LAPD LASD Law Enforcement

Body Armor and Violent Felony Convictions?


Okay, here’s the question: Should those previously convicted of certain violent felonies
be able to possess and wear bullet-repelling body armor? Since 1998, both state and federal law said no.

Then, last Thursday, California’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals, decided that the state law was not clear enough, and overturned it.

The decision has made law enforcement groups up and down the state understandably unhappy. The ruling will get people hurt, said LA Police Protective League president, Paul Weber.

Weber has precedent to back up his opinion. The law was originally passed in response to the infamous, 1997, North Hollywood shootout between officers and heavily armed and armored bank robbers, plus an earlier fatal shootout in San Francisco.

Yesterday, San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon upped the ante when he sent letters to Attorney General Jerry Brown and SF Board of Supervisors President David Chiu asking for help in overturning the decision.

Here is how the SF Chronicle explains
some of the details of the controversy.

The law, passed in 1998, was intended to protect police against flak-jacketed criminals such as Lee Boutwell, who fatally shot San Francisco Officer James Guelff in November 1994 and wounded another officer before being killed in a shootout. Congress passed a similar federal law in 2002.

The state law makes it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, for felons with violent offenses on their record to possess or wear body armor. State regulations define body armor as apparel that provides “ballistic resistance to the penetration of the test ammunition” for certain types of guns, a standard also used to certify armor for police.


In Thursday’s ruling, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said even someone who owned a device that had been sold as a bulletproof vest wouldn’t know, without testing or expert advice, whether it fit the law’s definition of body armor.

“We do not see how, without providing something like an official list of prohibited vests, the statute can be said to provide either fair notice to a defendant or meaningful guidelines to the officer on the street,” Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein said in the 2-1 ruling.

The decision could go next to the California supreme court. In his letters, George Gascon is pressing for such an appeal.

Of course, any further appeals could be rendered unnecessary if the state legislature simply got itself together long enough to amend the law by making the definition of prohibited items a little clearer.

Let us hope they do so.

I’m with the cops on this one.

And speaking of cops, in Tuesday’s LA Times, Tim Rutten has a nice column on the twinned topics of Charlie Beck and Special Order 40.


  • Let’s see. Violent felons also aren’t supposed to own firearms, but they do. Does anyone think that the current law prohibiting them from buying bullet-proof vests is effective in stopping them? Frankly, the ruling won’t matter either way.

    Gun-control nuts don’t have a clue about how little respect for laws that felons have. “When bullet-proof vests are outlawed, only outlaws will own them.”

  • When a felon decides to do a home invasion on one of these Judges residences wearing Bullet Proof Vest, raid jackets, and high power machine guns, they will think twice about their decisions and opinions. That’s aside from being tied and assaulted or raped.


    A recent story about body armor and assholes.

    The other two suspects also were wearing body armor. The Mexican Cartels have pretty much taken over the meth trade. The dead asshole, from what I’ve heard, took a round to the neck and head. Nice job by W. Covina PD whatever the case.

    Southern California starts having the amount of cartel related deaths Mexico does and maybe some justice will get his head out of his ass long enough to realize nit picking every fucking law is idiotic not to mention harmful to officers and the general population.

    How about just giving the state some time to strengthen a law than simply overturn it?

    Be sure and lighta candle for the dead guy Robbie.

  • Christmas is a stressful season. There’s always the constant threat of a meltdown. One might consider some Mel Torme? The “Velvet Fog” is better than drugs when the hectic times take their toll. So Have Your Self a Merry Little Christmas.

  • A little Mel Torme with the lights low … sippin a Roy Rogers … just might turn it around tonight for Quick Draw.

  • Now I am angry at Sure Fire, I already posted the news story about the mexican “undocumented” drug dealer who was previously deported and now in a shoot out with the West Covina cops. The West Covina cops won this gun battle. Does anyone need another exmaple of what a “Criminal Alien” is?

    This story covers the recent topics of city cops enforcing immigration laws and body armor. Obama should worry more about the drug cartels right across the border and not the boggie men in Afghanistan. Does Obama know who is reponsible for the majority of kidnappings in this country? It’s not the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

  • This seems like a no-brainer. There’s some stuff that should be available only to professional law enforcement or citizens who can prove a necessary circumstance IMHO. Body armor is one of them. The truth is that making this stuff generally available means that the bad guys can easily get it if they want to. I can’t imagine why anyone would want body armor unless they were preparing for a gunfight. It also seems to me – not a lawyer – that certain judicial opinions might be rendered such that, rather than over-turning an entire piece of legislation, they get charged back to the legislature for some quick remediation if the central issue is actually clarity of the wording rather than the constitutionality of the principle behind the legislation. In this case I don’t even see that, but I’m not an expert.

  • Incidentally, moms buying body armor to send to their sons in the military is a legitimate circumstance. That this would ever seem necessary to a parent is disturbing and raises some bigger questions, but it’s clearly one way of helping “the good guys” get appropriate access.

  • Possibly if this protracted war lasts through another Summer LL Bean or Cabela’s might look into marketing summer weight body armor to Mothers of troops?

  • In answer to bullet-proof vests worn by felons, we should give the police weapons and bullets with enough punch(1) to make the vests useless. One shot, one dead criminal, just like Dirty Harry. Why are police departments forced to issue bullets that don’t do the job?

    Footnote: (1) If those are hollow points made by Winchester, they are “black talons” and because of liberal hysteria, they were removed from production, why? because they worked “too well” according to the sheeple. — Retired Police Officer

  • Happy holidays everyone.

    An interesting editorial in today’s LA Times by David Farthi, US Director of Human Rights Watch, on elderly prisoners behind barbed wire nursing homes. He writes about “America’s love affair with incarceration,” and claims that because of criminalizing all drug use (including pot, something very much an issue these days especially locally), three strikes, and a more punitive turn among the judiciary and public, there were 6 times as many prisoners in the U.S. in 2005 as there were in 1975. There was a TENFOLD increase in jail of those over 55 between 1980 and 2008, due to their longer sentences etc. Lots of them are over 70 and infirm.

    Seems to me that with everyone worried about prisoners being released onto our streets due to a federal mandate (a stupid one – like this decision to allow convicted felons to wear body armor, the better to pull off their next heist) to relieve over-crowding, releasing the oldest people first, especially if they have means of support outside or family, should be the FIRST thing they do. You’ve written about this before, and pointed out how much cheaper it would be for society to have them enroll in MediCare or Medicaid then to get expensive prison healthcare, apart from being more humane. Something to ponder as we think about goodwill to men during the holidays especially.

  • Regarding ballistics Woody: I was told that the Eagle Talon was yanked from the market because complaints were widespread from Emergency Rooms that the docs were having a helluva time with cleaning all the “frags” out of wounds (both cop and felon). The configuration of the slug was classic hollow-point but was Teflon coated with grooves molded around the top so they were designed to break up. It was a devastating round with casualties on both sides of the fence. The real nemesis for body armor was (is) the 7.62 mm. steel-jacketed NATO round that is fired from the AK-47. The effectiveness of that round was evidenced in the No Hollywood bank robbery shootout. Unfortunately this ammo is still available at gunshows and from private parties at bargain basement prices. Apparently the planet wasn’t able to supply the overwhelming amount of conflict the Russian, Chinese, Czech,etc. ammunition manufacturers anticipated so the paranoid public and the bad guys have easy, cheap access.

  • Addendum: I’m not comfortable with the term “paranoid public” and don’t have the option here to edit my comment so make it “well armed public” in reference to our 2nd Amendment rights.

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