Penal Code 30610 PC - Possession of a .50 BMG Rifle

Penal Code 30610 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to possess any .50 BMG rifle (or, fifty-caliber Browning Machine Gun).

In particular, the statute states:

“Any person who, within this state, possesses any .50 BMG rifle, except as provided in this chapter, shall be punished by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Note that PC 30610 is just one of California's laws on Browning Machine Guns. Another is Penal Code 30600, which applies to both assault weapons and fifty-caliber rifles.

Examples of illegal acts under PC 30610 are:

  • Brad carries a fifty-caliber rifle in his backpack while on a hunting trip.
  • Ashanti stores her boyfriend's collection of .50 BMG rifles in her home's basement.
  • Diego keeps a Browning Machine Gun in his boat when using it.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise if accused under Penal Code 30610. These include showing that the defendant:

  • is exempted from prosecution,
  • did not “possess” a .50 BMG rifle, and/or
  • was arrested after a coerced confession.

Penalties

A violation of Penal Code 30610 is charged as a misdemeanor in California (as opposed to a felony or an infraction). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

Also note that in limited circumstances, a PC 30610 violation can be charged as an infraction with a penalty of a $500 fine.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

50 bmg ammunition next to much smaller ammo
50 BMG ammunition to the left, to show size comparison

1. What is the legal definition of possessing a .50 BMG rifle under Penal Code 30610?

Penal Code 30610 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to possess any fifty-caliber Browning Machine Gun.1

California law defines "possession" as having control of an item. There are two types of possession under California criminal law. These are:

  1. actual possession, and
  2. constructive possession.2

"Actual possession" means that a person has direct, physical control over a weapon (e.g., he has it on his body or in a bag he's carrying).

"Constructive possession" means that a person has access to the weapon or the right to control it (e.g., it is in his car or home).

Note that “BMG” stands for Browning Machine Gun. These guns are powerful enough to be used against lightly armored vehicles, including boats and low-flying airplanes. Under California law, these guns are considered a type of assault weapon.

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 30610 violations?

A person can try to challenge a PC 30610 accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense may work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to Penal Code 30610 charges include:

  1. exempt from prosecution
  2. no possession, and/or
  3. coerced confession.

2.1. Exempt from prosecution

Please note that some persons are free from being prosecuted under PC 30610, meaning they cannot be charged with possession of a fifty-caliber rifle. Some of these people include:

  • a person holding a valid permit to possess an assault weapon specifically (as opposed to a concealed firearms permit, which does not cover assault weapons), and
  • the executor or administrator of an estate that lawfully holds such firearms.

It is a valid defense, therefore, for an accused to show that he falls into such a category and is thereby free from being charged.

2.2. No possession

Please recall that a person must actually “possess” a .50 BMG rifle in order to be charged with a crime, meaning he must have control over it. This means an accused can raise a legal defense by showing that he had no control over the weapon (e.g., it was in a neighbor's home to which he had no access to).

2.3. Coerced confession

California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.

If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:

  1. The judge may exclude the confession from evidence; or,
  2. The case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.
man behind bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 30610 is charged as a misdemeanor in California. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.3

Please note that in lieu to jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

Also note that in limited circumstances, a PC 30610 violation can be charged as an infraction with a penalty of a $500 fine.4

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to possession of a .50 BMG rifle. These are:

  1. sale of an assault weapon – PC 30600,
  2. possession of an assault weapon – PC 30605, and
  3. possession of a “generally prohibited weapon” – PC 16590.

4.1. Sale of an assault weapon – PC 30600

Penal Code 30600 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to sell an assault weapon.

PC 30600 prohibits:

  • manufacturing,
  • selling,
  • giving away,
  • lending, and/or
  • possessing

assault weapons and BMG rifles, except in very specific circumstances.5

Charges under Penal Code 30600 vary from serious felonies charges to minor infractions, depending on the facts of a case. Further, the penalties for these offenses can include:

  • imprisonment for several years, and
  • substantial fines.

4.2. Possession of an assault weapon – PC 30605

Penal Code 30605 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to possess an assault weapon.6

A violation of Penal Code 30605 is a wobbler offense in California. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.7

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to:

  • 16 months,
  • two years, or
  • three years.8

4.3. Possession of a “generally prohibited weapon” – PC 16590

Penal Code 16590 is the California law that prohibits manufacturing, selling, and/or possessing certain “generally prohibited weapons.”9

These prohibited weapons include such items like:

  • nunchakus (commonly referred to as "nunchucks"),
  • brass knuckles,
  • short-barreled shotguns, and
  • ballistic knives.10

A violation of a PC 16590 is a wobbler offense, meaning a prosecutor may choose to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum $1,000 fine.11

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • up to three years in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.12

Were you accused of possessing a .50 BMG rifle in California? Call us for help…

california gun rights attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Penal Code 30610, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 30610 PC. This code section states: “Any person who, within this state, possesses any .50 BMG rifle, except as provided in this chapter, shall be punished by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

  2. CALCRIM 2560.

  3. California Penal Code 30610a PC.

  4. California Penal Code 30610b PC.

  5. California Penal Code 30600 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 30605 PC.

  7. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  8. California Penal Code 1170h PC.

  9. California Penal Code 16590 PC.

  10. See same.

  11. See same.

  12. California Penal Code 1170h1 PC.

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