Penal Code 11418 PC - Weapons of Mass Destruction

Penal Code 11418 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to possess, manufacture, or acquire any weapon of mass destruction (“WMD”). A violation of this law is a felony. The crime is punishable by up to 12 years in jail or prison.

The text of 11418 PC states that “any person, without lawful authority, who possesses, develops, manufactures, produces, transfers, acquires, or retains any weapon of mass destruction, shall be [guilty of a crime].”


  • making biological weapons,
  • possessing chemical weapons, or
  • acquiring an aircraft for the purpose of using it as a destructive weapon.


A defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge an allegation under this statute. Some defenses include the accused showing that:

  • he/she did not have or make a “WMD,”
  • he/she had “lawful authority” to the weapon, and/or
  • the defendant was arrested after an unlawful search and seizure.


A violation of this law is a felony. This is opposed to a California misdemeanor or an infraction.

The offense is punishable by:

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

man building bomb as an example of a crime covered by Penal Code 11418 PC.
Building a bomb can be punished under Penal Code 11418 PC.

1. What is California law as to weapons of mass destruction?

Penal Code 11418 makes the following acts a crime when done with a WMD:

  • possession,
  • development,
  • manufacturing,
  • production,
  • transferring,
  • acquisition, or
  • retention.1

The above are illegal acts unless the accused had the lawful authority to perform one.2

Weapons of mass destruction include:

  • chemical warfare agents,
  • weaponized biological or biologic warfare agents,
  • restricted biological agents,
  • nuclear agents,
  • radiological agents, and
  • any aircraft, vessel, or vehicle if used as a destructive weapon.3

2. Are there defenses an accused person can raise?

Defense attorneys use different strategies to defend against charges under PC 11418. These include showing that:

  1. the defendant did not have a WMD.
  2. the accused had lawful authority to the weapon.
  3. the defendant was arrested after an unlawful search and seizure

2.1. No weapon of mass destruction

This code section only applies to weapons of mass destruction. Further, these weapons have a precise technical meaning under California law. This means that it is always a defense for an accused to say that:

  1. he may have performed some act with an object, but
  2. it was not a weapon of mass destruction.

2.2. Lawful authority

This statute states that a person is not guilty if he/she had “lawful authority” to have a WMD. It is a defense, therefore, for a defendant to say he had the legal authority to act with such a weapon. People with lawful authority may include members of:

  • federal government agencies,
  • state government agencies, or
  • certain elected officials.

2.3. Unlawful search and seizure

Authorities cannot conduct a search or take property without a valid search warrant. If no warrant, then they must have a legal excuse for not having one.

Evidence obtained via an unlawful search/seizure can get excluded from a criminal case. This includes evidence of a WMD.

Exclusion means that any charges in the case could get reduced or even dismissed.

man being led to a jail cell
A violation of this law can result in a 12-year prison sentence.

3. What is the prison sentence?

A violation of this statute is a felony. The crime is punishable by custody in jail or prison for up to 12 years.

A judge may award a defendant with felony (or formal) probation in lieu of jail time.

Note that PC 11418b1 also makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. use or employ a weapon of mass destruction, and
  2. do so against another person in a way that causes widespread illness or injury.4

A violation of this law can lead to imprisonment in the state prison for life.

4. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to performing a prohibited act with a WMD. These are:

  1. violating a California law on assault weapons and rifles – PC 30600,
  2. possession of an assault weapon – PC 30605, and
  3. possession of a destructive device – PC 18710

4.1. Laws on assault weapons and rifles – PC 30600

Penal Code 30600 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. make or sell a weapon, and
  2. do so when that weapon is an assault weapon.

A defendant is only guilty under this law if he:

  1. performed an illegal act knowingly, and
  2. knew or should have known that the weapon was an assault weapon or .50 BMG rifle.

4.2. Possession of an assault weapon – PC 30605

Penal Code 30605 PC makes it a crime for a person to possess an assault weapon.

California law defines "possession" as having control of an item. Possession of an item can be either:

  1. actual possession (i.e., physical control over an item), or
  2. constructive possession (i.e., the ability to exercise control over an item without having physical custody of it).

4.3. Possession of a destructive device – PC 18710

Penal Code 18710 PC is the statute that makes it a crime to possess a “destructive device.”

“Destructive devices” include things like:

  • bombs,
  • grenades,
  • explosive missiles,
  • projectiles containing incendiary material, and
  • certain types of rockets or rocket-propelled projectiles.

For additional help...

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 11418a1 PC.

  2. See same.

  3. California Penal Code 11417.

  4. California Penal Code 11418b1.

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