California Penal Code Section 18720 PC: Possessing Destructive Device Materials

weapon possession

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Destructive and explosive devices can cause massive amounts of damage to life and property. As a result, not only is it a crime to possess destructive devices under California Penal Code Section 18710 PC, it is a felony offense to possess the materials used to make bombs or other destructive devices under California Penal Code Section 18720 PC.

In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of possessing materials used to make a destructive device or an explosive, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant possessed a substance or material or a combination of substances and materials
  2. when the defendant possessed these items, he or she intended to make an explosive or destructive device
  3. AND the defendant did not have a valid permit to make the destructive device or explosive.

An explosive is defined as any substance, or combination of substances, whose main purpose is to detonate or rapidly combust and is capable of an instantaneous release of gas and heat. An explosive is also considered any substances whose main purpose is to be combined with other substances to create something that would explode.

There is no specific list of what may be considered destructive device materials, however all of the following, if possessed with the intent to create a destructive device, could violate California Penal Code Section 18720 PC:

  1. Chemicals that can trigger explosives when mixed with other agents
  2. Fertilizer
  3. Blasting caps
  4. Gunpowder

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Possessing Destructive Devices - California Penal Code Section 18710 PC
  2. Manufacturing, Selling or Possessing Dangerous Weapons - California Penal Code Section 16590 PC

3. Examples

Upon executing a legal search warrant, police discover sacks of ammonium nitrate, containers of gasoline, several lengths of large diameter piping used to make pipe bombs, blasting caps, blasting cap crimpers, insulated wire and containers of chemicals in a man's garage. They also discover literature pertaining to a well-known revolutionary protest group. This man could be charged with possessing materials to make destructive devices in violation of California Penal Code Section 18720 PC based on these items and can be sentenced to prison.

In another example, a man living on a large rural property is discovered to have large amounts of fertilizer in a tool shed. The man bought this fertilizer to use in connection with an intended agriculture venture. This man would not be guilty of possessing destructive devices under California Penal Code Section 18720 PC because even though fertilizer can be used to make bombs and other explosives, this substance can be legally possessed for legitimate purposes. The burden would be on the prosecution to show that material was possessed with the intent to make a destructive device.

4. Defenses to Possessing Destructive Device Materials

As discussed above, if the defendant did not intend to create a destructive device with the materials in question, he or she would not be criminally liable for this offense.

In addition, if the destructive device materials were discovered as a result of an improper search and seizure executed by law enforcement, the defendant can challenge whether there was probable cause to justify the search. If a judge finds that a warrantless search and seizure was not supported by probable cause, any evidence discovered would be suppressed and could not be used in court.

5. Penalties

Possessing destructive device materials is a felony offense under California Penal Code Section 18720 PC. If convicted of this offense, a defendant can be sent to prison for up to four years.

6. Criminal Defense for Possessing Destructive Device Materials Cases

Possessing materials used to make destructive devices is a serious offense that prosecutors do not treat lightly. If you have been charged with or are under investigation for this offense, it is very important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who previously prosecuted major felonies like this and knows how best to defend them. Mr. Kraut is widely regarded as a top-notch litigator who knows how to effectively fight serious felony allegations.

For more information about possessing destructive device materials, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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