Weapons on School Grounds

California takes violence in schools seriously and generally has a zero-tolerance policy. This includes cases of carrying unauthorized weapons onto school grounds. If you are facing charges for carrying weapons on school grounds, one of your top priorities should be to seek the help of an expert criminal defense attorney. Having a criminal record will negatively impact your future employment and housing choices. An offense involving a combination of schools and weapons could potentially affect any academic goals you might have.

It will also have a drastic effect on how law enforcement treats you. Regardless of whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony, if a weapons offense is listed, law enforcement will use extra caution when interacting with you. That is why it is highly recommended you find a defense attorney who fully understands this statute. For a better understanding of this law, let’s take a look at how California defines it.

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Defining weapons on school grounds

California outlines weapons on school grounds under Penal Code 626.10(a)(1). This law prohibits the possession of certain weapons while on school grounds. This crime is committed when:

  • An unauthorized weapon,
    • Such weapons include a BB gun, dagger, dirk, folding knives with a lockable blade, a knife with a blade 2.5 inches or longer, pellet guns, a razor with an unguarded blade, stun guns, and tasers.
  • Was carried onto school grounds,
    • School grounds include public or private K-12 schools, colleges, or universities.
    • Whether you were inside a school building or outside on the lawn is irrelevant. Being on school property is enough to be guilty of PC 626.10(a)(1).

There is personnel who are exempt from persecution under this law. Peace officers, people who are assisting peace officers, and members of the military who are carrying out their official duties are excluded from this statute.

Closely Related Offenses

Here are some examples of similar offenses that are closely related to PC 626.10(a)(1), weapons on school grounds.  

California Penal Code 626.9 – Gun Free School Zones;

California’s gun-free school zone act was implemented in 1995. This act prohibited the possession or discharge of a firearm while in school zones. A school zone is considered being within one thousand feet of a public or private school, college, or university.

California Penal Code 21310 - carrying a concealed dirk or dagger;

It’s a crime to carry a concealed dirk, dagger, or knife that can be used as a stabbing instrument that can cause great bodily injury or death.

Calfornia Penal Code 21510 - possession of a switchblade;

This law prohibits the possession, carry, sale or offer to sell, loan, transfer, or to give away a switchblade.

California Penal Code 25400 - carrying concealed weapons;

This law makes it a crime to carry any concealed firearms either in your automobile or somewhere on your body.

California Penal Code 25850 - carrying loaded firearms;

This crime is violated when you carry a firearm that is loaded while you are in a public place or a vehicle.

California Business and Professions Code 25608 - bringing alcohol on school grounds;

You break this law when you carry alcohol onto school grounds.

California Business and Professions Code 25662 - minor(s) in possession of alcohol;

This law makes it a crime for minors, anyone under the age of 21, to possess alcohol while in a public place.

It’s common for someone to face multiple offenses, especially if the charges are so closely related. If this is the case, you should find a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. The prosecution works hard to build a case and pursue a conviction. A top-notch criminal defense lawyer will know how to fight for the best possible outcome.

What The Prosecution Must Do

Any situation involving weapons and school or university property has a zero-tolerance approach in California. With violence in schools making headlines on a regular basis, it’s no wonder the law has strict consequences. However, for the prosecution to get a conviction for PC 626(a)(1) weapons on school grounds, they must first prove the facts of the case. These factors are referred to as the:

Elements of the Crime

  • A weapon that is listed as prohibited under this statute;
    • Such as a dagger, dirk, pellet gun, or stun gun.
  • Was carried onto school grounds.
    • Either the defendant had it on their person or it was in a backpack.
    • They were inside any school or administrative building and/or was on the school grounds, including any parking lot or lawn surrounding the school buildings.

Who Can Be Charged

There is a list of examples that can lead to charges for PC 626.10(a)(1), weapons on school grounds. Here are just a few short examples to illustrate how possible it would be to face this offense.

Examples of simple PC 626.10(a)(1) offenses:

  • Carrie carries a stun gun in her gym bag when she goes to volleyball practice at the University of California gym.
  • Juan conceals a dirk in his boot when he goes to pick up his little brother from elementary school.
  • Will wants to show his little brother his new hunting knife. He carries it to the middle school with him, unaware that it’s a crime.

It’s important to note, even if the defendant did not know they were committing a crime it does not exclude them from the consequences. You can still be charged for PC 626.10(a)(1) when you had no intention of using the weapon. Guilt is a matter of two simple factors, possessing a prohibited weapon and bringing it onto school grounds.

Examples of additional offenses:

  • Rick is drinking alcohol and carries a flask with him where ever he goes. He also conceals a switchblade in his vest pocket. He decides to drive to the elementary school to pick up his kids.
    • On top of a PC 626.10(a)(1) offense, Rick could face charges for PC 21510, possession of a switchblade. He was also drinking while driving and could face a DUI along with BP 25608, for bringing his flask of alcohol onto school grounds.
  • Nora conceals an ice pick in her hair while going to a University sporting event. She gets into an altercation with another fan and they begin to fistfight. Nora’s hair comes loose and the ice pick falls to the ground.
    • Both women could be charged with disturbing the peace under PC 415 because they were fighting in public.
    • Nora will also face charges for PC 626.10(a)(1) for carrying an ice pick on school grounds.
  • Sonya received a bottle of wine and a katana for her 18th birthday. She wanted to show off the sword to her friends, so she drove to school and left it in her car. At lunchtime, she pulled it out in the parking lot and demonstrated how to use it in front of a group of her friends. The wine bottle was also in her car. The school peace officer took notice, confiscated the weapon and the wine.
    • Sonya was charged with PC 626.10(a)(1), weapons on school grounds for having the katana. Although the wine was not opened, the fact that Sonya possesses it on school property is still a crime. He charged her for a MIP (minor in possession of alcohol), PC 25662.
    • Because she just turned 18 years old, these offenses will not be on her juvenile record. They will be placed on her criminal record which has a more detrimental effect on her future.

Legal Defense

There are legal defenses that can be used to fight PC 626.10(a)(1) accusations. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, these allegations can be challenged which will possibly get the charges reduced. It all depends on the details of your case, your criminal background history, and a legitimate defense.

The following are just some of the common defenses used to fight a weapon on school grounds offense.

Were you on school grounds?

Dani, for example, practiced using weapons in her self-defense course at the city college. She wanted to learn how to use twin daggers and brought them with her to the public park located just off-campus. A student reported Dani for carrying daggers on school grounds and police officers charged her with PC 626.10(a)(1).

To Dani’s relief, her criminal defense lawyer was able to challenge the charges. Although Dani was in possession of daggers while out in public, she was not on school grounds at the time she was using them and would not be guilty of this particular offense.

Was there probable cause?

Police officers must have probable cause to stop and search you. If they lack any reasonable cause to investigate you in the first place, then the criminal evidence they find could be considered inadmissible in court. This could get the charges reduced or even dismissed.

For instance, Frankie was driving home and had to drive through a school zone. He slowed down and followed the speed limit but was soon pulled over. He runs a pawn shop and the back seat of his car had a duffle bag of swords on it. Before the officer could explain why Frankie was pulled over he noticed the duffle bag had a few sharp blades protruding from it. The officer charged Frankie with possessing weapons on school grounds.

Frankie did have a legitimate reason for having a duffle bag full of swords with him. He was also not intending on being on school grounds for long, as he was just driving through. The officer never revealed what his probable cause was for pulling Frankie over.

Although he did possess these weapons he did not intend on bringing them onto school grounds. His criminal defense lawyer was successfully able to fight the charges. Not only did he have a legitimate explanation for having the swords, but the lawyer also pointed out the officer had no reasonable or probable cause for stopping Frankie in the first place.

Did you possess a prohibited weapon?

This statute has a specific list of unauthorized weapons on school grounds. If the weapon in question is not on this list and is not considered prohibited, you should not face charges for PC 626.10(a)(1).

Charlie, for instance, had his small work knife with him when he was picking up his little brother from elementary school. The knife was poking out of his pocket and his little brother got a hold of it and ran away. There were a couple of police officers outside the school that took notice and stopped them. Charlie tried to explain it was just a tool he used for cutting through packaging material at work. They still arrested him and charged him with PC 626.10(a)(1), weapons on school grounds and threatened him with a child endangerment offense, PC 273(a).

Fortunately, Charlie’s criminal defense lawyer was able to challenge these charges. Charlie was not guilty of child endangerment, especially when questioning the little brother’s account of things. Also, he cannot be guilty of weapons on school grounds if the weapon was not considered a prohibited weapon. Knives that are at least 2.5 inches or longer are on the list. His work knife was only three-quarters of an inch. The charges were dismissed when these facts were presented.

Penalties for carrying weapons on school grounds

This crime is considered a wobbler in California. This means, depending on the circumstances of the case and your criminal history, it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If convicted as a misdemeanor you face;

Summary (informal) probation, and/or

Up to one year in county jail.

A felony conviction will carry;

Formal (felony) probation, and/or

A potential state prison sentence of three years.

Enhanced Penalties

If there are aggravating factors in your case additional penalties would apply.

For instance, Stan neglected to remove the hunting knife strapped to his thigh before entering a school building to pick up his kids. When the school’s peace officer attempted to stop him, Stan shoved him aside and exited.

Stan would face charges for PC 626.10(a)(1) weapons on school grounds as well as PC 240, assault for aggressively shoving the peace office. He will face charges for bringing a knife with a blade longer than 2.5 inches into a school building. Stan will also face penalties for assault, which includes up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to one thousand dollars.

Getting convicted of more than one offense will result in longer jail or prison sentences and increased fines.

Penalties for Closely-Related Offenses

If charged with more than one offense fines will be added up and incarceration times will be served consecutively. 

California Penal Code 626.9 - Guns-Free School Zones;

Felony;

A possible 2 to 5 years in state prison.

Felony (if you discharged a firearm);

A potential 3, 5, or 7 years in state prison.

California Penal Code 21310 - carrying a concealed dirk or dagger;

Misdemeanor;

Summary probation,

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

Formal probation,

As long as three years in county jail, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

Calfornia Penal Code 21510 - Possession of a switchblade;

Misdemeanor;

A potential six months in county jail, and/or

As much as one thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 25400 - carrying a concealed weapon;

Misdemeanor;

Summary probation,

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal probation for up to one year, or

16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail; and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines. 

California Penal Code 25850 - carrying a loaded firearm;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

California Business and Professions Code 25608 - bringing alcohol on school grounds;

Misdemeanor;

As long as six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

California Business and Professions Code 25662 - minor in possession of alcohol;

Misdemeanor;

1st offense, two-hundred-fifty dollars in fines,

24-32 hours of community service at an alcohol or drug treatment center,

Required participation in a youth drunk driver program, and

One year driver’s license suspension or a one year delay in obtaining a driver’s license.

Call Our Criminal Attorney For Help

Are you or someone you love facing charges for carrying weapons on school grounds and/or any of the aforementioned offenses? If so and you are located in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Orange County contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum as soon as you can.

Attorney Yum is a highly respected criminal defense lawyer who will aggressively fight for your rights. As a former prosecutor, she understands how quickly the law can move to build a strong case against you. Call us for help, today.

Schedule your no-obligation, free-consultation at 619-233-4433 or use our online contact form.

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