Penal Code 30315 PC - Possession of Armor-Piercing Bullets
In keeping with the strict set of gun laws in California, it is a crime in the state to knowingly be in possession of armor-piercing bullets for a handgun, regardless of your intent and even irrespective of whether you have a handgun to match them.
This crime is embodied in California Penal Code 30315 PC. If you're convicted, depending on whether it's a misdemeanor or felony offense, you could face up to 3 years in jail.
Simply put, this law makes it a crime for a person or company to possess armor-piercing bullets and ammunition.
PC 30315 says, “Any person, firm, or corporation who, within this state, knowingly possesses any handgun ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor is guilty of a public offense and, upon conviction, thereof shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in the county jail for a term not to exceed one year, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Armor-piercing ammunition is primarily designed to penetrate a bulletproof vest or body shield and is often called steel core or steel jacketed ammunition.
This charge only regulates ammunition used in handguns. Notably, you must know that you possess these bullets to be convicted under this statute.
This law is designed to protect police from extremely dangerous bullets designed to be able to hit and kill them in the line of duty. Let's review this law in more detail below.
PC 30315 Explained
Under PC 30315, it is a crime to knowingly possess "any handgun ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor."
Armor-piercing ammunition (also known as "steel core" or "steel jacketed" ammunition) is designed to break through protective gear such as body armor and, for this reason, is highly regulated in California.
It doesn't matter if you had no intention of using the bullets—merely possessing them is enough to be convicted of a crime. Other things to know about this law:
- PC 30315 only applies to armor-piercing ammo for handguns, such as revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. Armor-piercing bullets for long guns, such as rifles, are not currently illegal in California.
- Companies can be charged with possessing armor-piercing ammo, not just individuals. PC 30315 makes it a crime for "any person, firm, or corporation" to possess armor-piercing bullets.
- "Possession" of ammo refers to having the ammunition either on your person or under your immediate control (i.e., having direct access). For example, having the ammunition stored under lock and key in your home counts as possession if you have access to the key.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Don passes through California from Nevada to Oregon. He has a case of armor-piercing handgun bullets in the backseat, delivering them to a friend. He does not own a handgun capable of using bullets.
Don is pulled over on suspicion of DUI, and the police discover the ammo in the backseat while looking for evidence of alcohol in the car. Even though he had no intention of using the bullets, Don can be charged under PC 30315 because he had ammunition banned by the state.
EXAMPLE 2: Terri owns a licensed gun shop in California, but she keeps an unadvertised stash of armor-piercing bullets in the back room for "friends" who specifically come in and ask for the "special ammo." Terri and her gun shop can be charged under PC 30315.
EXAMPLE 3: Jerry and Bill are out hunting deer in California. Bill has a long rifle that uses steel-jacketed bullets. Neither Jerry nor Bill can be charged with violating PC 30315 because the law only applies to armor-piercing ammunition for handguns.
EXAMPLE 4: Tim asks his friend Greg to store his handgun and a pack of ammunition because Tim's kids are visiting over the weekend, and he wants the gun and ammo out of the house.
Greg is unaware that the ammunition is steel-jacketed. Tim could be charged under PC 30315 for owning the bullets, but Greg should not be convicted because he was unaware the bullets were armor-piercing.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California statutes are related to Penal Code 30315 PC possession of armor-piercing bullets, including the following:
- Penal Code 30210 PC - bullets with an explosive agent;
- Penal Code 30600 PC – assault weapons;
- Penal Code 30610 PC – possession of a .50 BMG rifle;
- Penal Code 29800 PC - felon with a firearm;
- Penal Code 30305(a)(1) – felon with ammunition;
- Penal Code 245 PC – assault with a deadly weapon;
- Penal Code 417 PC – brandishing a weapon;
- Penal Code 25400 PC – carry a concealed firearm;
- Penal Code 25850 PC – carry a loaded firearm.
What Are the Penalties for PC 30315?
Possession of armor-piercing bullets in California is considered a "wobbler," which means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. The possible penalties if you're convicted are as follows:
- If you're convicted of a misdemeanor: up to $5000 in fines and up to one year in county jail;
- If you're convicted of a felony: up to $5000 in fines and up to three years in county jail, not a state prison.
While a felony conviction under PC 30315 does not cause you to serve time in state prison, it strips you of your rights to buy, own, or possess a firearm in California.
What Are the Defenses for PC 30315?
If a person is charged with possessing armor-piercing bullets under Penal Code Section 30315, their California criminal defense attorney may use several common strategies to fight the charges. Some of these are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue there was a lack of knowledge. By law, you must knowingly have armor-piercing ammo to be convicted under PC 30315. Your attorney may argue that you did not know that the bullets you possessed were armor-piercing, so you are not guilty of the crime.
Perhaps we can argue that the bullets were not armor-piercing. If your defense attorney can show that the bullets you possessed were not armor-piercing, you cannot be convicted under PC 30315.
Perhaps we can argue that the armor-piercing bullets were not for a handgun. PC 30315 only applies to handgun ammo. For example, if you possessed armor-piercing bullets for a rifle, you are not guilty of a crime.
Perhaps we can argue there was an Illegal search and seizure: Your attorney may argue that the police conducted an illegal search and seizure. Therefore, the evidence obtained should be excluded from the trial.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges. For example, suppose your attorney deems a conviction seems likely. In that case, they may arrange to have charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor to procure less jail time and ensure you don't lose your firearm rights.
You can contact our law firm for an initial case review by phone or through the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, CA.