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Penal Code 171-5 PC weapons at California Airports

Penal Code 171.5 PC – Weapons at California Airports

Penal Code 171.5(b) PC is the California statute that makes it illegal for a person to knowingly possess certain weapons within any “sterile area” of a California airport. These weapons include:

  • firearms
  • box cutters, and
  • tasers or stun guns

This statute reads as follows:

“(b) It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess, within any sterile area of an airport or a passenger vessel terminal, any of the items listed in subdivision (c).

(c) The following items are unlawful to possess as provided in subdivision (b):

(1) Any firearm.

(2) 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.

(3) Any box cutter or straight razor.

(4) Any metal military practice hand grenade.

(5) Any metal replica hand grenade.

(6) Any plastic replica hand grenade…”

The area where individuals submit to screening at the Transportation Security Agency’s security checkpoint is the start of an airport’s “sterile area” (TSA).

The following are some examples of prohibited acts covered by this part of the code:

  • Marco tries to go through a security checkpoint with a concealed 9mm weapon.
  • Under an overcoat, James smuggles a taser gun into a sterile airport environment.
  • As a joke, Kelvin enters a TSA screening with a mock hand grenade.

Defenses to a 171.5 PC Weapons at California Airports Charge

If you are accused of a crime under Penal Code 171.5b, there are several legal defenses you can utilize. Among them is proving that the defendant:

  • Was unaware that he/she had a prohibited weapon,
  • acted under force, and/or
  • was detained without probable cause.

Penalties on Conviction on a 171.5 PC Weapons at California Airports Charge

In California, a violation of PC 171.5 is charged as a misdemeanor (rather than a felony or an infraction).

The following penalties apply to the offense:

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

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

In this article, our criminal defense lawyers in California will highlight the following:

  1. What does California Penal Code 171.5 PC prohibit?
  2. Are there any legal rebuttals to PC 171.5 charges?
  3. Sanctions, penalties, and sentencing
  4. Similar offenses 

1. What does California Penal Code 171.5 PC prohibit?

Penal Code 171.5 PC is the California statute that makes it illegal for a person to knowingly possess certain weapons within any “sterile area” of a California airport.

Some of these weapons that haven’t yet been mentioned, include:

  • imitation firearms,
  • tear gas weapons, and
  • any frame, receiver, barrel, or magazine of a firearm.

A “sterile area” of an airport begins at the area where people submit to screening at the security checkpoint operated by the TSA.

Please note that possessing a weapon within a sterile area of a California airport is a federal crime which can be charged under federal law.

2. Are there any legal rebuttals to PC 171.5 charges?

If a person is accused of a crime under this act, he has the right to raise a legal defense to the charge. A strong defense can frequently result in a charge being reduced or even dismissed.

The following are three frequent defenses to PC 171.5 allegations:

  • no knowledge,
  • duress, and/or
  • no probable cause.

The “No knowledge” defense

The language within Penal Code 171.5 states that an accused is only guilty if he knowingly possessed a forbidden weapon at an airport. Therefore, an ideal legal defense for a defendant to show that while he may have taken a prohibited weapon into an airport, he did not know it. For example, another person might have put a weapon into his bag without his knowledge.

The “Duress” defense

Duress is a legal defense in which an accused states: “He forced me to do it.” The defense only applies in the rare case where a person commits a crime (in this case, holding a firearm in an airport) because he was threatened to be killed if he did not.

The “No probable cause” defense

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that authorities must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect for a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested without probable cause for violating PC 171.5, any evidence gathered as a result of the wrongful stop/arrest could be dismissed from the case.

This exception could result in the charges being dropped or reduced.

3. Sanctions, penalties, and sentencing

A breach of PC 171.5 is charged as a misdemeanor in California.

The crime is punishable by the following:

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

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

4. Similar offenses 

There are three crimes that relateto possessing a weapon in an airport. These include: 

  • possession of weapons at California public transit facilities – PC 171.7,
  • weapons in public buildings and at meetings – PC 171b, and
  • firearms in the Governor’s mansion – PC 171d.

For more help from the skilled criminal defense lawyers of Spodek Law Group:

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 171.5(b) PC, we urge you to contact us for a free consultation.  We serve our clients in the greater Los Angeles area, the San Fernando Valley, Orange County, Ventura, Long Beach, Riverside, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, San Diego, Napa County, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose and throughout the State of California.

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