Court Gives Violent Felons Body Armor

A murky definition of "body armor" gives violent felons the option to buy

The 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles threw out the state law passed in 1998 that banned violent felons from owning body armor much to the chagrin of police advocacy groups and many law abiding citizens.

The law was created in response to an infamous LA event, but the court felt the legislation was fuzzy and unconstitutional, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

The decade-old ban was enacted after the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, a confrontation between police and two heavily armored bank robbers that injured officers and civilians. The state Legislature passed the ban in 1998 as a measure to protect police.

Thursday's ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned the state law, saying it was unconstitutional because the definition of body armor was too vague.

The ruling comes as a result of the 2007 arrest of Ethan Saleem, who had a previous voluntary manslaughter conviction and four other felonies on his record, according to SF Gate.

Saleem was pulled over in LA wearing a 10-pound military-style armored vest labeled "body armor, fragmentation protection," according to the court.

The attorney who took up Saleem's case, Gerald Peters, argued that only an expert would be able to decipher the regulations set forth by the Legislature.


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However, union officials said the notion that Saleem, or other felons, would be confused about whether or not they were wearing body armor is laughable.

"It's not like it was an extra thick T-shirt," Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League union for LAPD officers told the LA Times. "The guy's wearing military-style body armor with a label that says body armor. I think it's pretty apparent to the guy that it was body armor."

The current body armor law that is affected by the ruling, according to SF Gate, is the following:

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.

Californians can be certain they haven't heard the end of this court battle as the state can appeal the ruling moving it to the California Supreme Court.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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