California Penal Code Section 12020(A)(1) - Interpretation

In People v. Lanham (1991) 230 Cal. App. 3d 1396 282 Cal. Rptr. 62, the defendant was convicted of possession of a bullet that carries or contains an explosive agent in violation of Penal Code section 12020, subdivision (a). The Lanham court followed People v. Corkrean, supra, 152 Cal. App. 3d 35, and People v. Valencia, supra, 214 Cal. App. 3d 1410, in concluding that the Legislature was aware of the decision in People v. Daniels, supra, 118 Cal. App. 2d 340, when it enacted the prohibition on possession of such bullets. The Daniels court had concluded that the Legislature's selective use of the term "knowingly" in weapons possession statutes reflected an intent to distinguish " 'between possessory and other offenses requiring knowledge, and possessory offenses punishable without regard to the defendant's awareness of the character of the item possessed.'" ( People v. Lanham, supra, 230 Cal. App. 3d at p. 1403.) Thus, an unbroken line of appellate court decisions has held that section 12020(a)(1) is a strict liability offense. The Legislature has not responded to this case law by amending the statute to add a mens rea requirement.