally find yourself on the wrong side of the law. The charges can be overwhelming, considering the time you might spend in jail or the hefty fines imposed upon conviction.

At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we will review your case and advise accordingly. We are well equipped to defend you and ensure you receive justice. Our attorneys are experienced in handling criminal cases and will fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced. Call us today at 408-622-0204 for a free consultation.

Penalties for Violating PC 16590

In California, the charge for violating Penal code 16590 is a wobbler; this means that the prosecution can, therefore, charge your case as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the facts available on your case, and also on your criminal record.

If the crime has a misdemeanor charge, you will be convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, not exceeding one year in the county jail. Or you will be required to pay a fine of up to $1000. The court can also punish you with both the imprisonment and the fine.

When your conviction is of a felony, your sentence is much severe, and you could be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three years, or pay a fine not exceeding $10000. The court can also decide that you serve a one year incarceration time in county jail with probation or pay a fine and have imprisonment simultaneously.

Additional Penalties

Loss of the right to possession of firearms

If you face misdemeanor charges, you will not lose your right to possess firearms. But if your are conviction is for a felony charge, you stand to lose your right to have, own, sell or even handle firearms in your lifetime. However, you can petition the court to lower your conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor, which will help restore your right to own, possess, and handle firearms in California.

The court will not restore your right to own a firearm if you have a conviction for using a dangerous weapon. The use of dangerous weapons can lead to bodily harm and even death. Therefore, the court can not reinstate your right to own or possess a firearm once convicted of this felony.


When your sentence is probation, you can request the court to expunge your criminal record after completing your term without violating the probation terms. You should know that expungement will only clear your criminal record but will reinstate your right to own or possess a firearm.


When you are found guilty and convicted, the state can deport you back to your country of origin. Deportation occurs for legal aliens, and illegal immigrants find them guilty of the charges laid against them after the court ruling.