Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury on Tuesday said charges were being dropped against four people accused of selling illegal pepper spray and urged anyone else with the substance to turn it in by May 31 or face prosecution.
Bradbury said there has been widespread misunderstanding about the legality of the tear gas-like spray and speculated that the four merchants arrested for selling the substance may not have known they were breaking the law.
"All of a sudden, we've got these four cases and all four people are saying that they had no knowledge that (the spray) was illegal and they were kind of caught unaware," said Michael Frawley, misdemeanor supervisor for the district attorney's office. "It just seemed like the fair thing to do, to give them a warning."
The sale or possession of items containing oleoresin capsicum, a substance derived from resins of the cayenne pepper plant, are misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Use of the spray, which is considered a form of tear gas, constitutes a felony, Frawley said.
Anyone who purchased the spray without knowledge of its illegality can surrender it to their local law enforcement agency by May 31 without facing prosecution, Bradbury said in the statement. The district attorney's office will prosecute violations after that deadline.