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). This offense is a felony 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].”
Penal Code 11417 PC provides the definition: (1) “Weapon of mass destruction” includes chemical warfare agents, weaponized biological or biologic warfare agents, restricted biological agents, nuclear agents, radiological agents, or the intentional release of industrial agents as a weapon, or an aircraft, vessel, or vehicle, as described in Section 34500 of the Vehicle Code , which is used as a destructive weapon.
- 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.
The offense is punishable by:
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What is California’s law as to weapons of mass destruction?
- 2. Are there defenses to a 11418 PC charge?
- 3. What is the prison sentence?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. What is California’s law as to weapons of mass destruction?
Penal Code 11418 makes the following acts a crime when done with a WMD:
- acquisition, or
The above are illegal acts unless the accused had the lawful authority to perform one.2
What qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction?
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 to a 11418 PC charge?
Defense attorneys use different strategies to defend against charges under PC 11418. These include showing that:
- the defendant did not have a WMD.
- the accused had lawful authority to have the weapon.
- 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:
- he may have performed some act with an object, but
- 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.
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:
- use or employ a weapon of mass destruction, and
- 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:
- violating a California law on assault weapons and rifles – PC 30600,
- possession of an assault weapon – PC 30605, and
- possession of a destructive device – PC 18710
On June 4, 2021, a federal judge overturned California’s ban on assault weapons on the grounds that it violates the constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. But assault weapons remain illegal in California while the state appeals the ruling.
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:
- make or sell a weapon, and
- do so when that weapon is an assault weapon.
A defendant is only guilty under this law if he:
- performed an illegal act knowingly, and
- 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:
- actual possession (for example, physical control over an item), or
- constructive possession (for example, 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:
- explosive missiles,
- projectiles containing incendiary material, and
- certain types of rockets or rocket-propelled projectiles.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
- California Penal Code 11418a1 PC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 11417.
- California Penal Code 11418b1.