In spite of, or perhaps because of, the rest of California’s heinously strict weapons laws, pepper sprays (or what California calls tear gas weapons) face very little restriction in the grand scheme of things.
The only major obstacles to ownership and carry being a general prohibition on any size greater than 2.5 oz., and a restriction on the sale of such devices to minors, though teenagers aged 16 and older may possess them with written permission.
Pepper spray is always a great tool to have in your self-defense toolbox as it lets you do things that no other device can when it comes to non-lethal self-defense.
Even so, the use of pepper spray in self-defense is fairly serious business and improper application or carry can see you get in big trouble, especially in the state of California.
Therefore it is in your best interest to read and understand all laws governing, and in this article we will take care of the hard work for you.
- California allows all kinds of “tear gas or tear gas weapons” so long as they carry no more than 2.5 oz. of solution.
- A minor aged 16 years or older may possess pepper spray if they are accompanied by a parent or if they have written permission from their parent on their person to accompany the spray.
- No one with a felony criminal record may purchase or possess pepper spray or any other self-defense spray in California.
- All tear gas sprays, including pepper sprays, legal for use and ownership in California must have an expiration date and manufacturer’s serial number, neither of which can be removed under penalty of law.
California laws governing the civilian use, carry and ownership of pepper spray are surprisingly lenient when you stop and consider their positively draconian oversight on every other kind of weapon.
Simply stated, California classes all pepper sprays and other chemical defensive agents as tear gas or tear gas weapons, and you are allowed to possess and use them so long as you are not a felon, addicted to any narcotic, under the age of 16 or are carrying a canister or other device containing more than 2.5 oz. of the solution in question.
California law states (though somewhat flimsily) that self-defense is an acceptable use of these sprays, but using them in any other way will see you slapped with a hefty penalty ranging anywhere from a $1,000 fine, up to 16 months in prison, or three years in county jail, or potentially a fine and imprisonment.
Every legally purchasable canister of tear gas must include printed instructions for its safe operation and use, a set of instructions containing first aid and storage information, have printed upon it an expiration date, manufacturer’s serial number, and be labeled with a warning containing specific language that any use aside from the prescribed use under law is a crime.
Do note that minors aged 16 years old or older may be in possession of pepper spray so long as it conforms to all the other requirements under law, and they are under the direct supervision of their parents, or they have with them written permission from a parent to be in possession of the pepper spray.
California has reasonably straightforward laws when it comes to the use and ownership of pepper sprays by civilians.
There is a limit on capacity restricting legal models to no more than 2.5 oz. and a prohibition on its possession or ownership by minors, felons and anyone addicted to narcotics.
Aside from tiresome administrative regulations concerning what must be printed on a can of pepper spray and included with its sale they are freely sold throughout the state.
Relevant State Statutes
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person may purchase, possess, or use tear gas or any tear gas weapon for the projection or release of tear gas if the tear gas or tear gas weapon is used solely for self-defense purposes, subject to the following requirements:
(a) No person convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault under the laws of the United States, the State of California, or any other state, government, or country, or convicted of misuse of tear gas under subdivision (g), shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or any tear gas weapon.
(b) No person addicted to any narcotic drug shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or any tear gas weapon.
(c) No person shall sell or furnish any tear gas or tear gas weapon to a minor.
(d) No minor shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or any tear gas weapon.
(e) (1) No person shall purchase, possess, or use any tear gas weapon that expels a projectile, or that expels the tear gas by any method other than an aerosol spray, or that contains more than 2.5 ounces net weight of aerosol spray.
(2) Every tear gas container and tear gas weapon that may be lawfully purchased, possessed, and used pursuant to this section shall have a label that states: “WARNING: The use of this substance or device for any purpose other than self-defense is a crime under the law. The contents are dangerous — use with care.”
(3) After January 1, 1984, every tear gas container and tear gas weapon that may be lawfully purchased, possessed, and used pursuant to this section shall have a label that discloses the date on which the useful life of the tear gas weapon expires.
(4) Every tear gas container and tear gas weapon that may be lawfully purchased pursuant to this section shall be accompanied at the time of purchase by printed instructions for use.
(f) Effective March 1, 1994, every tear gas container and tear gas weapon that may be lawfully purchased, possessed, and used pursuant to this section shall be accompanied by an insert including directions for use, first aid information, safety and storage information, and explanation of the legal ramifications of improper use of the tear gas container or tear gas product.
(g) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), any person who uses tear gas or any tear gas weapon except in self-defense is guilty of a public offense and is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years or in a county jail not to exceed one year or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
(2) If the use is against a peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, engaged in the performance of official duties and the person committing the offense knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a peace officer, the offense is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months or two or three years or by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
(a) Notwithstanding subdivision (d) of Section 22810, a minor who has attained the age of 16 years may purchase and possess tear gas or a tear gas weapon pursuant to this division if the minor is accompanied by a parent or guardian, or has the written consent of a parent or guardian.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (c) of Section 22810, a person may sell or furnish tear gas or a tear gas weapon to a minor who has attained the age of 16 years and who is accompanied by a parent or guardian, or who presents a statement of consent signed by the minor’s parent or guardian.
(c) Any civil liability of a minor arising out of the minor’s use of tear gas or a tear gas weapon other than for self-defense is imposed upon the parent, guardian, or other person who authorized the provision of tear gas to a minor by signing a statement of consent or accompanying the minor, as specified in subdivision (b). That parent, guardian, or other person shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages proximately resulting from the negligent or wrongful act or omission of the minor in the use of the tear gas or a tear gas weapon.
Any person, firm, or corporation who within this state knowingly sells or offers for sale, possesses, or transports any tear gas or tear gas weapon, except as permitted under the provisions of this division, is guilty of a public offense and upon conviction thereof shall be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not exceeding one year or by a fine not to exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.
Each tear gas weapon sold, transported, or possessed under the authority of this division shall bear the name of the manufacturer and a serial number applied by the manufacturer.
(a) Any person who changes, alters, removes, or obliterates the name of the manufacturer, the serial number, or any other mark of identification on any tear gas weapon is guilty of a public offense and, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 or by a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(b) Possession of any such weapon upon which the same shall have been changed, altered, removed, or obliterated, shall be presumptive evidence that such possessor has changed, altered, removed, or obliterated the same.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.
1 thought on “Pepper Spray Laws – California”
Thanks for all the detail. I’m still curious what’s so magical about the 2.5 oz restriction?
New York Reloads work for pepper spray as with any other consumable.
I cannot find anyplace that addresses the reasoning behind the “high-cap” spray bottle.