California Penal Code Section 30605 defines the crime of possession of an assault weapon. A violation of PC 30605 is a serious offense under California law which potentially subjects the defendant to felony penalties.
While the term “assault weapon,” has taken on different meanings in political and pop culture arenas, it has a specific definition under the Penal Code which may be counterintuitive to some gun owners who assumed that their firearms were lawful.
Penal Code Section 30605 is a possessory crime. Therefore, the defendant does not need to own the firearm in question to be guilty of possession of an assault weapon. Anyone who has an assault weapon under their dominion and control is guilty under PC 30605.
In general, dominion and control requires a showing by the government that the defendant had the firearm in a place which was under the defendant's control and where the defendant had ready access to the firearm.
It should be noted that the weapons charge of PC 30605 is just one of California's laws on assault weapons. Penal Code 30600 defines the sale or manufacture of assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles. PC 30605 is another California “wobbler” crimes that can be charged as either a misdemeanor of felony offense.
To give readers a better understanding of the laws on possession of an assault weapon, our California criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.
Defining PC 30605 Possessing an Assault Weapon
California Penal Code 30605 defines possession of an assault weapon:
“Anyone within this state, possesses an assault weapon, except as provided in this chapter, will be punished by imprisonment for up to one year in a county jail, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”
Under Penal Code Section 30515, an assault weapon for purposes of California law is any one of a number of individually enumerated firearms from certain manufacturers, or a firearm which has certain characteristics. The list of offending characteristics is extensive and this article is not intended to be exhaustive.
Some of the more common firearms which are regarded as assault weapons for purposes of the Penal Code are semiautomatic centerfire rifles with fixed magazines which can accept more than 10 rounds, semiautomatic centerfire rifles which are less than 30 inches long, and semiautomatic centerfire rifles without fixed magazines which have one of a number of extra features or modifications, whether purchased in that state from a firearms dealer or modified using aftermarket parts.
These additional modifications include a pistol grip, a thumbhole stock, a folding or telescoping stock, a grenade launcher, a flash suppressor, a forward pistol grip, and others.
In our practice, it is not infrequent that an individual who is charged with possession of an assault weapon in violation of Penal Code Section 30605 did not realize that an aftermarket modification rendered their rifle an assault weapon under California law.
These items are often widely available in online stores and are available for shipping into California, leaving it to gun owners to understand the extremely restrictive and confusing standards for legality of particular modifications.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
In order to be convicted of Penal Code 30605 possession of an assault weapon, the prosecutor must be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, all the elements of the crime:
- You possessed, manufactured, distributed, transported, imported, offered or exposed for sale, gave, or loaned an assault weapon or a .50 BMG rifle
- You knew that you performed one of these acts
- You knew, or should have reasonably known, that the weapon had characteristics of an assault weapon or .50 BMG rifle
For more information, see CALCRIM 2560 criminal jury instructions, possession of assault weapon or .50 BMG rifle.
Penalties for Possession of Assault Weapon
A violation of Penal Code Section 30605 is a “wobbler,” under California law, meaning it can be alleged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. It also means that even if the defendant is convicted of a felony, the conviction can potentially be reduced to a misdemeanor in the future.
If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor-level violation of possession of an assault weapon, the penalties include:
- Maximum punishment is one year in the county jail
- A fine up to $1,000, or both the fine and imprisonment
If a felony-level charge under Section 30605 is alleged, the penalties include:
- Punishment is 16 months, two years, or three years in California state prison
- A fine up to $10,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.
However, it should be noted there are infraction charges available under California Penal Code 30605. For example, if it was your first conviction under statute, you had no more than two weapons, and other criteria.
Related California Offenses for Penal Code 30605 include Penal Code 30600, manufacturing an assault weapon. Also, Penal Code 30610, possession of a .50 BMG rifle.
Fighting PC 30605 Possessing Assault Weapon Charges
Defenses to possession of an assault weapon include unknowing possession or transitory possession. There are cases in which the defendant may have the assault weapon in a place which they own or otherwise control but it was placed there by another individual without the defendant's knowledge.
In a related case, the defendant might find that someone has put the assault weapon into their possession and the defendant holds on to the firearm just long enough to turn it into law enforcement. In both of these cases, the defendant should not be prosecuted under Penal Code Section 30605.
If you or a family member has been arrested for, is charged with, or is under investigation for PC 30605 possession of an assault weapon, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation.
We have experience with possession of assault weapon cases in both the prefiling and court stages. Through a prefiling intervention, it may be possible to persuade the prosecuting agency to drop or reduce charges before the first court date.
Possession of an assault weapon in violation of California Penal Code Section 30605 is a serious, potentially felony, offense which has the additional consequence of possibly resulting in permanent loss of the right to own a firearm even for a first offense. Representation by competent defense counsel is essential to maximize the chances of a successful outcome in your or your loved one's case.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067 and 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us to review your case at (310) 328-3776.