Penal Code 32310
(Large Capacity Magazines)

California Penal Code 32310 PC is California's law regarding large capacity magazines (as used with firearms). The statute prohibits:

  • Manufacturing,
  • Importing,
  • Selling
  • Giving away,
  • Lending,
  • Buying or receiving, and
  • Possessing

large capacity magazines, except in very specific circumstances.

The magazines in question are sometimes referred to as “high-capacity magazines” and they are firearm clips that hold more than 10 rounds.

Examples of illegal acts under PC 32310 include:

  • Michael buys a clip holding 12 rounds from a firearm dealer while in Oregon, and he then brings it into California.
  • Cheryl stores her boyfriend's gun and ammunition collection, including several high-capacity magazines, in her home.
  • Jacob lives in the Los Angeles area and purchases a clip holding 15 rounds from a local gun collector.

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California recently ruled that PC 32310 is constitutional and does not violate gun owners' equal protection rights.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 32310. These include showing that an accused party:

Penalties

A violation of California Penal Code 32310 VC, with the exception of the offense of possession, is a wobbler offense. This means it can be charged as either a California felony or a misdemeanor.

If charged as a felony, an accused can be punished by up to three years in a county jail. If charged as a misdemeanor, an accused can be punished by up to one year in a county jail.

The illegal act of possessing a high-capacity magazine is a wobblette offense, meaning it can be charged as either a California infraction or a misdemeanor.

If charged as an infraction, a defendant can receive a fine of up to $100 per magazine. If charged as a misdemeanor, a defendant can receive a maximum fine of $100 and/or a jail sentence of up to one year.

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

large capacity ammo magazine california law
California Penal Code 32310 PC is California’s law regarding large capacity magazines (as used with firearms).

1. The Legal Definition of what is Prohibited under California Penal Code 32310

Under Penal Code 32310(a), it is a crime if any person:

manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, buys, or receives any large-capacity magazine…1

Penal Code 32310(c) goes on to make it a crime for a person to possess a large capacity magazine, regardless of the date is was acquired.2

A “large capacity magazine” means any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to hold more than 10 rounds.3

According to California law, any of the following are not large capacity magazines:

  • A feeding device that has been altered so that it cannot hold more than 10 rounds;

  • A .22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device; and,

  • A tubular magazine that is contained in a lever-action firearm.4

Large capacity magazines are also prohibited under California Penal Code 16590, the State's statute governing “generally prohibited weapons.”5

Please note that certain people and/or situations are exempt from prosecution with regards to large capacity magazines. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer, or possess these ammunition holders.6

1.1. California Penal Code 32310 Upheld as Constitutional

PC 32310 is a relatively new law. It arose out of California Senate Bill 1446, which Gov. Brown signed into law in 2016. The California Penal Code was amended to include PC 32310 after the signing.

Some parties challenged the new law and stated it was unconstitutional in that it violated gun owners' equal protection rights. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, however, recently upheld SB 1446 and PC 32310. The Court ruled that the new law is constitutional and does not violate any rights.7

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under Penal Code 32310 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 32310 accusations are:

  1. Coerced Confession;
  2. Entrapment; and/or,
  3. No Probable Cause.

2.1. Coerced Confession

This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under PC 32310 following a 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 if the party was pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.

2.2. Entrapment

In many PC 32310 cases, suspects are often arrested and accused after an undercover officer buys or obtains a large capacity magazine from them. Any later charges under Penal Code 32310, though, must get dropped if the officer lured a suspect into committing the crime.

This “luring” is known as entrapment. It applies to overbearing official conduct on the part of police officers, like pressure, harassment, fraud, flattery, or threats. Entrapment is an acceptable legal defense provided that the accused shows he only committed the crime because of the entrapment.

2.3. No Probable Cause

This line of defense tries to exclude evidence that is being used against a defendant for a PC 32310 violation.

California law says that a police officer must have probable cause to detain or arrest a suspect. “Probable cause” essentially means that there is a reasonable belief that someone committed a crime (based on all of the circumstances).

If a person was stopped or arrested without probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. The exclusion of evidence regarding large capacity magazines could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

man behind bars for violating penal code 32310 california
A violation of Penal Code 32310 can result in jail time

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 32310, with the exception of possessing a large capacity magazine, is a type of wobbler offense. This means it can be punished as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year.8

If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a term of:

  • 16 months;
  • Two years; or,
  • Three years.9

The possession of a large capacity magazine in punished differently than the other illegal acts under Penal Code 32310. The possession of a large capacity magazine is a wobblette offense, meaning that it can be punished as either a California infraction or a misdemeanor.

If charged as an infraction, the crime is punishable by a fine not to exceed $100 per each magazine.10

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

  • A fine of up to $100 (per magazine); and/or;
  • A sentence of up to one year in a county jail.11

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to illegal acts with large capacity magazines. These are:

  1. Carrying a concealed weapon – PC 25400;
  2. Carrying a loaded weapon – PC 25850; and,
  3. Assault weapon crimes – PC 30600

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.12

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 25400.13

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 $1,000.14

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. Carrying a Loaded Weapon – PC 25850

California Penal Code 25850 PC makes it a crime to carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle or public place.15

A “public place” is any place which is open to common and general use and is readily accessible by anyone wishing to go there.16

As with the crime of carrying a concealed weapon under PC 25400, most Penal Code 25850 crimes will be charged as misdemeanors. If so, they are punishable by:

  • Up to one year in a county jail; and/or,
  • A maximum fine of $1,000.17

However, as with charges under PC 25400, acts of carrying a loaded weapon can be charged as a felony if certain aggravating factors are present in a case.

4.3. Assault Weapon Crimes – PC 30600

Penal Code 30600 PC is California's law regarding assault weapons and .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun) rifles. It prohibits:

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

assault weapons and BMG rifles, except in very specific circumstances.18

The penalties for violating PC 30600 will vary from minor infractions to very severe felonies. These are punishable by both a fine and/or a prison term. The specific penalty will vary depending on the specific act a defendant commits and the underlying facts of the case.

Were you accused of a crime involving a large capacity magazine in California? Call us for help…

california large capacity magazine criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at 855-LAWFIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime per Penal Code 32310, 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 32310(a) PC.

  2. California Penal Code 32310(c) PC.

  3. California Penal Code 16740 PC.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 16590 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 33225 PC.

  7. The court case is Wiese v. Becerra. Please click here to view the procedural history of the case.

  8. California Penal Code 32310(a) PC.

  9. See same.

  10. California Penal Code 32310(c) PC.

  11. See same.

  12. California Penal Code 25400 PC.

  13. See same.

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

  15. California Penal Code 25850 PC.

  16. California Jury Instructions – Criminal – CALCJI 16.431.

  17. California Penal Code 25850(c) PC.

  18. California Penal Code 30600 PC.

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