In California, pepper spray is considered a valid form of self defense and can be carried in public for personal safety. But that doesn’t mean just anyone can use it whenever they want. In fact there are some very specific laws regarding the sale and use of pepper spray and failure to follow these rules can land you behind bars.
Proper Use of Pepper Spray
It should hardly be surprising that as it is a dangerous weapon that can cause serious health problems -even if they are generally only temporary, it is illegal to use pepper spray out of anger. In fact, pepper spray falls under the state’s tear gas laws and is considered a tear gas weapon that can only be legally used for the purposes of self defense or the defense of another person. In many cases, it is actually used against animals such as wild dogs, but it can still be used against an aggressive person in a serious situation leaving the user fearful of his or another person’s safety.
Interestingly, the laws defining the use of pepper spray even include displaying it in a threatening manner. This also means that claiming the canister was empty or broken is not a defense because the person being intimidated by the threat of being sprayed by the pepper spray would not have reason to know that.
Failure to use pepper spray for self defense can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by no more than a year in jail. When filed as a felony, the sentence could be as much as three years in state prison.
Sales of Pepper Spray in California
You can purchase pepper spray from a number of vendors in person and online, but if it is intended for use in California, the container must be under 2.5 ounces, the product must be propelled through the use of aerosol spray, and the buyer must be over 18. Additionally, these packages must contain a number of warning labels, that notify the users:
- The product may only be used for self defense
- Legal consequences for the illegal use of the product in California
- Proper first aid methods if someone is sprayed
- The best by date
Who Can Legally Possess This Weapon
It’s worth mentioning there are many laws defining who can legally possess pepper spray in California. It is against the law for anyone to own or possess pepper spray if they are:
- a convicted felon or if they have a previous conviction of a misdemeanor charge of assault or a misdemeanor relating to the misuse of tear gas or pepper spray -these convictions can take place anywhere in the United States, not just California
- minors under the age of 16
- minors over the age of 16 without a parent present at the time or a written note with their parent’s permission
- addicted to any form of narcotic
If you have been accused of violating any pepper spray laws, please contact defense attorney Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.
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