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Mass Destruction

Penal Code 11418 PC - Weapons of Mass Destruction

California has strict laws against possessing, transporting, or using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) defined under Penal Code 11417 PC. They include chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons that can cause death or serious bodily injury to a mass of people.

Penal Code 11418 PC - Weapons of Mass Destruction
PC 11418 prohibits developing, possessing, or transporting weapons of mass destruction.

In other words, PC 11418 PC makes it a crime to possess, develop, produce, transfer, retain, manufacture, or acquire any weapon of mass destruction.

PC 11418 is defined as “any person who unlawfully possesses, develops, manufactures, produces, transfers, acquires, or retains any weapon of mass destruction, shall be punished by imprisonment of 4, 8, or 12 years.”

PC 11418 (b)(1) states the following: “any person who uses against someone a weapon of mass destruction in a form that might cause widespread, disabling illness or injury in human beings shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life.”

Section 11418(c) states the following: “any person who uses a weapon of mass destruction that might cause widespread damage to public natural resources, such as coastal waterways, public parks, surface waters, groundwater, and wildlife, will be punished by imprisonment for three, four, or six years.”

Penal Code 18710 PC possession of a destructive device and Penal Code 30600 assault weapons and rifles law are related offenses.

A violation of WMD law is a felony crime that can lead to 12 years in prison and massive fines if you are convicted. Our California criminal defense lawyers will look at this law further below.

California's WMD Law - Explained

As discussed, weapons of mass destruction in California are defined under Penal Code 11418 PC, which falls into two categories: possession and use.

Possession is a broad term that describes many activities involving WMD considered criminal behavior. PC 11418(a) says any person that "possesses, develops, manufactures, produces, transfers, acquires, or retains" a weapon of mass destruction is committing a crime.

Using means to deploy a WMD for any reason. The statute lays out specific examples and punishments for using WMD:

  • If you cause widespread illness or death among people;
  • If you damage the food and water supply;
  • If you damage crops, seeds, or livestock;
  • If you damage natural resources.

The types of weapons that are considered weapons of mass destruction are listed under California's Penal Code 11417 PC:

  • Chemical agents that are used as weapons;
  • Biological weapons and restricted agents;
  • Radiological and nuclear agents;
  • Any vehicle, vessel, or aircraft used as a weapon.

An example includes someone getting involved in transporting unauthorized biological agents on the black market. In this case, they are guilty of WMD charges because he is trafficking illegal substances that might be used for a WMD.

What Are the Legal Penalties for WMD?

The penalties for California WMD crimes are harsh and will vary depending on the type of weapon and severity of the crime. Possession or use of a WMD is a felony offense that can result in severe penalties, such as:

  • Possession of WMD, such as acquiring, transferring, or retaining, could result in 12 years in state prison and a fine of up to $250,000;
  • Use of a WMD against crops, food supply, or resources could result in up to 12 in prison and a fine of up to $100,000;
  • Use of a WMD causing widespread injuries and illness is punishable by life in prison. If there are fatalities, you could receive life in prison without parole.

A judge can waive the prison sentence and impose felony probation as an alternative.

What Are the Legal Defenses?

Several potential legal defenses against WMD charges in California are reviewed below. Perhaps we can argue that you didn't know the weapon was a WMD. Maybe you were handed a package without knowing the contents, which turned out to be a biological agent.

Perhaps we could make an argument that the weapon was not a WMD. A prosecutor must prove that the weapon qualifies as a WMD under California law. If they can't, they should not be convicted of this crime but could face charges under other statutes.

Defenses for Weapons of Mass Destruction
Contact our defense lawyers for a case review.

Perhaps we can argue there was an unlawful search and seizure. For law enforcement to search your property, they will need a warrant or sufficient probable cause. If they violated your constitutional rights, any evidence they seized can't be used against you, and the prosecutor could be forced to drop the case.

In other words, police can't search or take property without a valid search warrant signed by a judge. They must have a valid legal reason if they don't have a warrant. Perhaps we could persuade the court to exclude the evidence.

If you or a family member is accused of violating any weapons of mass destruction statute, you should not make any statements to the police. Instead, contact our criminal defense law firm to discuss the case and legal options.

Perhaps it's possible to negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or even get the case dismissed through prefiling negotiations (DA reject).

Eisner Gorin LLP has two office locations in Los Angeles County, California. You can reach us for an initial case evaluation by phone or completing the contact form.

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