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Imitation Firearms Law

Penal Code 12556 PC - Imitation Firearms Law in California

California is well known for having strict gun laws describing when somebody can possess a firearm.  The state also makes it illegal under Penal Code 12556 PC to display an imitation firearm, an object resembling a real gun.

Imitation Firearms Law in California - Penal Code 12556 PC
It's a crime in California for someone to display an imitation firearm in a public place.

An “imitation firearm” can include a firearm replica, a BB gun, a toy gun, a BB gun, and a pellet gun.

Most violations of this law are infractions, but subsequent violations could result in the prosecutor filing misdemeanor charges.

Put simply; it's illegal to display an imitation firearm in public in California, such as in shopping malls, public parks, sports facilities, streets, sidewalks, etc.

Penal Code 12556(a) states that “no one can openly display or expose any imitation firearm, defined under Section 12550, in public. It's an infraction penalized by a fine of $100 for the first offense and $300 for a second offense. A third or subsequent violation is a misdemeanor crime.”

Our California criminal defense attorneys will review this law further below.

Description of the Imitation Firearms Law

Penal Code 12556 PC says it's against the law "openly display or expose any imitation firearm in a public place." The keywords are imitation firearm, display, and public place.

Some examples of imitation firearms are toy guns, BB guns, firearm replicas, or anything designed in color or appearance. To "display" could include brandishing it or waving at someone. Some examples of public places include cars, parks, stores, schools, etc.

It's not unlawful in California to own an imitation firearm, but only to display one in public that could alarm a person who reasonably believes the gun could be real.

What Are the Penalties for a Conviction?

Displaying an imitation firearm in public is an infraction in California. You would typically be fined, but there is no jail time or probation.

Repeat offenses could upgrade the charge to a misdemeanor offense and carry the following penalties:

  • First offense includes a fine of up to $100,
  • Second offense includes a fine of up to $300,
  • Third or subsequent offenses are a misdemeanor that carries maximum penalties of $1000 in fines and six months in county jail.

What Are the Related Crimes?

Possession of a switchblade – Penal Code 17235:It's a misdemeanor crime to possess in public, carry, sell, or give away a switchblade, which is described as a pocketknife with a blade longer than 2 inches that can be concealed and released by a mechanism or movement.

Possession of a belt buckle knife – Penal Code 20410 PC: it is illegal to make, possess, transport, or distribute a belt buckle knife. If you are convicted, the legal penalties include up to 3 years in prison.

Possession of a switchblade – Penal Code 17235
There are several related crimes for imitation firearms law, such as possessing a switchblade.

Brandishing a weapon – Penal Code 417 PC: It's illegal in California to brandish a firearm or deadly weapon, such as exhibiting one in a threatening manner, except in cases of self-defense. This “wobbler “can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Possessing or distributing a cane gun – Penal Code 24410 PC: All types of cane guns are illegal in this state. They are described as a firearm enclosed in or disguised as a walking cane capable of being discharged within the cane. Making, possessing, transporting, selling, or giving away one of these objects is another "wobbler" crime that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony.

Carrying a weapon into a public building or gathering – Penal Code 171b: It's illegal to enter public places, such as government buildings and courthouses, while carrying firearms or other weapons.  

Criminal threats – Penal Code 422 PC: It's illegal to threaten bodily harm or death to someone in a credible manner. This statute is frequently charged with other gun crimes if used as part of the threat.

Other related offenses are Penal Code 21810 PC brass knuckles, Penal Code 22010 PC nunchucks, and Penal Code 16470 PC carrying a dirk or dagger.

What Are the Defenses?

If you have been charged with the public display of an imitation firearm, our experienced legal team can use a variety of common defenses to obtain the best possible outcome. These are discussed below.

  • The object was not an imitation firearm. Perhaps someone believed you were displaying a firearm, but the object does not meet the legal definition of an imitation firearm.
  • No public display or any intent to display publicly. Perhaps the location was not in a defined public place, or you had a reasonable expectation of privacy and didn't know you were in public view.
  • You qualify for an exemption to the law. Perhaps we can argue a claim immunity if you were in a situation where you were allowed to display the imitation firearm.

Also, perhaps we can argue you were searched and arrested without probable cause.Police officers must have probable cause to detain, search, and arrest somebody.

Defenses for Imitation Firearm Charges
Contact us for an initial case review.

In some cases, they might have violated your constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, and the charges might be dismissed.  

Depending on the circumstances of your case, negotiation might be possible to get the charges dismissed.

If guilt is not in doubt, we might be able to arrange a favorable plea bargain that could include a diversion program to avoid any conviction on your record.

The top-rated criminal defense law firm of Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County. Contact us for an initial case review at (877) 781-1570 or use the contact form.

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