Transitory Possession Defense Case in California

In People v. Brown (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 736, the defendant, Brown, was found, in a prison yard, carrying a weapon made out of a razor blade. In support of his request for a transitory possession instruction, he made an offer of proof that he would testify "he came upon the object on the ground, was concerned for his own safety and the safety of others and therefore picked it up, put it into his pocket and was proceeding to the outdoor toilet to dispose of it." (Id. at p. 739.) The Court held that the trial court did not err in not instructing the jury as to the transitory possession defense. (Id. at p. 740.) This court observed: "The fact that the Legislature has made the possession of any weapon, not just firearms, in a penal institution a felony is indicative of the danger weapons present in such a facility. ... The nature of a firearm is readily apparent; likewise here, the nature of a razor blade with an inmate-manufactured holder is also readily apparent. It is a weapon with the sole purpose of inflicting injury on someone else. It cannot be 'innocently' possessed or picked up out of curiosity. The factors which may militate toward temporary possession for disposal purposes or for the protection of others as recognized in Hurtado do not apply in a penal institution. Defendant could have simply alerted a guard to the existence of the weapon without picking it up. We do not believe the Legislature, by the enactment of ... section 4502, sanctioned self-help or knowing possession of weapons under the circumstances presented here. Whether there can ever be a circumstance justifying temporary possession in a penal institution is a question not presently before us. We simply conclude the judge was correct in denying the defense request to instruct the jury on the transitory possession defense." (Brown, supra, 82 Cal.App.4th at pp. 739-740.)