California state law defines pepper spray and mace as forms of tear gas, meaning they are covered by the same penal code, 22810 (PC). Under this law, these aerosols are considered valid forms of self-defense, and, as such, they can be carried in public for personal safety. But that doesn’t mean anyone can use these products however and whenever they want, as there are specific laws in place regarding their sale and use. Failure to follow these rules is a crime under 22810 (PC), and violating this law could leave you behind bars.
Pepper Spray is Only for Legal Self Defense in CA
Pepper spray and similar products are dangerous weapons that can cause serious short- and long-term health problems. For this reason, they are illegal to use out of anger and can only be legally used for self-defense, defense of another person, or defense of your personal property. In many cases, these products are used against animals, such as wild dogs, though they can still be used against an aggressive person in a dangerous situation that leaves the user fearful for their safety.
Penal Code 22810 (PC) also covers displaying it in a threatening manner. While it is legal to threaten someone with pepper spray in self-defense, doing so in other contexts is against the law, just as it would be to spray it at someone without justification. Claiming the canister was empty or broken is not a valid defense in these cases because the person intimidated by the pepper spray would not have reason to know that.
Can You go to Jail For Pepper Spraying Someone?
Using pepper spray for any purpose aside from self-defense is a crime under 22810 (PC). This offense 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 include up to three years in state prison.
The charges will be enhanced if the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of their official duties and the defendant should reasonably have known this fact. In these cases, the crime will always be a felony offense.
What Kind of Pepper Spray Can be Sold in California?
You can purchase pepper spray from many vendors in person and online. However, if it is intended for use in California, the container must be under 2.5 ounces. Additionally, the product must be propelled through the use of aerosol spray, and the packaging must contain warning labels that notify the users:
- That the product may only be used for self-defense
- The legal consequences for the illegal use of the product in the state
- Proper first aid methods if someone is sprayed
- The best by date
Can Minors Carry Pepper Spray?
Generally speaking, minors cannot buy nor possess pepper spray. However, under Penal Code 22815 (PC), the state allows those over 16 to purchase or carry it as long as they have the permission of their parents, who are either present or have provided written consent.
Can a Felon Carry Pepper Spray in California?
No. It is also not legal to carry pepper spray if you are addicted to any narcotic or if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor related to the misuse of tear gas, whether under 22810 (PC) in California or a similar law elsewhere in the country.
If a felon is caught in possession of pepper spray, they can face felony or misdemeanor charges, with a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison.
Is Bear Spray Legal in CA?
Yes, and because it is considered a pesticide rather than a personal defense weapon, it is not covered by 22810 (PC) and can be purchased in quantities larger than 2.5 ounces. Because it is not made for self-defense, bear spray cannot legally be used against people. However, if you use it to protect yourself or another individual in a dangerous situation, your attorney will likely be able to ensure you do not face charges.
If you have been accused of violating any of California’s tear gas laws related to your use or carrying of pepper spray or mace, please contact a defense attorney as soon as possible. You can schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.