Assembly Bill 96 makes the ivory market in California illegal as of last year, making it illegal to own ivory-based products. However, under older California laws, you were permitted to purchase and sell ivory that has been imported prior to 1977. Because it is nearly impossible for people to tell where and when a piece of ivory was procured, it has been difficult to enforce any bans. Assembly Bill 96 has closed the loophole regarding the 1977 rule.

You may wonder what penalties you will suffer due to the new law. It has increased the penalties to up to $50,000 or twice the value of the goods. In every situation, it depends on which is greater. You should also know that you could face up to one year imprisonment. The one way around this law is if you own an antique musical instrument that has been made of less than 5% ivory. For this law to apply, you must have proper documentation showing that the antique objects are actually of the right age.

This bill was passed in the first place on July 6, 2016, due to the fact that African elephants are being poached on a huge level. This is especially true to California, where the trade is at its largest. Poachers are doing this to supply the illegal ivory trade, which is gaining momentum and giving money back to the poachers. This near-total ban was implemented to ensure that U.S. domestic markets do not contribute to the decline of elephants in the wild.

Avoiding Penalties

What happens if you want to sell African elephant ivory items within the state of California? You must be able to demonstrate that your ivory was lawfully imported prior to the date that the elephant was listed in CITES Appendix of 1990. If you are prepping to sell elephant ivory at any point, you should be prepared to provide documentation to the Service if you are asked. You should also pass along documentation to the buyer of the items.

You may also wonder what qualifies your  item as an “ESA Antique.” If you own an antique instrument, you should try to qualify for an ESA Antiques exemption. However, you must be able to demonstrate that the item is 100 years or older, is composed in whole or in part of an ESA-listed species, and has not been repaired or modified with any such species since 1973. You should always obtain documentation of such and be able to provide it to others.

Have you been caught with ivory and wonder what penalties you will face? It may help to have an attorney on your side. You may have ivory legally and not even know it, which could be used as a defense. Call us today for more information.