Just as it is against the law in California for a convicted felon to own or possess a firearm, it is also illegal for a convicted felon to possess any ammunition. This crime is embodied in California Penal Code 30305(a)(1) PC.
In other words, this law makes it a crime to own, possess, or have custody of any ammunition if you are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, including handguns, revolvers, and assault weapons.
PC 30305(a)(1) says, “No person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under Section 29800, Section 29900, or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, shall own, possess, or have under custody or control, any ammunition or reloaded ammunition. Any violation is punishable by imprisonment up to one year in a county jail and a fine up to $1,000, or both.”
The ammunition could be a bullet, magazine, clip, cartridge, speed loader, autoloader, reloaded ammunition, or any projectile capable of being fired from a firearm.
People typically prohibited from buying or possessing a gun and ammunition in California include convicted felons, drug and narcotic addicts, those with a mental illness, those convicted of certain domestic violence crimes, and those with at least two convictions brandishing a weapon.
The penalties for violating this law may be severe, depending on the circumstances of the case, and can include up to 3 years in prison. Let's review this law in more detail below.
Overview of PC 30305(a)(1)
In simplest terms, under PC 30305(a)(1), if you are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in California, you are likely also prohibited from possessing ammunition. Specifically, this includes any of the following situations:
- If you have been convicted of any felony (whether in California, in any other state, or under federal law);
- If you are addicted to narcotics;
- If you have two or more convictions for brandishing a firearm defined under Penal Code 417 PC or related violent firearms offenses;
- If you have been convicted of any misdemeanor related to domestic violence, such as Penal Code 273.5 corporal injury to a spouse;
- If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness; or
- If you are under the age of 18.
Under the law, "ammunition" refers to any bullet, cartridge, clip, magazine, autoloader, speed loader, or another projectile that may be fired from a firearm capable of causing injury or death. In other words, all ammunition, regardless of what type of firearm or gun it is used for.
"Possessing" ammunition refers to having the ammunition either on your person or under your control, meaning you have it stored and have access to it. In other words, you don't have to have the ammunition with you to be guilty of the crime; you need to have control of its whereabouts.
To convict someone under this law, a prosecutor must be able to prove all the elements of the crime listed under California Criminal Jury Instructions 2591 beyond any reasonable doubt, including:
- Defendant owned, possessed, or had ammunition in their custody;
- Defendant knew they had possession of the ammunition, and
- Defendant was prohibited from owning or possessing the ammunition due to a prior criminal conviction or a mental illness.
What Are the Related Offenses?
Several offenses can be charged in conjunction with the "felon in possession of ammunition" law, depending on the circumstances. These offenses include:
- Felon in possession of a firearm (Penal Code 29800 PC): Possessing a firearm if you've been convicted of a felony or other qualifying offense or if you are addicted to narcotics.
- Carrying a loaded firearm (Penal Code 25850(a) PC) Carrying a loaded weapon in a public place or on a public street.
- Carrying a concealed weapon (Penal Code 25400 PC): Carrying a concealed firearm (loaded or unloaded) without having a CCW permit.
- Bullets containing an explosive agent is defined under Penal Code 30210 PC.
- Possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault is defined under Penal Code 17500 PC.
Possession of armor-piercing bullets is defined under Penal Code 30315 PC.
What are the Potential Penalties?
Being in illegal possession of ammunition under PC 30305(a)(1)is a "wobbler" offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and your criminal history.
- If you're charged with a misdemeanor and convicted, you face up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000;
- If charged and convicted of a felony, you face 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison, plus a possible fine of up to $10,000.
What Are the Common Defenses?
A skilled defense attorney may be able to raise one of several possible defenses if you have been accused of violating PC 30305(a)(1). Some of these defenses are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you were not disqualified from possessing ammunition under the law. For example, maybe you were mistakenly identified as a narcotics addict, or you had just turned 18 when the ammunition was in your possession.
Perhaps we can argue that you had no knowledge of the ammunition. Prosecutors must show intent to convict you of possessing ammunition illegally. If, for example, you can demonstrate that someone planted the ammunition on you or in your possessions without your knowledge, you may be able to avoid conviction.
Perhaps we can argue that you can claim "justifiable possession" of the ammunition. You can claim this defense if you can demonstrate that you either found the ammunition or took it from someone committing a crime against you; and that you only possessed it long enough to deliver it to law enforcement for disposal.
Perhaps we can argue that there was an Illegal search and seizure. If the police violated search and seizure rules when they searched you or your possessions and found the ammunition, any evidence they obtained as a result of that search may be inadmissible in court. Law enforcement must have a valid warrant to search and seize property. This may lead to the dismissal of the charges entirely.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduced charge or get the case entirely dismissed. Through prefiling intervention, it might be possible to persuade the prosecuting agency from filing formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.” We need first to review the case details.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense law firm. You can contact us for an initial case evaluation by phone or fill out the contact form.