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Is Pepper Spray Legal in California?

Posted in California Law,Criminal Defense on March 21, 2022

If you find yourself involved in an incident involving pepper spray in California, the legal ramifications could be complicated. That is because it is legal to purchase, own, and use pepper spray if used in self-defense, which can be subjectively arguable from case to case.

It is essential to understand the more specific details and definitions of the laws, the restrictions, and the rights they have. 

What Exactly is Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray, made up of chili plants, is used as a self-defense chemical that, when sprayed into someone’s face, causes them to cough, temporary blindness, and to experience extreme discomfort for about half an hour. Those sprayed can also experience tightening of the chest, depending on the amount that was discharged. 

In addition to civilians using pepper spray for self-defense against a human attacker or an aggressive dog, it is also often used by riot police in critical situations to control rowdy crowds.

How Are You Allowed to Carry Pepper Spray in California?

Regulated by California Penal Code Sections 22810, pepper spray and tear gas weapons may be purchased, possessed, and used for self-defense purposes only. And, when referring to use, this also includes presenting the pepper spray in a threatening way. 

It is ultimately used to protect Californians against human aggressors, vicious dogs, and other wild animals. If pepper spray is used out of anger and not with the purpose of self-defense, you may face a misdemeanor or felony charge and a possible sentence from 16 months up to three years and/or a $1,000 fine.

State law also mandates that pepper spray containers must be 2.5 ounces or less and packaging must be labeled with the chemical’s shelf life, first aid instructions, that it must only be used for self-defense, and information on the legal consequences if it is not used in this way. 

Who is Not Allowed to Carry Pepper Spray in California?

According to California Penal Code 12403.7, those who are prohibited from purchasing, owning, or carrying pepper spray are:

  • People convicted of a felony or any crime that involved an assault in California or any other state, including those who were convicted of using pepper spray in a non-self-defense situation. 
  • People who are addicted to any narcotic drug. 
  • Minors under 16 years old. Those over 16 can purchase and possess pepper spray if a parent or guardian is present or gives written permission. This consenting adult is then jointly liable for any civil damages if the minor is negligent or misuses the pepper spray.

Protect Your Rights to Carry Pepper Spray

If you have been arrested for possession of pepper spray or have other weapons charges in California, award-winning criminal defense lawyer Graham Donath is standing by to represent you in your time of need. He has decades of experience defending clients facing criminal charges and has found success in the courtroom because of his attention to detail.

Contact our law office today for a free consultation, when our team will listen to all aspects of your case and walk you through your legal options.