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Is Pepper Spray Legal in Washington State?

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Pepper spray is a valuable self-defense tool that many people carry to protect themselves in a dangerous situation. This substance can temporarily blind a potential attacker, causing him or her severe pain and giving you enough time to escape.  

While pepper spray is often legal across the United States, some local laws may prohibit the purchase and sale of pepper spray. In Washington state, however, pepper spray is generally legal to purchase as long as you are over the age of 18. 

Washington Laws on Pepper Spray

Also known as oleoresin capsicum spray, pepper spray is an aerosol substance that people carry for personal protection. It contains capsaicin, an inflammatory substance that uses pain and burning when it comes in contact with the eyes. 

According to RCW 9.91.160, Washington adults aged 18 and older are able to purchase and possess a personal protection spray device that contains pepper spray. A child who is at least 14 years old may carry pepper spray if he or she has permission from his or her parent or guardian.

This law also prohibits local governments from passing a law that prohibits eligible parties from possessing and purchasing pepper spray. Unlike other states, where pepper spray laws may vary from municipality to municipality, these protection devices are legal to carry and possess across the state of Washington.

Can You Be Arrested for Using Pepper Spray?

Under RCW 9.91.160, people who use pepper spray for self-defense must comply with Washington’s use of force laws. According to RCW 9A.16.020, you can legally use force against another person in very specific circumstances, such as the following.

  • You are a public officer performing a legal duty.
  • You are assisting a public officer and acting under his or her direction.
  • You are arresting a person who has committed a felony crime and are delivering the person to a public officer who can take him or her into custody.
  • You are about to be injured or protecting another perform from being injured.
  • You are preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against your person, a malicious trespass, or malicious interference with your property.
  • You are attempting to detain someone who enters unlawfully onto the property so that the crime can be investigated.

If you are protecting yourself, someone else, or your property, you can generally use pepper spray against another person. However, there are some circumstances where the police may believe that you used pepper spray in an aggressive or criminal way. If your use of pepper spray allegedly falls outside of Washington’s use of force laws, you could be arrested or face criminal penalties like fines or jail time.

Speak to a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Washington

Everyone has the right to defend themselves. If you are facing charges for using pepper spray against an assailant, you need an advocate on your side. In these situations, it is important to speak with a Washington self-defense lawyer as soon as possible.

You should not face criminal charges for protecting yourself, others, or your property. A self-defense attorney can listen to your story, launch an in-depth investigation into your case, and gather the evidence necessary to fight for your best possible outcome. As soon as possible following your arrest, contact the Law Office of Mark Treyz to discuss your next steps.

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