California Penal Code section 171B was enacted, like many criminal statutes, with public safety in mind. This statute applies to the possession of weapons in state or local public buildings and some meetings required to be open to the public. It is not unusual for public buildings, especially courthouses, to restrict weapons that may not necessarily be prohibited under this law.
Many California State agencies, especially those that offer any type of diversion services, such as county health departments, may have a zero-tolerance standard concerning the possession of a weapon by anyone, including clients, on their premises. Clients in these circumstances may be subject to termination of services should they violate the zero-tolerance policy.
Any person who brings or possesses any of the following is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in state prison:
- Any firearm.
- Any deadly weapon as described or listed by applicable California law.
- Any knife with a blade length in excess of four inches, the blade of which is fixed or is capable of being fixed in an unguarded position by the use of one or two hands.
- Any unauthorized tear gas weapon.
- Any taser or stun gun, as defined by applicable California law.
- Any instrument that expels a metallic projectile, such as a BB or pellet, through the force of air pressure, CO2 pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun or paint gun.
Many California citizens and clients complain that law enforcement officers lack knowledge of what weapons are specifically covered by the law. Weapons thought to be legal are often confiscated, which often causes some hostility that may result in exacerbating circumstances that cause other criminal charges to be filed against the person whose weapon was confiscated.
A “state or local public building” under Cal. PC § 171b means a building that meets all of the following criteria:
- It is a building or part of a building owned or leased by the state or local government where state or local public employees are regularly present for the purposes of performing their official duties. This includes state or local public buildings that contain a courtroom.
- It is not a building or facility, or a part thereof, that is referred to specifically in other California statutory code sections that typically refer to specific buildings or building types, such as the State Capitol.
- It is a building not regularly used, and not intended to be used, by state or local employees as a residence.
Of course, there are exceptions to the law for those individuals that transport weapons into court to be used as evidence, police officers, persons validly licensed to carry firearms, and persons with permission to possess the weapon and in charge of securing the public building. However, anyone authorized to carry a concealed firearm may not carry a firearm into court if a party to the action.
This statute prohibits only the weapons that it specifically lists. Thus, it is a defense that the object brought into the building or possessed was not an unlawful weapon within the statute’s language. Often, disputes arise over the length of the blade on a knife and whether it is a four-inch blade that meets the requirement of the statute. If you’ve had a weapon illegally confiscated and been charged with other criminal charges as a result, you may have a valid defense.
Criminal law specialist John Patrick Dolan protects the rights of those charged with assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse. Mr. Dolan has over forty years of experience working to help his clients obtain the best resolution possible when freedom and reputation are at stake. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here. We guarantee our efforts to fight for the best possible outcome in your domestic violence case.