Penal Code 171.7 PC - Weapons at California Public Transit Facilities

Penal Code 171.7 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to knowingly possess certain weapons within any “sterile area” of a public transit facility (PTF). Some of these weapons include:

  • firearms,
  • imitation firearms, and
  • paint guns.

According to this statute:

“(b) It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess within any sterile area of a public transit facility any of the following, if the sterile area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice that prosecution may result from possession of these items:

(1) Any firearm.

(2) Any imitation firearm as defined in Section 417.4.

(3) Any instrument that expels a metallic projectile, such as a BB or pellet, through the force of air pressure, CO2 pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun or paint gun.

(4) Any metal military practice hand grenade.

(5) Any metal replica hand grenade.

(6) Any plastic replica hand grenade.

(7) Any unauthorized tear gas weapon.

(8) Any undetectable knife, as described in Section 17290.

A “sterile area” means any part of a PTF that is controlled in a manner consistent with the facility's security plan.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • Marico brings a 9mm handgun into a public transit facility in her backpack.
  • Jack sneaks a rifle into the sterile area of a subway under an over-coat.
  • Juan carries a replica hand grenade into a light rail system as a joke.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 171.7. These include showing that the defendant:

  • did not know he had a prohibited weapon,
  • acted under duress, and/or
  • was arrested without probable cause.

Penalties

A violation of PC 171.7 is charged as a misdemeanor in California (as opposed to a felony or an infraction).

The crime is punishable by:

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

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary probation).

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

california rail roads

1. What is prohibited under California Penal Code 171.7 PC?

Penal Code 171.7 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to knowingly possess certain weapons within any sterile area of a PTF.1 Some of these weapons include:

  • firearms,
  • imitation firearms,
  • BB guns,
  • replica hand grenades, and
  • tear gas weapons.2

A “sterile area” of a public transit facility means any part of a PTF that is controlled in a manner consistent with the facility's security plan.3

Public transit facilities transport members of the public for hire. They include (but are not limited to):

  • streetcars,
  • buses,
  • light rail systems,
  • rapid transit systems,
  • subways, and
  • trains.

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 171.7 accusations?

If a person is accused of a crime under Penal Code 171.7, then he can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to PC 171.7 accusations are:

  1. no knowledge,
  2. duress, and/or
  3. no probable cause.

2.1. No knowledge

The language within Penal Code 171.7 states that an accused is only guilty if he knowingly possessed a prohibited weapon within a PTF. Therefore, it is always a perfect legal defense for a defendant to show that while he may have taken a prohibited weapon into a public transit facility, he did not know it. For example, maybe another person put a weapon into his bag without him knowing about it.

2.2. Duress

Duress is a legal defense in which an accused basically says: “He made me do it.” The defense applies to the very limited situation in which a person commits a crime (here, possessing a weapon in a PTF), because somebody threatened to kill him if the crime was not committed.

2.3. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 171.7, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

man behind bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of PC 171.7 is charged as a misdemeanor in California.4

The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.5

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary probation).

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to possessing a weapon in a PTF. These are:

  1. weapons at airports – PC 171.5,
  2. weapons in public buildings and at meetings – PC 171b, and
  3. firearms in the Governor's mansion – PC 171d.

4.1. Weapons at airports – PC 171.5

Penal Code 171.5 is one of California's many gun laws.

Under this law, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly possess, within any sterile area of an airport or a passenger vessel terminal:

  • a firearm,
  • a BB or pellet gun,
  • the frame or receiver of a firearm, or
  • any ammunition.

Possession of any of these guns within the sterile (post-security check) area of an airport or a passenger vessel terminal is punishable by:

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

4.2. Weapons in public buildings and at meetings – PC 171b

Penal Code 171b PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to bring or possess certain “weapons” into public buildings and meetings open to the public.

A violation of Penal Code 171b is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.6

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

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by imprisonment for:

  • 16 months,
  • two years, or
  • three years.

4.3. Firearm in the Governor's mansion – PC 171d

Penal Code 171d PC makes it a wobbler offense to bring or possess a loaded firearm within or on the grounds of:

  • the Governor's Mansion or any other residence of the Governor,
  • the residence of any other constitutional officer, or
  • the residence of any Member of the Legislature.

A violation of Penal Code 171d is punishable:

  • as a misdemeanor, by up to one year in county jail, and/or up to a $1,000 fine, or
  • as a felony, by 16 months, or two or three years in county jail.

Were you accused of possessing a weapon in a California public transit facility? Call us for help…

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Call us at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 171.7 PC, 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 171.7 PC. This code section states: “(b) It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess within any sterile area of a public transit facility any of the following, if the sterile area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice that prosecution may result from possession of these items:

    (1) Any firearm.

    (2) Any imitation firearm as defined in Section 417.4.

    (3) Any instrument that expels a metallic projectile, such as a BB or pellet, through the force of air pressure, CO2 pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun or paint gun.

    (4) Any metal military practice hand grenade.

    (5) Any metal replica hand grenade.

    (6) Any plastic replica hand grenade.

    (7) Any unauthorized tear gas weapon.

    (8) Any undetectable knife, as described in Section 17290.

  2. See same.

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  6. California Penal Code 171ba PC.

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