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What is the legal way to use pepper spray? Using pepper spray irresponsibly can incur criminal or civil liability. Spraying an innocent victim in the face can be a crime. Much like a punch in the face, it would be charged as assault or battery in most jurisdictions. The justification for using pepper sprays must either be self-defense from personal injury or an arrest situation, and the force must be reasonable under the circumstances. For example, the law says you can't lawfully spray someone in the face for using obscene language or because you are simply afraid because they look mean.
What is the pepper spray law in California? Misuse of tear gas in California comes with state penalties of up to a $1000 fine and/or up to three years in prison, not to mention a possible felony conviction on record. Examples of misuse include using tear gas on people in anger, spraying it as a joke, or possession of tear gas by prohibited persons. Minors, drug addicts or persons convicted of felonies, assault or misuse of tear gas are legally prohibited from possessing tear gas, although there are few barriers to procurement of tear gas by these people. To be legally purchased, possessed or used in California, any canister must have a label that says "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." The maximum legal net weight for a canister is 2.5 ounces, or 70 grams of OC.
Is there anyplace where I can never carry my pepper spray? Yes. You cannot carry pepper spray on board commercial aircraft. This is a Federal crime that can carry up to a $25,000 dollar fine. It is ok to carry pepper spray in your checked baggage although it is highly advisable that you notify the ticketing agent when you check your baggage. Also since 9/11/01 you may have issues when carrying pepper spray into secured locations such as a Federal buildings, State buildings or anyplace where you pass through a security checkpoint. Although there are no laws that we are aware of you should use your common sense here.
Can pepper spray laws be different in different areas? Some states regulate or forbid tear gas, or some may allow cities to make their own assorted laws regarding tear gas. Many countries, including Canada, also forbid tear gas. For this reason, it's a good idea to call the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over your destination before you bring pepper spray there. Pepper Spray is legal in all 50 states. However, possession and/or use may be regulated or prohibited by law in some jurisdictions. Check with your local police department.
When is it right to use pepper spray? You should ONLY use pepper spray if you are threatened or your life is in danger. Please note that it is a crime to use pepper spray to commit malicious acts. Always remember that you assume all risk and liability for owning and using pepper spray. Even if you use it correctly, there is no guarantee that it will always be effective at hindering an attack, and there is always the possibility that it may be used against you instead.
Can I Legally Buy Pepper Spray Through the Mail? You can't buy pepper spray by mail or through the internet from Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|