The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has ruled that pepper spray shouldn't automatically be considered a "dangerous weapon" under the law. Though it has some proven incapacitating effects, they are not enough to cause extreme physical pain.
In the underlying the case, the defendant argued that her possession of pepper spray did not warrant conviction of attempted possession of a prohibited weapon. According to Legaltimes.com, a three-judge appeals panel agreed. Judge John Fisher, writing for the court, said that although the spray was a "destructive device," it didn't meet the high standard for "dangerous," which means a weapon could cause "great bodily injury" or death. The judge also said that the jury failed to prove that the injury in the case rose to the level of pain that might qualify the spray as dangerous under the law. Initially the defendant was charged with a weapons possession charge, along with assault and second-degree cruelty to children. While she didn’t challenge the assault charge, she appealed the cruelty and weapons possession charges in court. The court affirmed the cruelty charge but reversed the weapons charge. The outcome of this case speaks directly to some longstanding misconceptions about pepper spray’s classification as a “dangerous weapon”. It’s evident that during the appeal the popularity of pepper spray and fact that its effects are only temporary were taken into consideration and worked in the defendant’s favor.