Is Pepper Spray Legal in California?

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When you’re putting your self-defense kit together, it’s important to ask, “Is pepper spray legal in California?”

As an essential non-lethal alternative to personal protection, California is one of the many states allowing pepper spray use.

However, there are specific restrictions to ensure you’re using it lawfully.

Let’s get into the finer details of what it means to own pepper spray in California and how you can use it effectively.

Otherwise, you could face charges due to improper use and unlawful carrying.

What Is Pepper Spray?

We all know that pepper spray is a self-defense tool that can help ward off attackers.

It puts distance between you and an aggressor, but it can also incapacitate them.

What makes pepper spray unique is the formulation of the chemical compound in the can.

OC (Oleoresin Capsicum), also known as OC gas or OC spray, is the primary compound in pepper spray.

It’s an oily material derived from cayenne peppers, one of the hottest peppers in the world.

When this spray gets discharged into the face of an attacker, it can cause considerable visual and respiratory distress.

Since OC pepper spray has an oily texture, it tends to stick to the surface it’s sprayed onto.

When it hits an attacker’s face, it causes distress for a considerable period.

However, it isn’t designed to cause permanent injury or serious bodily harm.

Again, it’s important to focus on what OC sprays are supposed to do.

Typically, the side effects last up to 30 minutes to an hour.

Pepper spray is also highly regulated throughout the U.S., ensuring only legal bottles are distributed to the general public.

Generally speaking, pepper spray is legal to use in California, even for a peace officer.

But it’s important to note that its uses are regulated like the rest of the United States, restricting access to certain classes of people.

Adhering to the regulations ensures that you legally purchase, carry, and discharge the spray.

The pepper spray’s importance in California ventures well beyond defending yourself against a human attacker.

Known for its wildlife, there are many instances where you might be faced with using a non-lethal alternative as a weapon.

For example, mountain lions, bears, and aggressive dogs are all concerns for Californian residents.

With that said, most residents carry pepper spray for self-defense situations.

In highly populated metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, having protection is essential.

Law enforcement will also require a non-lethal alternative to subdue uncooperative individuals.

is pepper spray legal in california state

What Are the Personal Restrictions to Using Pepper Spray in California?

As you can expect, people must adhere to restrictions before owning pepper spray gel in the state.

Without these regulations, pepper spray gel could run rampant and lead to many considerable crimes.

Before investing in compact pepper spray as a self-defense tool, let’s explore all of the personal restrictions.

Prior Convictions

As you can imagine, individuals who have a felony charge are barred from being able to own weapons.

It also includes a pepper spray device, as you can use it in situations that put you in violation of your parole.

More specifically, California laws prohibit people with felonies pertaining to an assault crime from owning pepper spray.

Outside of assault, anyone convicted of a crime involving the misuse of tear gas weapons cannot own pepper spray.

Although the two compounds are noticeably different, they are discharged similarly.

Adding this restriction ensures pepper spray lands in the right hands.

The only other crime-related tenet to consider when owning defensive sprays is regard to narcotic drug use.

Individuals addicted to narcotics are also prohibited from owning and using pepper spray.

This law likely comes from the fact that those heavily addicted to drugs should not have tools that can cause bodily harm.


Age is another common restriction applied to purchasing, carrying, and discharging a defense spray.

As you can guess, minors shouldn’t own and use pepper spray.

You must be above 18 to purchase this self-defense tool in California.

There is one significant loophole to this law, which is essential for teens.

If you can obtain written consent from your parent or guardian, you can purchase and possess pepper spray at 16 years old.

Depending on the retailer, you may also need your parent or guardian to accompany you for the purchase.

Additionally, it is illegal for anyone to purchase defense spray products for a minor to use.

This law applies to any other tear gas weapon or tools that discharge compounds into the air.

It’s always important to ensure these types of non-lethal weapons are used by mature and aware individuals.


The initial development of pepper spray was for self-defense, and today, it’s still its primary use.

With that said, when you purchase a canister, you must use it for self-defense only.

This is a significant area where California differs from other states, as the packaging of your pepper spray matters.

All legal defensive spray brands should have a warning label on the packaging that states it is for self-defense.

Otherwise, you could face severe penalties if you were caught carrying or using the product.

Additionally, you must only use expensive pepper sprays when you fear for your safety or are in imminent danger.

You could be charged with criminal offenses for improperly discharging a non-lethal weapon outside of these circumstances.

In fact, the penalties for improper use are rather significant in the state.

When used outside of self-defense, discharging pepper spray leads to up to $1000 in fines and three years in state prison.

Container Size

When you start shopping for pepper spray brands, you’ll find an assortment of manufacturers that offer different quantities.

Although it can be tempting to invest in the biggest bottle for the lowest price, California has restrictions.

An individual cannot carry a device that contains more than 2.5 ounces of pepper spray of the compound at a time.

Fortunately, most pepper spray products are compact and easy to carry. In fact, many are so small they can be attached to a keychain or a belt.

With these smaller sizes, you can guarantee you’re not carrying above the legal amount of spray.

Method of Dispersion

This regulation is something the majority of states agree on when it comes to regulating the use of a pepper spray canister.

You are not allowed to own or use a pepper spray dispersed by a method apart from an aerosol spray.

With that said, this shouldn’t be a considerable issue since most popular pepper sprays are designed to be sprayed.

Where Can I Buy Pepper Spray?

Understanding the laws and regulations surrounding capsicum spray use makes it time to determine if it’s right for you.

It can be a massive deterrent against human and wild animal aggressors as a popular self-defense tool.

There are multiple places where you can find pepper spray containers in California, including:

Big Box Stores

Stores such as Walmart are known to sell many self-defense tools that you can purchase.

They often have competitive prices, ensuring you’re not paying too much for a potent spray.

Additionally, all of the products they carry will be within state regulations.

Self-Defense Stores

Any retail location known for selling weapons and self-defense tools will have a collection of pocket size pepper spray.

You’ll often be able to find different types of sprays with different packaging for various uses.

Also, you’ll be able to get professional advice from the sales associates to find your ideal product.


Of course, purchasing pepper spray online in California is perfectly legal.

As long as you ensure the product falls within the local, state, and federal laws, it will be safe to carry and use for self-defense.

Pepper Spray Purchase and Use in California

If you’re wondering, “Is pepper spray legal in California?” the short answer is yes, in self-defense.

You can purchase, carry, and use pepper spray items to defend yourself in sticky situations.

That is as long as you have no felony on record, aren’t addicted to narcotics, and adhere to age guidelines.

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