Cell phone privacy locked

Cell Phone Privacy and Security: Is My Information Secure?

January 27, 2017

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Questions about cell phone privacy and security have been asked a lot lately, so let’s take a look at the current state of encryption and phone privacy focusing on California. There are two big parts of the question: what is stored on your phone and what information is stored somewhere else. We’ll examine both in this post. It is important to keep in mind that nailing these topics down is a moving target because so much is unsettled law.

Information on Your Phone

As an initial matter, it is important to remember that law enforcement can view anything on your phone if you consent. This occurs when people are being questioned by police and they voluntarily unlock their phones and hands them over. Without consent, law enforcement have some hurdles to clear and a few factors need to be considered.

Do They Need A Warrant?

Unless you consent to the search, generally yes they need a warrant. In the 2014 case Riley v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court held that police cannot search someone’s phone incident to the arrest. This means that just because you get arrested, the police cannot automatically search your phone. Now law enforcement must get a warrant before trying to access a phone.

In 2016, California codified the Riley decision and added a lot of clarity to this area. This law, dubbed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed and has been in force since January 1, 2017. It made changes to the Penal Code and now requires that law enforcement obtains a warrant before obtaining any electronic communications or electronic device information. Electronic device information is defined as “any information stored on or generated through the operation of an electronic device, including the current and prior locations of the device.” Now it is clear that California law enforcement needs warrants to access electronic information. This law is broader than the Riley decision because it covers information stored off the phone–like cell site records. This law was a welcomed clarification of both existing case law and a patchwork of outdated federal laws. While law enforcement interests did not approve, it was broadly welcomed by the tech community and consumer advocates. This law does not apply to federal law enforcement even if they’re operating in California.

While warrants are referred to as the “gold standard” for privacy protection in the United States, it is important to keep in mind that the threshold for issuance of a warrant is quite low. The standard for issuing a warrant is met if “there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” (Illinois v. Gates (1983) 462 U.S. 213, 238.) Once a warrant is issued, a reviewing court will give it “great deference.” Some practitioners have described the Gates “fair probability standard” as “the realm of possibility.”  Many would also agree that the saying “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich” applies at least as well to getting warrants.

What If My Phone Is Locked?

iPhone passcode login

Many cell phones are not secure enough to withstand sophisticated attempts to bypass the security whether from law enforcement or for nefarious reasons. The FBI was able to access information in 87% of cell phones, including more than half that had passcodes enabled. Many people do not take advantage of all the security options their phones offer. It is important to understand the features of your particular phone and the settings that you are using.

The flagship models from the major manufacturers like Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Note and Galaxy allow users to set up passwords that encrypt the device. The iPhone has included encryption since iOS 4 and the iPhone 3GS. The security got beefed up substantially in iOS 8. Android phones are a more mixed bag because the operating system comes on models from many manufacturers. Once a phone is encrypted it is much more difficult for anyone to access whether a thief or law enforcement.

What Is Encryption?

Encryption is a process that converts and encodes information into an unreadable form (cipher text) that cannot be easily understood by unauthorized people. Apple describes encryption has a process that “turns your data into indecipherable text that can only be read by the right key.” The encryption key is not stored anywhere including on the device or by the manufacturer. That means that Apple cannot unlock encrypted phones.

Apple uses 256 bit AES encryption on the iPhone and similar 128 bit encryption on iCloud stored information. This type of encryption has not been publicly cracked and is considered very secure. Some people speculate that the NSA may or may not be able to crack it.

The second layer of security offered on some smart phones is that they will erase automatically after 10 incorrect password attempts. The iPhone has this setting. It eliminates an unauthorized user from using a brute force attempt to enter the possible passwords one after another.

Can They Make Me Unlock My Phone?

Some courts have ruled that forcing you to divulge your passcode would violate your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This seems logical. The police are asking you to say something “from your mental process that is akin to testimony that could be incriminating.” That is exactly what the Fifth Amendment protects against. For fingerprints, however, it may be different. At least one court has ruled that the police can force you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint. The police have also gotten a replica made of a deceased person’s finger and used that to unlock a cell phone.

What Was The Deal With Apple And The FBI?

Last year, Apple made waves by refusing to comply with FBI requests to unlock an iPhone that belonged to Syed Farook, who killed 14 people in the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015.

The thrust of the FBI’s argument rested on the New York Telephone case from 1977 that interpreted a law, the All Writs Act, first passed in 1789. That case involved a telephone company that was compelled to help law enforcement install a pen register device that would record numbers dialed from a suspected gambling operation. The Supreme Court found that the phone company was closely related to the issue because the phone lines were used in the crime. The Supreme Court also found that the FBI needed only “meager assistance” to install the pen register and the company would not be burdened by the request. So, because of the closeness and limited burden, the Court found it was reasonable to make the phone company help the FBI.

Following the reasoning from New York Telephone, a federal judge ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to unlock the iPhone 5c for the FBI. Apple vigorously opposed the judge’s order on many grounds. Apple argued that New York Telephone did not apply because the assistance requested was much more significant than “meager” because writing new code would take significant time and engineering. Apple also argued that the order violated its First Amendment rights. On the First Amendment claim, Apple argued that the FBI was requiring it to write code. Code is protected speech and this particular speech is abhorrent to Apple’s viewpoint. Further, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that if his company made the “backdoor” through iOS encryption the tool “would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks.”

However, the FBI withdrew its request before the Court ruled on Apple’s opposition. The FBI had paid an outside party over $1.2 million—variously reported to be Israeli company Cellebrite or some gray hat hackers—and has kept its method classified.

How Does Law Enforcement Get Into Locked Phones?

It is interesting to note that Cellebrite provides products to many local law enforcement agencies as well. These products allow law enforcement to analyze cell phones without relying upon the manufacturer or service provider. According to Cellebrite, their products:

  • Bypass user locks, recover application data and reveal deleted data from the widest range of devices in the mobile forensic market, including the leading smartphones
  • Decode rich sets of encrypted and non-encrypted data and narrow results to certain date and time frames, or a maximum or minimum number of events, including:
    • Calls, SMS, MMS
    • Media, emails, calendar and contact files
    • Location information decoded from apps, GPS, cell towers, Wi-Fi networks and media files

A leaked report from ZDNet shows an actual Cellebrite extraction. The company openly advertises its services as a way to bypass locked phones. At least publicly, it does not appear that law enforcement has a work around to encryption on iPhones newer than the 5c.

Update 2/24/17: Cellebrite’s director of forensic research confirmed the company’s capability to extract current iPhone models.  Read more about Cellebrite’s newest tools at Cyber Scoop.

What Does All This Mean?

First, there is not a consensus among tech companies and phone providers about how to respond to law enforcement requests. At least with the new California law, state law enforcement must have a warrant. While Apple opposed the FBI requests as they jeopardized the cell phone privacy and security of its biggest product, some companies don’t bat an eye over helping. Also remember that Apple itself cannot access newer encrypted iPhones. However, the biggest takeaway is that the dispute was not settled and many battles will be waged moving forward.

Information Not Stored On Your Phone

Cloud computing information cell phones privacy


What Exactly Is Stored Somewhere Else?

There are volumes of electronic information that people think of as “phone information” which is not actually stored on the phone. This means that the considerations about encrypted phones do not apply. This information includes your phone backups to the cloud and information cellular providers store about your calls.

As you use a smart phone, it communicates with your service provider and any cloud services that you use. The new California law requiring a warrant covers information maintained by your service provider and the information stored in the cloud. Again, this law does not apply to federal law enforcement. The law in this area is murkier than searching what is stored locally on your smartphone.

Your Phone May Be In The Cloud

Many cell phones store information in remote servers. These cloud services can be backup storage that protect against you losing data or they can provide on demand access to documents without using up local storage on the phone. The common services are Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive.

Apple still responds to law enforcement warrants for iCloud backups. These backups can contain virtually all the information from an iPhone:

  • Subscriber information, including: name, physical address, phone number, IP connection log for 30 days
  • Emails and mail logs
  • Photos and videos
  • Calendar, reminder, and notes
  • iMessage and SMS text messaging
  • Voice mail
  • Device settings
  • Application data
  • Call history





Apple’s ability to produce this data is a big departure from what is stored locally on the phone. As smart phones gain in sophistication, the ins and outs of what is stored locally and how it is secured will continue to grow in complexity. Consumers need to be cognizant of the degree to which particular data is secured.

Service Providers Have Information Too

Call detail records include information about numbers called and duration of the calls. Cell service providers respond to hundreds of thousands of law enforcement requests per year. One of the big pieces of information that is not stored on your cell phone concerns which cell towers your phone is connecting to. Providers keep information about the towers your phone has connected to, where those towers are located, and when those connections were made. Law enforcement argues that such information helps locate people at particular times. These records can be looking back at historical data or in real time.

Even though the pen registers from New York telephone feel like something from a bygone era, they are still used today. Sprint reported that they helped law enforcement with 22,000 pen register requests in 2012.

A document obtained by the ACLU from the U.S. Department of Justice shows what providers collect and how long the data is retained:

Law Enforcement Collects Data Directly Too

Many law enforcement agencies also use a device called a Stringray that simulates a cell phone tower to locate and even intercept communications from cell phones. Stingray devices can also subject innocent people in the vicinity of the suspect to government intrusion. The case law with these devices is unsettled but at least one federal court has ruled that “[a]bsent a search warrant, the Government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device.”

Now What?

Is The Law Going To Change Any Of This?

After the FBI and Apple dispute there were California, New York, and federal laws proposed concerning phone encryption. The California bill did not make it out of committee and the federal bill was so maligned that it was never officially introduced. However, more bills along the same lines will surface.

What Do These Bills Propose?

2016 California Assembly Bill 1681 proposed a law that would have penalized cell phone manufacturers from selling phones that they could not decrypt. The bill did not outlaw encrypted cell phones outright but it would have made encrypted cell phones unfeasible because it put the manufacturer on the hook permanently for financial penalties.

Is This A Good Thing?

In the famous Hamlet soliloquy, Shakespeare referenced “the law’s delay.” Things have not changed. The legal and legislative process is continuing to have growing pains dealing with the advancement of technology. While the law is not going to ever match Moore’s Law, that the power of computing doubles roughly every two years, it is making constant adjustments and tweaks.

In Riley v. California Chief Justice John Roberts showed an appreciation for the massive role that cell phones play in society: “The term ‘cell phone’ is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.”

This was an important step because the scope and importance of the device must be understood before good policy can be formed or good rulings can be made. The stakeholders in these debates have been business interests concerned with maintaining technological progress and not opening up Pandora’s Box for liability, consumers wanting to protect privacy, and law enforcement concerned with safety.

What Is Coming Up Next?

The case law and legislation about last year’s dispute concerning cell phone privacy and security are not settled and others are also beginning to brew. “Smart” connected homes will become more mainstream along with the expansion with the internet of things (IoT). This will present issues concerning 3rd party access to information from home thermostats to live cloud-based video camera storage. Further, issues with personally identifiable information (PII) will continue to come up.

In August, Apple applied for a patent that would record the fingerprint and take a picture of unauthorized users. Thus, people (whether a friend picking up your iPhone or a thief trying to access your phone) would have their fingerprint and picture stored on your phone. While many definitions of PII include fingerprints, current laws have not contemplated many of the current and proposed applications.

A related issue is the piece meal nature of much tech related law with different definitions for the same thing. The California definition of PII that can be collected during a credit card transaction is different and much broader. In the context of credit card purchases, the California Supreme Court found that collection of a zip code during a purchase violated the law. Plaintiffs prevailed on many class action lawsuits after litigating something that was not contemplated when the law was being proposed.

The challenge to the legislative and legal system will be to appreciate the speed of the advancements and massive scope of the issues. A slow and myopic approach will result in disparate results in the criminal justice realm and much litigation in the civil.

New Years DUI Checkpoint Sacramento

Sacramento DUI Checkpoints Over the Holidays

December 30, 2016

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Sacramento law enforcement will be conducting multiple DUI checkpoints between Christmas and New Years. This is part of a saturation program called Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. According to Sacramento Police Department over 1,100 people die per year in alcohol and drug related car crashes.

On Friday, December 30, 2016, the Sacramento Police Department is going to conduct DUI and Driver’s license checkpoint on El Camino Avenue near Del Paso Boulevard starting at 7:30 p.m. The checkpoint will run for about 5 to 7 hours.

For reference, here is a map showing El Camino and Del Paso.

Remember that, under the case law, DUI checkpoints are constitutional if the authorities follow the guidelines.These guidelines are:

  1. Supervising officers must make all operational decisions.
  2. The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral.
  3. The checkpoint must be reasonably located.
  4. Adequate safety precautions must be taken.
  5. The checkpoint’s time and duration should reflect “good judgment.”
  6. The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient indicia of its official nature.
  7. drivers should be detained a minimal amount of time.
  8. The roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance.


2017 New Years!

Playing Merry With Friends & Family During The Holidays

December 29, 2016

We’ve all been there, and have emotional battle scars and stories to tell. Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Christmas 2016 is now behind us, and New Year’s is just around the corner.

Are you dreading that annual New Year’s dinner or New Year’s Day family brunch? Wishing you could get out of the commitment to attend the braggadocious neighbor’s annual New Year’s Eve party? No worries! The following simple tips can help you to enjoy these annual events, despite the obnoxious cousin, the nosy brother-in-law or the critical sibling. Consider adopting one or more of the following tips, to help you get through the next two weeks with joy instead of misery:

  • It’s just a day. Remember that the dinner or party you’re attending is just one day out of the entire year. You’re only there for a few hours. And chances are there’s someone else at the event feeling anxious, as you do. Approach someone new or someone you don’t know well, and engage them in a cheerful topic, such as the new movie you just enjoyed, the Dow nearing the 20,000 mark, the great skiing conditions at your favorite ski resort. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Nothing in excess. Yes, a few spiked egg nogs or your brother’s famous Bloody Marys have a tendency to go down faster when you’re stressed, but if you’re the designated driver, it’s not worth your life or the lives of innocent people to imbibe to excess and then drive drunk.
  • Workouts are good for the body, not the credit cards. Don’t allow the merriment of the season to cloud your judgement at the mall or online. It’s not the gift, it’s the thought. For example, a lovely co-worker just left a delicious assortment of fudge for each of the team members in our office, and even took the time to make gluten-free candy for another person in our office with gluten sensitivity. I will cherish the vintage Christmas tin long after these tasty treats are gone, and appreciate the thoughtfulness and work she put into this gift.
  • Practice kindness. A longtime friend who is a popular member of the media has a slogan at the top of her Facebook page “Be kind to everyone you meet today, for you have no idea how much pain they may be in.” So true. As the old song says “Smiling faces tell lies.” At the beginning of that New Year’s Day brunch, go around the table, having each person pay a compliment to the person seated to their right. This task never fails to bring smiles to faces, and the things that children come up with when it’s their turn will melt even the hardest heart.
  • Don’t sweat the differences. You’re never going to agree with your cousin’s political views or be comfortable with the new diet your brother and his family now swear is the best thing since the diet they adopted last year. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable and dwell on the differences. Set them aside, and enjoy each other. Remember, we have no idea what’s really going on in the lives of others. A little kindness can go a long way, especially during the holidays.
  • It’s okay to feel blue. You may have lost a loved one this year or faced the loss of a job or other crisis. You are not expected to be jolly just because it’s that most wonderful time of the year. It’s okay to feel sadness, loss or fear. Allow yourself to process those feelings. Give yourself permission to grieve and reflect.
  • Feeling lonely at this time of the year? Despite all of the joy and camaraderie around us, for some it can be the loneliest time of the year. If you’re feeling lonely, volunteering your time this season can brighten your spirits instantly. Check with your nearest soup kitchen, toy drive, animal shelter or food distribution center for needy families. The experience you have volunteering may be one of the most joyous of your life.
  • Take some time for you. With all of the planning, cooking, shopping and office holiday open houses, you may feel overwhelmed. Get out your calendar and plan for some “me” time over the next two weeks. Make an appointment for a therapeutic massage. Pencil in a couple of hours for a visit to the library, and arm yourself with a list of books you’ve been meaning to read all year. I clip reviews of books from the three major daily newspapers I read, magazine reviews, as well as highlighted New York Times Bestseller book lists. I keep them in a file, and when I plan a trip to our local library, I grab a couple of clippings from this file, hoping to include these selections as part of my library “stash.” If books aren’t your thing, plan a visit to your local zoo with a child or a visit to the local ice cream shop for a favorite sundae. Both of you will enjoy the experience.
  • Revisit family traditions. I can still smell the Christmas sugar cookies baking at home as a child. My mother always added a touch of lemon zest to the sugar cookie mix before we enjoyed cutting them out as children with our Christmas cookie cutter collection. The scent was heavenly. Set aside an afternoon for cookie baking or making a few loaves of that holiday bread you made with your grandmother at Christmastime as a preteen. There’s still some time to string some popcorn or macaroni for the Christmas tree, a favorite tradition for many children. Make some gift tags out of this year’s Christmas cards by yourself or with some young ones. Or take out that decades-old Christmas coloring book you still have and get out the Crayola crayons. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how relaxing and joyous any of these activities can be.

May this season be filled with joy, love and laughter for you and yours, and may 2017 be filled with joy, laughter and love.

What You Need To Know About New California Gun Laws

New California Gun Laws

December 5, 2016

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The new California guns laws have been called Gunpocalypse and Gunmageddon. No matter what you think of gun control, it is clear that these gun laws will have far reaching effects. These laws start taking effect on January 1, 2017. Here is a breakdown of what laws passed (and didn’t pass) and a what you need to know about the new California gun laws.

Five Big Changes

  1. New Assault Weapons Ban (AB 1135 and SB 880)
  2. Magazine Ban (SB 1446 and Proposition 63)
  3. Restrictions on ammo purchases (SB 1235 and Proposition 63)
  4. Restrictions on loaning firearms (AB 1511)
  5. Falsely reporting a stolen firearm now a felony (AB 1695)

This post will examine the new laws for assault weapons and Bullet Button AR style rifles and large capacity magazines. Part II will break down the new laws on ammunition, loaning guns, and reporting them stolen.

1.     California Assault Weapons Ban

Background on California Assault Weapons

California passed laws regulating assault weapons in 1989 and again in 1999. The Robert-Roos Act of 1989 banned specific assault weapons. See the Attorney General “Assault Weapon’s Identification Guide.” The later amendments banned guns based on specific features. For over 15 years now these features have formed Californians’ idea of what constitutes assault weapons.

Excerpt from the (current) 2016 version of Penal Code section 30515:

An assault weapon means . . . A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:

(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(B) A thumbhole stock.
(C) A folding or telescoping stock.
(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
(E) A flash suppressor.
(F) A forward pistol grip.

This definition a detachable magazine plus any of the “evil features” has long formed the definition of “assault weapon.” That definition has now been tweaked to address Bullet Buttons.

Changes to the Assault Weapons Law–the Bullet Button Ban

Assembly Bill 1135 changed the definition from rifles with the “capacity to accept a detachable magazine” to rifles that “do not have fixed magazines.” See below:

The 2017 version of Penal Code section 30515 will read:

An assault weapon means . . . A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:

(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(B) A thumbhole stock.
(C) A folding or telescoping stock.
(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
A flash suppressor.
(F) A forward pistol grip.

The same “evil features” remain but the portion about removing the magazine from the gun was changed. By changing this definition, any rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any of the listed features is deemed an assault weapon. The next question is–what is a “fixed magazine?”

What is a Fixed Magazine?

AR Bullet Button and ammo

Here is the current definition of detachable magazine that led people to use Bullet Buttons:

“Detachable magazine” means any ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with neither disassembly of the firearm action nor use of a tool being required. A bullet or ammunition cartridge is considered a tool. 11 CCR § 5469.

Here is the new definition used in the statute of “fixed magazine:”

An ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action. (AB 1135 and SB 880)

Thus, the definition of assault weapons will now encompass the common and popular Bullet Button AR style guns, Bullet Button AK style guns, and many others because the magazines in those guns can be removed without the disassembly of the action. The requirement of using a tool is no longer part of the statute or relevant to the definition of “assault weapon.”

What to do now? What do you need to know about registering and owning an assault weapon? See the frequently asked questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Assault Weapons Laws:

  • Will my Bullet Button AR15 Be Illegal?

    "Bullet Button" AR type guns (among many others) will become assault weapons on 1/1/2017. They will be included as assault weapons that you cannot purchase, possess, or sell. However, if you obtained a bullet button AR style rifle between 1/1/2001 and 12/31/2016, you will be able to register it during 2017.

  • How Can I Register My Bullet Button AR rifle?

    Beginning on January 1, 2017, the California Department of Justice will begin accepting online assault weapons registrations. The website to register is https://cfars.doj.ca.gov. The registration period will be 1/1/2017 through 12/31/2017.

  • When Can I Register My Bullet Button Gun?

    You can register your bullet button "assault weapon" between 1/1/2017 and 12/31/2017.

  • What If I Buy a Bullet Button AR But DROS is Delayed?

    Firearms dealers will not be able to deliver bullet button type guns in 2017 no matter the reason for a delay.

  • After Registering My AR15 as an Assault Weapon, What is Different?

    Registering your rifle as an assault weapon means that you can lawfully posses it. However, you still cannot transfer or sell it. Additionally, there are many other restrictions with assault weapons including where you can use it and how you can transport it.

  • How Can I Transport Assault Weapons?

    Transporting registered assault weapons is different than regular long guns. Rifles and shotguns can be transported if they are unloaded. However, under Penal Code section 30945, registered assault weapons may be transported only between specified locations and must be unloaded and stored in a locked container when transported.

    Pursuant to California Penal Code section 16850, the term "locked container" means a secure container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. This includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but does not include the utility or glove compartment.

  • Can I Loan an Assault Weapon?

    No. See Penal Code section 30600. Remember that once registered your bullet button gun will be an assault weapon.

    (a) Any person who, within this state, manufactures or causes to be manufactured, distributes, transports, or imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives or lends any assault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle, except as provided by this chapter, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for four, six, or eight years.

  • Where Can I Possess an Assault Weapon?

    You can possess your registered assault weapon as stated in Penal Code section 30945. See below:

    Unless a permit allowing additional uses is first obtained under Section 31000, a person who has registered an assault weapon or registered a .50 BMG rifle under this article may possess it only under any of the following conditions:

    (a) At that person’s residence, place of business, or other property owned by that person, or on property owned by another with the owner’s express permission.

    (b) While on the premises of a target range of a public or private club or organization organized for the purpose of practicing shooting at targets.

    (c) While on a target range that holds a regulatory or business license for the purpose of practicing shooting at that target range.

    (d) While on the premises of a shooting club that is licensed pursuant to the Fish and Game Code.

    (e) While attending any exhibition, display, or educational project that is about firearms and that is sponsored by, conducted under the auspices of, or approved by a law enforcement agency or a nationally or state recognized entity that fosters proficiency in, or promotes education about, firearms.

    (f) While on publicly owned land, if the possession and use of a firearm described in Section 30510, 30515, 30520, or 30530, is specifically permitted by the managing agency of the land.

  • What If I Don't Register My Bullet Button Gun?

    Improperly possessing an assault weapon is a violation of Penal Code section 30605. This is a wobbler offense that can be sentenced as a misdemeanor with up to one year in jail or as a felony with up to 3 years in prison.

  • What Dates Do I Need To Know for the Bullet Button Ban?

    No bullet button gun sales after 12/31/2016. Note that this is the last date to take possession of the gun. You will have to begin the purchase and DROS process earlier.

    To for registering Bullet Button guns as assault weapons runs from 1/1/2017 through 12/31/2017.

  • Can I Sell My Rifle After I Register It?

    After registering your rifle as an assault weapon, you cannot sell it. See Penal Code section 30600.

    Also, keep in mind that your family will not be able to inherit your registered assault weapon. Under Penal Code section 30915, the person who inherits it will have 90 days to either: make it permanently inoperable, sell it to a properly licensed firearms dealer, obtain their own permit from the DOJ, or remove it from California.

2.     California Magazine Restrictions

Current California law bans the sale, gift, or loan of “large capacity” (more than 10 round) magazines. However, the possession of these magazines was not banned.

That has now changed with the signing of SB 1446 and the passage of Proposition 63. Starting July 1, 2017, it will be illegal to continue owning “large capacity” magazines even though they were lawfully purchased and had previously been grandfathered in. The new law does not allow any grandfathering.

Under the new law, owners of magazines that hold more than ten rounds have one year to get rid of them. Under SB 1446 your options are: remove them from the state, sell them to licensed firearms dealers, turn them over to police for destruction, or destroy them. It will be a crime to simply continue possessing them in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Assault Weapons Laws:

  • What Dates Do I Need To Know for the Magazine Law?

    Beginning July 1, 2017, it will be illegal to possess "large capacity magazines."

  • What is a "Large Capacity Magazine"

    Under Penal Code section 16720 a "large capacity magazine" means:

    Any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

    The 2016 California laws have not changed this definition. So your magazines that have the capacity to accept 10 rounds or fewer are unaffected.

  • What is the Penalty for Possessing a Large Capacity Magazine?

    Currently, it is not illegal to possess a large capacity magazine in California. Beginning July 1, 2017, possession will be an infraction or misdemeanor and will also carry a fine.

    Under SB 1446 possession will be an infraction. The first offense will also carry a $100 fine, the second offense a $250 fine, and the third offense a $500 fine.

    Under Proposition 63 possession will be an infraction and $100 fine per magazine or "a misdemeanor not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) per large-capacity magazine, by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment."


  • What If No 10 Round Magazines Were Ever Made for My Gun?

    California law has long had an exception to the large capacity laws if no magazines containing 10 rounds or fewer were ever made for your gun. This was contained in Penal Code section 32406 and was found in SB 1446. It read:

    A person lawfully in possession of a firearm that the person obtained prior to January 1, 2000, if no magazine that holds 10 or fewer rounds of ammunition is compatible with that firearm and the person possesses the large-capacity magazine solely for use with that firearm.

    However, Proposition 63 was passed in November and is effective immediately. Prop. 63 amended Penal Code section 32406. That section now reads:

    Subdivision (c) of Section 32310 does not apply to an honorably retired sworn peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, or honorably retired sworn federal law enforcement officer, who was authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of that officer’s duties. “Honorably retired” shall have the same meaning as provided in Section 16690.

    As it stands right now, the exception is no longer reflected in the law. Legal commentators have noted conflicts between Proposition 63 and the other recently passed laws.

Bills that Governor Brown Vetoed

Veto of California Gun Laws

It is also important to keep in mind legislation that was rumored or that was vetoed. For example, many people think that long gun purchases will be limited to one per month starting next year. Here are some bills that were introduced but were not signed into law:

  • Changing the definition of what constitutes a firearm and a receiver. (AB 1673).
  • Make 1 in 30 purchase limitations apply to long guns as well as handguns. (AB 1674)
    • Governor Brown recognized the burden on California gun owners and vetoed the bill.
  • Expansion of who could seek Gun Violence Restraining Order. (AB 2607).
    • This bill would have allowed employers, coworkers, mental health workers, and teachers to seek gun restraining orders. These classes of people would be added to legislation that only took effect earlier this year.
    • It was opposed by civil liberties groups and Governor Brown vetoed the bill stating that it is premature to enact further legislation on this issue.
  • Require reporting of stolen firearms within 48 hours. (SB 894).
    • The bill would have criminalized people who have their guns stolen and fail to report the theft within five days.
    • Governor Brown stated in his veto message that he believed “responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not; it is not likely that this bill would change that.”