Penal Code § 30305(a)(1) PC makes it a crime to own or have possession of any ammunition if you are otherwise prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. Doing so can result in a felony charge punishable by up to three years in jail or prison.
The offense is often referred to as
- felon in possession of ammunition or
- unlawful possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.
The language of PC 30305(a)(1) states:
“No person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm…shall own, possess, or have under custody or control, any ammunition or reloaded ammunition.”
The following groups of people are generally prohibited from buying or possessing a gun (and thus ammunition, also) in California:
- convicted felons,
- narcotic addicts,
- persons with two or more convictions under Penal Code Section 417 PC (brandishing a weapon),
- persons convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses (such as corporal injury to a spouse, per California Penal Code 273.5 PC and crimes involving domestic violence),
- persons who suffer from mental illness, and
- people under 18 (this group of people, however, can own a BB gun if they have parental consent).
Examples of Unlawful Possession of Ammunition
- having ammunition in your home after losing gun rights because of a domestic violence offense
- owning several magazines while prohibited from owning a gun because of a restraining order
- keeping a box of bullets in a storage container after losing your gun rights for a violation of Penal Code 273.5 PC
Criminal defense lawyers draw on several legal strategies to help you challenge possession of ammunition charges. Some of these include the attorney showing that:
- you were justified in the possession,
- you did not know of the ammunition, and/or
- law enforcement conducted an unlawful search and seizure.
A violation of California Penal Code Section 30305(a)(1) is a wobbler. A district attorney can charge a wobbler as either
- a misdemeanor offense or
- a felony offense.
Misdemeanor possession of ammunition is punishable by up to one year in county jail.
Felony possession of ammunition is punishable by up to three years in state prison.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will answer the following questions in this article:
- 1. How does California law define “prohibited person in possession of ammunition”?
- 2. What are the best defenses to this charge?
- 3. What are the penalties for violating PC 30305(a)(1)?
- 4. Can I get a conviction expunged?
- 5. What are some related crimes?
- 6. What about federal law?
1. How does California law define “prohibited person in possession of ammunition”?
A prosecutor has to prove three things in order to successfully convict you under this statute.
- you owned, possessed, or had in your custody any ammunition,
- you knew that you owned, possessed, or had custody of the ammunition,1 and
- you were prohibited from owning or possessing the ammunition based on a prior conviction (criminal conviction) or a mental illness.2
“Ammunition” means a
- speed loader,
- autoloader, or
- projectile capable of being fired from a firearm with a deadly consequence.
Ammunition includes reloaded ammunition.3
Further, for purposes of this statute, it does not matter what type of gun the ammunition is used for. The statute applies to all ammunition. For example, it is not limited to ammunition used for:
- assault weapons, or
- any type of concealed firearm.
Note that you do not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it. It is enough if you have control over it or the right to control it, either personally or through another person.
Some examples of people who suffer from a lifetime ban on owning or buying a firearm include:
- convicted felons, and
- narcotic addicts.4
2. What are the best defenses to this charge?
You have the right to raise a legal defense to challenge a possession of ammunition charge. A few common defenses include showing that:
- you were justified in possessing ammunition.
- you did not know of the ammunition.
- a police department conducted an unlawful search and seizure.
2.1 Justified possession
You can challenge a charge under this statute if you can show that you were justified in possessing the ammunition.
In order to establish this defense, you must prove that:
- you found the ammunition or took it from a person who was committing a crime against you, and
- you possessed the ammunition no longer than was necessary to deliver or transport it to a law enforcement agency for that agency to dispose of the ammunition.5
2.2 No knowledge
Recall that you are only guilty under this statute if you knew that you
- possessed, or
- had custody of ammunition.
This means that it is always a defense to show that you did not have this knowledge. Perhaps, for example, someone planted the ammunition in your backpack.
2.3 Unlawful search and seizure
Peace officers must have a valid search warrant to conduct a search and seize property. If they do not have a warrant, then they must have a legal reason for it. If no warrant or no legal reason for not having one, then the search and seizure is unlawful.
Given this, if you were arrested under this statute after a search and seizure, you can argue that the search and seizure was against the law. If successful, a judge can throw out any evidence gained from the illegal search. This could lead to a charge getting
- reduced or
- entirely dismissed.6
3. What are the penalties for violating PC 30305(a)(1)?
A violation of this law is a wobbler. A prosecutor can charge a wobbler as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- A misdemeanor conviction can result in a jail term of up to one year.7
- A felony conviction can result in a prison term of up to three years.8
In addition to a jail or prison term, a judge can fine you in an amount of up to $1,000.9
4. Can I get a conviction expunged?
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor under PC 30305(a)(1), you can get the conviction expunged. This is provided you successfully complete your:
- jail sentence, or
- probation period (if probation was imposed).
Though if you are convicted of a felony under this law, you cannot get it expunged.
This is because California law does not allow expungements for crimes that result in you serving prison time.
5. What are some related crimes?
There are three crimes related to the possession of ammunition by a prohibited person. These are:
- possession of armor-piercing bullets – PC 30315,
- possession of bullets containing an explosive agent – PC 30210, and
- felon in possession of a firearm – PC 29800.
5.1 Possession of armor-piercing bullets – PC 30315
Penal Code 30315 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to possess armor-piercing bullets and ammunition.
If you were prohibited from owning a gun and still possessed these bullets, then a D.A. could charge you under both:
- Penal Code 30315, and
- Penal Code 30305(a)(1).
5.2 Possession of bullets containing an explosive agent – PC 30210
Penal Code 30210 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, or possess certain ammunition or bullets that contain a dart or an explosive agent.
As with PC 30305(a)(1), a violation under this statute is a wobbler offense.
5.3 Felon in possession of a firearm – PC 29800
Penal Code 29800 PC prohibits convicted felons (or persons with outstanding felony warrants) from owning, purchasing, or possessing firearms in California.
If you are convicted under this statute, then you will violate PC 30305(a)(1) if you ever come into possession of any ammunition.
6. What about federal law?
If you are a convicted felon, it is a federal crime for you to ship, transport, or receive ammunition across state lines or from another country. It carries up to:
- 10 years in Federal Prison, and/or
- a fine.
Though the maximum prison term becomes 15 years if you have three or more prior convictions of felony drug trafficking and/or a felony crime of violence.10
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys offer a free consultation and they represent people throughout all of California, including those in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, San Bernardino, and Pomona.
- People v. Rubalcava (2000) 23 Cal.4th 322.
- CALCRIM No. 2591 – Possession of Ammunition by Person Prohibited from Possessing Firearm Due to Conviction or Mental Illness. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2020 edition).
- See same. See also California Penal Code 16150.
- California Penal Code 29800(a)(1) PC. As to narcotics, note that while methamphetamine is a highly addictive controlled substance, it is typically not classified as a narcotic.
- CALCRIM No. 2591.
- For examples of cases involving questionable searches and seizures, see People v. Sims (2021), Supreme Court No. SCD281406), and People v. Wolfgang (2015), 240 Cal.App.4th 1268.
- California Penal Code 30305(a)(2) PC.
- See same. See also California Penal Code 1107(h) PC.
- California Penal Code 30305(a)(2) PC.
- 18 USC 922. 18 USC 924.