What is an Undetectable Firearm and is it Illegal in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

plastic firearms california legal defense
Undetectable firearms are firearms that go undetected in walk-through metal detectors, thus the name “undetectable.”

Undetectable firearms are also referred to as plastic guns or ceramic guns. They are firearms that go undetected in walk-through metal detectors, thus the name “undetectable.”

Under California Penal Code 24610, the following acts are illegal in California when it comes to undetectable firearms:

  • Manufacture,
  • Import into the State of California,
  • Keep for sale,
  • Offer for sale,
  • Give,
  • Lend, and/or
  • Possess

If a person performs any of these acts with an undetectable firearm, he can get charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific facts of a case. The penalties for either charge can include imprisonment for one to three years and/or substantial fines.

Undetectable Firearms and Penal Code 24610

PC 24610 is California's statute governing undetectable firearms. According to this code section, 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, or possesses any undetectable firearm…

A violation of Penal Code 24610 PC is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not to exceed one year.

If charged as a felony, the crime is punished pursuant to California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

Penal Code 1170(h) PC is a catchall provision for felony sentencing. When a statute calls for punishment pursuant to Penal Code 1170(h), the judge can sentence the defendant to a county jail term of:

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

In addition to jail time, a person guilty of a crime under PC 24610 may be subject to a fine in an amount between $1,000 and $10,000.

Other Laws Prohibiting Undetectable Firearms

There are two other statutes that prohibit undetectable firearms. The first is California Penal Code 16590 PC, which prohibits certain categories of weapons in California. Undetectable weapons are specifically banned (for the same acts listed in PC 24610) under section PC 16590 (w).

The second statute is a federal statute – the Undetectable Firearms Act. This act makes it a federal crime for a person to do the following with an undetectable firearm:

  • Manufacture one,
  • Import one,
  • Sell one,
  • Give or lend one, and
  • Possess one.

Exemptions from the General Laws

Please note that certain people and/or situations are exempt from prosecution for possessing undetectable firearms and other prohibited weapons. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer, or possess undetectable firearms.

Please also note that the above statutes and code sections do not prohibit the lawful use or possession of other lawful firearms. For example, conventional pistols, revolvers, long rifles, and long shotguns can still be legally owned by most adults in California, subject to certain restrictions.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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