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Are Bulletproof Vests Legal In California?

Posted in California Law on March 15, 2022

All citizens of California have a legal right to protect themselves and the lives of their families, which includes the purchasing and wearing of bulletproof vests. Those who have been convicted of a felony, however, cannot purchase a bulletproof vest online or in person. 

While it is also legal to sell bulletproof vests and other body armor, it is not the retailer’s responsibility to determine whether or not the buyer is legally permitted to purchase the vest; it is the buyer’s.  

Here are a few other details to consider, when it comes to the definition of bulletproof vests and the legalities on a federal level and in the state of California.

What Is a Bulletproof Vest?

Bulletproof vests can be defined as protection that is worn over the torso to shield that part of the body from gunfire and shrapnel from explosives. They have been proven to be incredibly effective in decreasing the risk of death, which is why lawmakers regulate their use by felons.

Kevlar, the vest’s tightly woven fabric, lessens the impact of high-speed projectiles. Some even have ceramic or metallic plates woven into the vest to protect wearers from rifle fire or larger firearms. Military and law enforcement officials rely on them while on duty, and civilians, including hunters and gun store owners, find them useful for protection when in action or on the job. 

What is the Federal Law on Bulletproof Vests?

Based on federal law statute 18 U.S.C. 931, convicted felons are forbidden from purchasing and wearing body armor, or bulletproof vests. However, if, prior to the purchase, felons get written permission from their employer that they require the use of one, it can be permitted. 

If the convicted felon violates this law and is prosecuted, he could receive a maximum three-year prison sentence; if the vest is worn during a federal crime of violence or drug trafficking, the sentence will be extended. 

Retailers are not liable for an illegal purchase, but here are a few rights they have and federal laws they must follow:

  • No ID or background check is required, nor any record-keeping needed, for any face-to-face purchase transaction. 
  • Bulletproof vests can be sold in a gun store, gun show, online, or via phone or a printed catalog.
  • Retailers can ship bulletproof vests to 49 states, with the exception of Connecticut, where sales can only be made in person. They cannot ship or bring body armor outside the United States without federal permission. 

What Is California’s Law on Bulletproof Vests?

Enacted as of January 1, 2022, California Penal Code Section 12022.2, if a convicted felon is wearing a body vest in the act or attempted act of a violent offense, the felon will receive an additional sentence of one, two, or five years on top of the punishment for the actual crime.

The court will consider the circumstances and state the reasons for which of the enhanced punishment increments were decided on at the time of sentencing.

What Are My Rights on Bulletproof Vest Laws?

If you are still unsure of your rights, because of extenuating circumstances, on bulletproof vest laws in California, you still have rights to a defense. 

Contact us today at Graham Donath Law Offices and we can help walk you through your case.