Is Pepper Spray Legal in California

Pepper Spray Laws in California

In California, pepper spray is considered an approved form of non-lethal self-defense. Under the Penal Code section 244.5, it is legal to possess and use pepper spray as a means of protection against physical attacks. However, there are a few rules that must be followed in order to legally carry pepper spray in the state of California.

For many people, pepper spray can be a necessary asset for survival and personal safety. In the state of California, it is legal to purchase or own pepper spray containers that are 2.5 ounces or less. Pepper spray can be used in self-defense against human attackers, most vicious dogs, bears, mountain lions, and other wild animals.

What is Pepper Spray & When to Use It

Pepper spray is a chemical that can cause serious pain and even temporary blindness because it is derived from a chili plant. Once sprayed on someone’s face, it causes them to respond by closing their eyes, coughing, and tearing up. It can cause severe discomfort for about 30 minutes or more, depending on the strength and amount used.

Pepper spray use is only permissible for self-defense. It is important to note that displaying it in a threatening manner is also considered the use of pepper spray.

It is important to understand that pepper spray is a type of aerosol “tear gas” and should not be confused with Mace or other chemical irritants that are prohibited under the law. Pepper spray cans are labeled “OC” (for oleoresin capsicum) and can have different concentrations of the active ingredient. The maximum legal concentration allowed in California is no more than 2.5% OC solution.

Anyone using pepper spray in California must ensure that their product has been approved by the State Attorney General. This rigorous testing process ensures that products bear the proper labeling, warnings, and safety measurements for safe use.

Individuals carrying pepper spray must be at least 18 years of age and must keep the spray concealed on their person at all times when in public. It is also illegal to transport pepper spray across state lines into California.

It is important to note that pepper spray cannot be used with reckless abandon in any situation – even in life-threatening scenarios or to protect property. In fact, misuse of pepper spray can lead to criminal charges and civil liability. Therefore, it is vital to familiarize yourself with local laws regarding the responsible use of pepper spray prior to carrying it in California.

Types of Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is an effective, non-lethal form of self-defense that can be used to protect yourself and those around you.  It works by causing irritation and a burning sensation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. It also causes temporary blindness and difficulty breathing.  Here are the three main types of pepper spray available on the market:

Fogger Pepper Sprays

Fogger pepper sprays are ideal for use indoors or in enclosed outdoor spaces due to their wide dispersal capability. These sprays typically come in larger containers than other types and contain multiple shots that quickly cover a large area with a powerful blend of OC pepper powder suspended in a water-based solution. This type of pepper spray is best suited for crowd control situations and protecting large areas from potential danger.

Stream Pepper Sprays

Stream pepper sprays are the most commonly used type, as they provide an effective defense against attackers from up to 25 feet away. These sprays typically come in smaller containers but offer greater accuracy and control than fogger pepper sprays. Stream pepper sprays also use a water-based solution, which minimizes any potential damage caused to walls, furniture, and skin.

Gel Pepper Sprays

Gel pepper sprays are similar to stream pepper sprays—they come in smaller containers and can be aimed accurately from up to 25 feet away. However, gel pepper sprays use an oil-based solution instead of water, creating a sticky paste that provides additional protection against assailants. It also minimizes blowback and reduces the potential mess caused by traditional stream pepper sprays.

California Pepper Spray Laws

  • If you plan to use or possess pepper spray in California, it must have a warning label that states the product is only intended for self-defense and can be used in self-defense situations where you fear your life or your safety is in imminent danger.
  • In California, it is a criminal offense to use pepper spray against another person out of anger or in a way that is not considered self-defense. Doing so can result in a fine and/or up to 3 years in state prison. If you are facing these charges, contact a criminal lawyer.

Purchasing Pepper Spray

If you live in California, pepper spray can only be purchased by individuals aged 18 or older. All purchases must be made in person at a licensed firearms dealer or pharmacy. It cannot be purchased online or by mail order.

There are limits on the amount of pepper spray that can be purchased and carried. In California, you can only purchase pepper spray canisters that contain up to 2.5 ounces of spray. You are also only allowed to carry pepper spray for self-defense purposes, and it cannot be used for any other reason.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Carry Pepper Spray in California?

Under Penal Code § 12403.7, the following people are ineligible to own or possess pepper spray:

  • A person who has been convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault
  • A person who has been convicted for the misuse of tear gas
  • An individual who is addicted to any narcotic drug
  • A minor child or person

It is illegal to sell or furnish any tear gas or tear gas weapon to a minor. Also, purchasing, possessing, or using any tear gas weapon that releases a projectile, or releases the tear gas by any method other than an aerosol spray, or that contains more than 2.5 ounces of aerosol spray is illegal under California law.

Use of Tear Gas and Pepper Spray in California – Penal Code § 22810

In California, people may possess and use “Pepper Spray” and other “Tear Gas Weapons” in self-defense. There are, however, restrictions regarding WHO may possess and use such, and even restrictions regarding the devices themselves.

Penal Code section 22810 discusses the rights and restrictions regarding “Tear Gas Weapons.” Although 22810 makes no reference to “Pepper Spray,” California Courts have, for over 50+ years, interpreted “Pepper Spray” to constitute “a Tear Gas Weapon”. (See People v. Autterson (1968) 261 Cal.App.2d 627). “Tear Gas Weapons” also include PAVA spray, CS gas, CR gas, CN gas, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide, and Mace.

Pursuant to Penal Code section 22810, it is legal to purchase, own and use a tear gas weapon if used solely for self-defense. Tear gas containers must be 2.5 ounces or less in volume. They may be used for your protection against human attackers, most vicious dogs, bears, mountain lions, and other wild animals. Tear gas weapons in California must be labeled with a warning stating that the product is only intended for self-defense and can be used in self-defense situations where you fear your life or safety is in danger.

Persons aged 16 and older may also possess and use tear gas for self-defense pursuant to Penal Code section 22815. However, Penal Code 22815 requires the minor to be accompanied by a parent or guardian or to have express written parental consent at the time of purchase. Penal Code section 22815 also makes the accompanying or consenting parent or guardian jointly and severally liable for any civil damages resulting from the minor’s negligent or wrongful use of said tear gas weapon

It is criminal to use tear gas out of anger and/or not in self-defense. Such may result in fines and up three years in state prison. Penal Code § 22810(g)(1). If the use is against a peace officer 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 still punishable by up to three years in state prison. However, the minimum punishment is higher, 16 months. Penal Code section 22810(g)(2).

Safety tips when using pepper spray

Pepper spray can be a useful tool for personal safety, but it’s important to use it correctly to avoid causing harm to yourself or others. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when using pepper spray:

  1. Read the instructions carefully: Before using pepper spray, read the instructions carefully. Different brands and types of pepper spray may have different instructions for use, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the product you have.
  2. Aim for the eyes: When using pepper spray, aim for the attacker’s eyes. This is where the spray will be most effective, as it will cause temporary blindness and allow you to escape.
  3. Use in a well-ventilated area: Pepper spray can cause coughing and difficulty breathing, so it’s important to use it in a well-ventilated area. If possible, move away from the area after using the spray to avoid breathing in any residual spray.
  4. Practice using it: If you’re carrying pepper spray for personal safety, it’s a good idea to practice using it so you know what to do in a real-life situation. Consider practicing in a safe, outdoor area with a friend.
  5. Don’t use expired spray: Pepper spray can expire, so check the expiration date before using it. Expired spray may not be as effective and could potentially cause harm.

Remember, pepper spray should be used as a last resort for personal safety. Always try to avoid dangerous situations and consider taking self-defense classes to build your confidence and skills.

Final Word

We hope you found our article on pepper spray in California informative. Pepper spray is a popular self-defense tool, and it’s important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding its use. We provided an overview of the regulations in California, including where and when you can use pepper spray, as well as some safety tips to keep in mind. We hope this article helps you make an informed decision about whether or not to carry pepper spray for personal safety. Stay safe!

2 thoughts on “Is Pepper Spray Legal in California”

  1. I am a newly pepper spray certified security guard in california. I have a couple of questions. While on duty, can a security guard carry a pepper spray cannister larger the 2.5 ounces?

    Also, can I carry two pepper spray cannisters?

  2. You should verify the current laws with the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS)or consult with a legal professional for the most up-to-date information, but by my research, California law does restrict the size of pepper spray canisters that civilians (including security guards) can carry. Pepper spray for self-defense is limited to 2.5 ounces (approximately 70.9 grams) of product. But, security guards may also be subject to similar restrictions.

    As for carrying two pepper spray canisters, it may depend on your employer’s policies and the specific circumstances of your job. You should discuss this with your employer or supervisor, as they may have rules or recommendations regarding the number of pepper spray canisters security guards can carry.


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