Those sentenced to jail and prison are subject to many additional laws not applicable to those not behind bars, particularly when it comes to what they are or are not permitted to possess. These rules can apply to things like cellphones or alcohol, but the most serious form of contraband in prison are weapons. If you or a loved one has been accused of possessing a weapon while incarcerated, you’ll be charged with violating Penal Code 4502 (PC). Anyone accused of this crime will need a skilled weapons defense lawyer to help them fight the charges.
Weapon Possession in a Penal Institution
While many rules detailing what prisoners may or may not possess in prison or jail are intended largely to punish inmates, inmates are prohibited from having a weapon because this makes the penal institution less safe for prisoners and guards alike. That being said, prisons and jails (particularly the jails in San Diego) can be violent places, which is why weapons are so common in these places. In fact, some prisoners get a hold of a weapon not because they want to do something violent, but because they are simply worried about protecting themselves from others.
Some of the most common weapons inmates have been discovered with include shivs made from sharpened sticks, toothbrushes or more; socks filled with locks, soap, or other heavy items; slingshots; and can lids used to slice people. Regardless of the type of weapon, those accused of manufacturing or possessing such an item in a penal institution can be charged with violating 4502 PC.
Penalties for Violating 4502 PC
If you’re accused of having a weapon in a penal institution, you will face felony charges. The penalties could be as high as 4 additional years in prison for possessing the weapon or 3 additional years for manufacturing one. That being said, probation is always an alternative, which is beneficial because this can help you get out of prison or jail faster. In many cases, negotiating a plea bargain that leaves you with additional probation time, but allows you to get out of the penal institution is a preferable option.
It’s worth noting that many people charged with this crime will also face charges related to carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. This could result in up to another 3 years in prison, though it could be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail. In both cases, probation can be sentenced in place of further time behind bars.
Defenses to Weapon Possession Behind Bars
If you’ve been accused of violating 4502 PC, you can fight the charges with a skilled criminal attorney at your side. Common defenses include acting in self defense, not being in possession of the weapon or not knowing about it. You can only claim you were acting in self defense if you temporarily seized a weapon to protect yourself from immediate attack of an aggravated nature. You cannot carry a weapon as a preemptive measure to prevent being attacked. You must also only use as much force as reasonably necessary in repelling the assault.
While a weapon does not need to be in your actual possession for you to be charged with this crime, it does need to be under your control. In other words, if it belongs to your cell mate, you shouldn’t be convicted for having a weapon in a penal institution.
Lastly, you must be aware that you are in possession of a weapon. This means that you must have known that the item was in your possession, so if a guard or other inmate planted the item in your control, this is a defense against the charges. Similarly, if you willingly took an object from another inmate in your penal institution, but didn’t know that it could be considered a weapon, this could be a defense as well. For example, if someone gave you a crucifix, but you didn’t know that it could be opened to reveal a knife, you didn’t violate the law.
If you or a loved one has been accused of the illegal possession of a weapon in a penal institution, it’s important to remember that you can still fight the charges even from prison or jail. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.