Penal Code 17500
(Possession of a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Assault)

California Penal Code 17500 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to possess a “deadly weapon” with the intent to assault some another person.

Examples of illegal acts under PC 17500 include:

  • After a heated argument, Jill grabs a baseball bat and states that she wants to hit her boyfriend.
  • Following some pushing at a bar, Tom takes a beer bottle and throws it at Aaron.
  • After realizing his neighbor scratched his new car, Jean grabs a knife from inside his home and vows for pay-back.

Whether or not an object is a “deadly weapon” is based upon the facts of a given case. Some examples may include:

  • Firearms;
  • Knives;
  • Bottles; and/or,
  • Stones.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 17500. These include showing that an accused party did not:

  • know he had a deadly weapon;
  • intend to assault another person; and/or,
  • actually possess a deadly weapon.

Penalties

A violation of California Penal Code 17500 is charged as a California misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000.

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

man loading gun with mask covering his face
California Penal Code 17500 PC makes it a crime for a person to possess a “deadly weapon” when they intend to assault some another person.

1. The Legal Definition of Possession of a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Assault

California Penal Code 17500 states:

Every person having upon the person any deadly weapon, with intent to assault another, is guilty of a misdemeanor.1

A prosecutor has to prove three elements to show that an accused is guilty of a crime under PC 17500. These are:

  1. The accused carried a deadly weapon, or had one on his person (e.g., in a pocket or bag);
  2. The accused knew he had a deadly weapon; and,
  3. The accused had the intentions of assaulting another person with the deadly weapon.2

Under California law, an assault is the attempt to commit a violent injury on someone else.3

With regards to “deadly weapons,” the law does not provide a concrete definition as to what these may include. California courts, rather, have stated that the determination as to whether an object is a deadly weapon is based upon the facts of a case.

Obvious deadly weapons include:

  • Guns;
  • Knives; and,
  • Brass knuckles

Possible deadly weapons, depending on the facts of a case, may include:

  • Baseball bats;
  • Bottles – either intact or broken; and,
  • Large rocks or stones,

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under Penal Code 17500 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney for the best defense.

Three common defenses to PC 17500 accusations are:

  1. No knowledge;
  2. No intent to assault; and/or,
  3. No deadly weapon.

2.1. No Knowledge

Please recall that there can be no conviction under Penal Code 17500 unless the accused knew he had a deadly weapon. Thus, it is an acceptable defense for an accused to prove that he did not have this requisite knowledge. For example, it may be the case that someone hid a certain object in the defendant's coat or his bag.

2.2. No Intent to Assault

A person can only be charged with possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault if the person truly intended to assault another. Therefore, it is a valid defense for a defendant to show that he did not have this specific intent. For example, an accused might have held a knife in his hand, but he is not guilty under PC 17500 if he was merely showing it to another person.

2.3. No Deadly Weapon

Please recall that whether or not an object is a deadly weapon is based upon the facts of a given case. This means a defendant can look towards the facts of his case and argue that the object he had could not have killed. Consider, for example, a water balloon. Even if a suspect wanted to throw it at a person to hurt him, there is little chance that it would kill the person.

man behind bars california possession of deadly weapon with intent to assault
This crime is punishable by jail time and/or a fine.

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Penal Code 17500 is charged as a misdemeanor.4 The crime is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000.5

Please note that, in lieu of a jail term, a judge may impose misdemeanor probation. This is sometimes referred to as “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to possessing a deadly weapon with the intent to assault. These are:

  1. Carrying a concealed weapon – PC 25400;
  2. Criminal Threats – PC 422; and,
  3. Brandishing a Weapon – PC 417.

4.1. Carrying a Concealed Weapon – PC 25400

Penal Code 25400 PC, California's carrying a concealed weapon law, makes it a crime for a person to carry a concealed firearm on his person or in his vehicle.6

This law applies to both loaded and unloaded firearms.

Further, a person must know that he is concealing a gun to be guilty under PC 25400.7

Absent aggravating circumstances, carrying a concealed firearm is a misdemeanor. If convicted of this misdemeanor, a person may be punished with:

  • Up to one year in a county jail; and/or,
  • A maximum fine of $1,000.8

A PC 25400 violation can be charged as a felony if certain aggravating circumstances are present in a case (e.g., the defendant has a prior conviction of a California firearm offense).

4.2. Criminal Threats – PC 422

Under California Penal Code 422, criminal threats is the crime of putting someone in fear.

A "criminal threat" is when a person threatens to kill or physically harm someone, and all of the following are true:

  1. The threatened person is put in a state of reasonably sustained fear for his safety or for the safety of his immediate family,
  2. The threat is specific, and
  3. The accused communicates the threat verbally, in writing, or via an electronically transmitted device.9

Criminal threats can be charged whether or not the accused had the ability to carry out the threat...and even if he didn't actually intend to execute the threat.10

Penal Code 422 PC is a wobbler offense, meaning that prosecutors may charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by up to one year in a county jail. If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by up to four years in the California state prison.11

4.3. Brandishing a Weapon – PC 417

California Penal Code 417 PC prohibits the brandishing of a weapon. Brandishing occurs when a person

  • Draws,
  • Exhibits, or
  • Uses

a firearm or deadly weapon.12

Brandishing a weapon is a wobbler offense. This means it can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.

The specific penalty a person receives under PC 417 depends on the facts of the case. Penalties may include:

  • Imprisonment in a state or county jail; and/or,
  • Fines.13

Were you accused of possessing a deadly weapon with the intent to assault in California? Call us for help…

california criminal defense attorneys possession of deadly weapon
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime per Penal Code 17500, 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 17500 PC.

  2. CALCRIM 875.

  3. California Penal Code 240 PC.

  4. California Penal Code 17500 PC.

  5. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 25400 PC.

  7. See same.

  8. California Penal Code 25400(c)(7).

  9. California Penal Code 422 PC.

  10. See same.

  11. See same.

  12. California Penal Code 417 PC.

  13. See same.

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