Penal Code 171 b PC - Unauthorized Possession of Weapons in Public Buildings and Meetings

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.

The statute reads as follows:

“Any person who brings or possesses within any state or local public building or at any meeting required to be open to the public...any of the following is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison:

(1) Any firearm.

(2) Any deadly weapon

(3) Any knife with a blade length in excess of four inches, the blade of which is fixed or is capable of being fixed in an unguarded position by the use of one or two hands.

(4) Any unauthorized tear gas weapon.

(5) Any taser or stun gun

(6) 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.”

Examples of illegal acts under this statute include:

  • Manuel is a defendant in a criminal case and brings a gun to his first court appearance.
  • Sarah brings a stun gun into City Hall when checking on a zoning issue.
  • Lupe carries a taser into a town hall meeting on school funding.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 171b. These include showing that an accused party:

  • was exempted from the law,
  • did not have an unlawful weapon, and/or
  • gave a coerced confession.

Penalties

A violation of PC 171b is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged 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 offense is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years.

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

bb airsoft gun
BB Guns are prohibited in public buildings under this law

1. What is the legal definition of the unauthorized possession of weapons in public buildings and meetings?

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.1

Some of these “weapons” include any

  • firearm,
  • knife with a blade length over four inches,
  • tear gas weapon,
  • taser or stun gun, and
  • BB or pellet gun.2

Please note that there are some exceptions to the general prohibition outlined above. This means some people can bring weapons into public buildings and meetings. Some of these persons include:

  • those that transport weapons into a court of law to be used as evidence,
  • police officers,
  • persons holding a valid license to carry a firearm, and
  • a person who has permission to possess the weapon and is in charge of securing the public building he is in.3

According to PC 171bc, a “public building” is a building owned or leased by the state or local government, if state or local public employees are regularly present to perform their official duties.4

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 171b violations?

A person can try to challenge a PC 171b accusation by raising a legal defense. A legal defense may work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to Penal Code 171b charges include that the defendant:

  1. was exempted from the law,
  2. did not have an unlawful weapon, and/or
  3. gave a coerced confession.

2.1 Exempted from the law

Please recall that certain people are free from prosecution under Penal Code 171b. For example, police officers may bring “weapons” into public buildings and meetings. It is a defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he falls into one of these exempted categories.

2.2 No unlawful weapon

Please also recall that Penal Code 171b prohibits only the weapons that are specifically listed within the code section. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that the object he had was not an unlawful weapon within the language of the statute. For example, maybe an accused had a knife with a two-inch blade, and not a four-inch blade.

2.3 Coerced confession

This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under PC 171b 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 altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.
man behind bars
A violation of this law can result in jail time...

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

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.5

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. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to the unauthorized possession of weapons in public buildings and meetings. These are:

  1. possession of destructive devices – PC 18710,
  2. illegal acts with a cane sword – PC 20510, and
  3. carrying a concealed weapon – PC 25400.

4.1 Possession of destructive devices – PC 18710

Penal Code 18710 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to possess a “destructive device.”

Destructive devices include things like:

  • bombs,
  • grenades,
  • explosive missiles,
  • projectiles containing any kind of explosive or incendiary material, and
  • certain rockets and rocket-propelled projectiles.6

A violation of PC 18710 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

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

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.7

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

  • imprisonment in the California state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.8

4.2 Illegal acts with a cane sword – PC 20510

Penal Code 20510 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a cane sword.9

A “cane sword” is an object that looks like an ordinary cane but has a concealed sword inside it.

A violation of PC 20510 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

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

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.10

If a PC 20510 violation is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to three years; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.11

4.3 Carrying a concealed weapon – PC 25400.

California Penal Code 25400 makes it a crime for a person to do certain acts with a concealed weapon.

The prohibited acts are carrying a concealed weapon:

  • within a vehicle under a person's control; or,
  • upon one's person.12

A violation of PC 25400 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.13

Were you accused of bringing a weapon into a public building or meeting in California? Call us for help…

california gun law attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 171b, 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 171b PC. This code section reads as follows: “Any person who brings or possesses within any state or local public building or at any meeting required to be open to the public pursuant to Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 54950) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of, or Article 9 (commencing with Section 11120) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of, the Government Code, any of the following is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison:

    (1) Any firearm.

    (2) Any deadly weapon described in Section 17235 or in any provision listed in Section 16590.

    (3) Any knife with a blade length in excess of four inches, the blade of which is fixed or is capable of being fixed in an unguarded position by the use of one or two hands.

    (4) Any unauthorized tear gas weapon.

    (5) Any taser or stun gun, as defined in Section 244.5.

    (6) 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.

  2. See same.

  3. California Penal Code 171bb PC.

  4. California Penal Code 171bc PC.

  5. California Penal Code 171ba PC.

  6. California Penal Code 16460 PC

  7. California Penal Code 18710 PC.

  8. See same.

  9. California Penal Code 20510 PC.

  10. California Penal Code 20510 PC.

  11. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

  12. California Penal Code 25400 PC.

  13. See same.

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