California Knife Laws
Explained by Criminal Defense Lawyers

California's knife laws are among the toughest in the country. To help you make sense of California's knife laws, our California criminal defense attorneys discuss the following, below:

1. Knives that may be worn openly, but may not be concealed
2. Knives that may be carried either openly or concealed
3. Knives that are always illegal in California
4. Legal defenses to California knife charges
5. Restrictions on carrying knives in certain places
5.1. Knives in public buildings – Penal Code 171b PC
5.2. Restrictions on knives in California schools – Penal Code 626.10(a)(1) PC
5.3 Switchblades on federal property - 15 USC 1241–44 and 18 USC 1716
6. Laws against using a knife as a weapon in California
6.1. Brandishing a weapon -- Penal Code 417 PC
6.2.  Assault with a deadly weapon -- Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC
6.3. California's sentencing enhancement for personal use of a dangerous or deadly weapon -- Penal Code 12022 PC
7. Legislative history and constitutional concerns

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

Broadly speaking, California law places knifes into three (3) general categories:

1. Knives that may be worn openly, but may not be concealed

California's law prohibits carrying concealed “dirks” and “daggers.”  Dirks and daggers are knives capable of causing serious injury by stabbing.   They may not be carried on one's person if they are concealed in any way.  Nor may they be carried in a purse, briefcase or other container.

California has an “open-carry” knife law, however.  It allows you to carry a dirk or dagger openly in a sheath suspended from your waist.

The law applies to any knife capable of being used as a stabbing weapon.  This is true even if such knives are normally used for lawful purposes.  Thus, under California law, “dirks and daggers” include such items as:

  • chef's knives,
  • ice picks, and
  • other functional blades.

2. Knives that may be carried either openly or concealed.

Folding knives (other than switchblades) may be carried concealed on your person if closed.

They may also be carried openly…unless…the blade is exposed and locked into position.  Then the knife becomes a “dirk” or “dagger” and to be carried openly must be worn in a sheath suspended from your waist.

Pocket knives, box cutters and other “utility” knives generally fall into this category.

3. Knives that are always illegal to carry in California.

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Illegal gravity knife

Certain other knives may not be carried either openly or concealed.  In other words, these knives are always illegal to carry in California.  Illegal knives include:

  • switchblades,
  • ballistic knives, and
  • “novelty” knives, such as belt buckle knives and cane swords.

There are additional restrictions on carrying knives into schools and other public buildings.  And you may not carry knives onto certain property owned by the United States government.

The knife statutes are full of nuances and technicalities.  In some cases, they are even poorly written and difficult to understand.

But our California criminal defense attorneys include former prosecutors and cops.  We understand California's knife laws.  And we know the legal defenses that may help you fight…or lessen the penalty for…knife charges.

Legal defenses to violation of California knife laws

Legal defenses to California knife charges may include (but are not limited to):

  • your knife doesn't meet the legal definition of a prohibited knife;
  • you didn't know you were carrying a prohibited knife;
  • your knife was a dirk or dagger, but it was worn openly as permitted by law;
  • the knife was discovered during an illegal search and seizure;
  • the police engaged in misconduct.
Penalties for violation of California's knife laws

Penalties for violation of California's knife laws range from misdemeanor (summary) probation to up to three (3) years  in county jail or California state prison.

These penalties apply even if you had no intention of using the knife as a weapon.

And if you actually threaten someone with an illegal knife -- or you use the knife as a weapon -- you face additional jail time.  This extra time is on top of your sentence for possessing or carrying the knife.

1. Knives that may be worn openly, but may not
be concealed

California's laws against carrying concealed dirks or daggers is set forth in Penal Code 21310 PC.  Penal Code 21310 makes it a crime to carry a concealed knife that is capable of inflicting significant injury by stabbing.

These knives -- called “dirks” or “daggers" -- may not legally be carried concealed on your person.  The prohibition covers knives tucked into a waistband or other article of clothing.  It also extends to knives carried in a purse, pocket, or anywhere else under your control.

California's has an “open-carry” law, however, for dirks and daggers.  Dirks and daggers may be carried openly in a sheath -- if the sheath is worn suspended from your waist.1

The terms “dirk” and “dagger” mean the same thing under California law.2
They are any knife capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury.3

The definition of a dirk and dagger is quite broad.  In addition to knives such as daggers and stilettos, it can apply to such seemingly innocent items as:

  • chef's knives;
  • ice picks;
  • knitting needles; and
  • scissors.

Carrying a concealed dirk or dagger on your person is what is known as a California “wobbler” offense.  A wobbler can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a California felony, in the prosecutor's discretion.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor violation of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, you could receive:

  • up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or
  • up to a $1,000 fine.

If you are charged with a felony violation of the law, you could receive:

  • 16 months, two (2) years, or three (3) years in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $10,000.4
2. Knives that may be carried either openly
or concealed.

Certain knives may be carried either openly or concealed -- unless the blade is exposed and locked into position. These include:

  • pocket knives,
  • non-locking folding knives, and
  • other folding knives that don't meet the definition of a switchblade.5

If the blade is exposed and locked into position, an otherwise legal folding knife becomes a dirk or dagger under California law.  In such a case, it must be worn openly in a sheath suspended from the waist.

3. Knives that are illegal in California

Under California law, the possession, sale, manufacture and import of certain other types of knives is completely prohibited.  These illegal knives include:

  • switchblades,6
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  • spring-loaded knives,7
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  • gravity knives,8
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  • balisongs (also known as batangas, butterfly knives or fan knives),9
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    • air gauge knives [items that appear to be air gauges, but are actually knives],10
  • ballistic knives,11
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  • belt buckle knives,12
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  • cane swords,13
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  • undetectable knives [made from materials that can't be detected by metal detectors or magnetometers],14
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  • lipstick case knives,15
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    • shobi-zues [also called shinobi-zues].   (They are staffs, crutches, sticks, rods, or poles concealing a knife or blade which may be exposed by a flip of the wrist or by a mechanical action),16 and
  • writing pen knives.17
Img-pen-knives-optimized

Possession of a switchblade (California Penal Code 21510) is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

However, if you conceal a switchblade with its blade exposed and locked, a prosecutor could, charge you with carrying a concealed dirk or dagger.  Carrying a concealed dirk or dagger carries a longer maximum sentence than carrying a switchblade.18

Possession, sale, manufacture or import of an undetectable knife is also a misdemeanor.  It is punishable by:

  • not more than one (1) year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.19

A knife is undetectable if it is made from materials that can't be detected by metal detectors or magnetometers.20

Possession, sale, manufacture or import of any other prohibited knife is a wobbler.21

If charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by:

  • up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or
  • up to a $1,000 fine.

If you are convicted of any of these acts as a felony, you face:

  • 16 months, or two or three years in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.
4. Legal defenses to California's knife laws

Legal defenses to violation of California knife laws include (but are not limited to):

Your knife does not meet the legal definition of a prohibited knife

The legal definitions of prohibited knives are very specific.  If your knife doesn't strictly meet the definition, you have not violated California's knife laws.

For example, if the blade on your knife is less than 2” long, you are not guilty of carry a switchblade in violation of Penal Code 21510 PC.22

Or perhaps a police officer is able to open your folding pocket knife with a flick of her wrist.   If the knife has a thumb stud and a mechanism that makes it resist being opened, however, you have a defense to switchblade charges.23

And if your knife isn't capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon, it is not legally a dirk or dagger.

Example: Evan works as a handyman.  On the way home from work one day, he is stopped and frisked by the police.  He has a putty knife in his pocket.  He is arrested and charged with carrying a concealed dirk and dagger.  But because the tip of the knife isn't very sharp, Evan has a defense to the charges.

You didn't knowingly carry a prohibited knife

To prove you guilty of violating California's knife laws, a prosecutor must establish that:

  1. you knew you had a knife on your person, AND
  2. you knew the knife had the characteristics of a prohibited knife.24

There is no requirement that you used – or intended to use – the knife as a weapon.25 You violate California's knife laws by simply knowing that you have a prohibited knife on your person.

Nor do you need to be actually holding or touching the knife.  It is enough that you have control over it, or the right to control it yourself or through someone else.26

Thus, carrying a prohibited knife in a pocket or purse counts as carrying it on your person.

But if you didn't know that you were carrying a knife…or you didn't know it had the characteristics of a prohibited knife…you have a defense to the charges.

Example: Alex borrows his friend's jacket, not knowing there is a prohibited knife in the pocket.  He hasn't violated any law.
Example: A friend gives Janice a knife for protection, and tells her that she'll have to use two hands to open it.  It turns out that the knife is actually a switchblade.  But because Janice didn't know it opened automatically, she has a legal defense to charges of carrying a switchblade.
Example: When Adam's brother left to serve in Afghanistan, he gave Adam his automatic knife. Adam keeps it in the pocket of his jacket because he believes it will help his brother come home safe.

Adam fits the description of someone who robbed a house nearby.  As a result, the police stop and frisk him.  They find the knife.  Adam had no intention of using it as a weapon.  But he is still charged with carrying a switchblade in violation of Penal Code 21510.  If Adam knew the knife had the characteristics of a switchblade, he is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Other legal defenses

Other possible legal defenses to possession of a prohibited knife in California include (but are not limited to):

  • your knife met the legal definition of a dirk or dagger, but you were wearing it openly as required by law;
  • the knife was discovered during an illegal search;
  • your arrest or confession resulted from police misconduct.
5. Restrictions on carrying knives in certain places

5.1. Knives in public buildings – Penal Code 171b PC

Penal Code 171b makes it a crime to bring or possesses certain knives within any state or local public building.  It also makes it a crime to bring them to any meeting required to be open to the public.  The prohibited knives are:

  1. a switchblade,
  2. any knife having a blade in excess of four (4) inches which is fixed -- or is capable of being fixed -- in an unguarded position by the use of one or two hands, or
  3. any weapon, including an illegal knife, that is generally prohibited in the state of California.27

Penal Code 171b violations are wobblers.28 They may be punished by up to one (1) year in county jail if charged as a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, they can be punished by up to three (3) years in California state prison.

5.2. Restrictions on knives in California schools – Penal Code 626.10

Under Penal Code 626.10(a)(1) and (2), it is a California wobbler offense to bring or possess certain knives on the grounds of:

  • any public or private school providing kindergarten to grade 12 instruction;
  • any private university;
  • the University of California;
  • the California State University; or
  • the California Community Colleges.29

The prohibited knives are:

  • a dirk or dagger,
  • an ice pick,
  • a knife having a blade longer than 2 ½”,
  • a folding knife with a blade that locks into place, or
  • a razor with an unguarded blade.30

Violation of Penal Code 626.10(a)(1) or (b) is punishable by:

  • as a misdemeanor, up to one (1) year in county jail, or
  • as a felony, up to three (3) years in county jail.31

Additionally, Penal Code 626.10(a)(2) makes it a misdemeanor -- punishable by  up to one (1) year in county jail -- to bring  or possess on the grounds of a K-12 school:

  • a razor blade, or
  • a box cutter.32

5.3. Switchblades on federal property - 15 USC 1241–44 and
18 USC 1716

Crimes committed in California are generally punished exclusively under California law.  An exception is crime committed on federally owned properties such as airports and post offices.33

The federal switchblade law - 15 USC 1241–44 - makes it a crime to:

  • introduce or transport a switchblade in interstate commerce34, or
  • possess a switchblade on federal or Indian lands, or lands subject to federal jurisdiction;35

unless

  • you are a member of the armed forces acting in the performance of his or her duty, or
  • you have only one arm and the blade is three inches or less in length.36

Violation of the federal switchblade law is punishable by:

  1. a fine of not more than $2,000, and/or
  2. inprisonment of not more than five years.37
6. Laws against using a knife as a weapon in California

If you use…or threaten to use…a knife as a weapon, you may face additional charges.  These charged are in addition to those for carrying an illegal knife.  They include:

6.1. Brandishing a weapon -- Penal Code 417 PC

Penal Code 417, California's “brandishing a weapon” law makes it a crime to brandish a knife in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or during a fight.

If you do so, prosecutors could charge you brandishing a knife in violation of Penal Code 417 PC. This is in addition to charges, if any, for violating California's knife laws.38

The minimum punishment for brandishing a weapon is thirty (30) days in county jail.  The maximum is three (3) years in California state prison.

6.2. Assault with a deadly weapon -- Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC

Penal Code 245(a)(1) is California's “assault with a deadly weapon” law (ADW). ADW is an offense commonly filed along with charges of possessing an illegal knife.

Assault with a deadly weapon is defined as an assault committed with:

  • a deadly weapon, or
  • other means of force likely to cause great bodily injury to another person.

If you carry an illegal knife -- and you use that weapon to assault someone -- you could be charged for both possession and assault.

Assault with a deadly weapon is a California wobbler offense.39 If convicted of ADW as a felony, you face a maximum sentence of four (4) years in California state prison.

6.3. California's sentencing enhancement for personal use of a dangerous or deadly weapon -- Penal Code 12022 PC

Penal Code 12022 PC provides a sentencing enhancement for personally using a deadly or dangerous weapon.  If you carry an illegal knife…and you actually use it as a weapon…you may receive a sentencing enhancement of one (1) year in state prison.  This enhancement is in addition to the penalty you receive for possessing the knife.40

This sentencing enhancement cannot be filed in conjunction with charges of brandishing a weapon or assault with a deadly weapon.  Use of a weapon is already an element of those charges.

7. Legislative history and constitutional concerns

California and federal knife laws can sometimes appear confusing and inconsistent.  The laws have been revised several times, in order to try to further two competing goals:

  1. protecting the public from the risk of surprise attacks; and
  2. preserving the "innocent" carrying of legal instruments such as steak knives, hunting and fishing knives, scissors and metal knitting needles.41

Balancing the two competing concerns has proved a challenge for legislatures and courts.

Until 1994, California Penal Code 12020 made it a crime to carry a concealed dirk or dagger.  But it did not define either of those terms.  As a result, courts supplied their own definition.  This was generally "any straight knife worn on the person which is capable of inflicting death, other than what is commonly known as a "pocket-knife.'"42

Appellate courts split, however, over the relevance of a defendant's intended use of a concealed knife.  Some relied on the California Supreme Court's 1965 decision in People v. Grubb.  In that case, the court held that a defendant's subjective intent was relevant in determining whether the concealed instrument was a dirk or dagger.43

In Grubb, the Court noted that by criminalizing the possession of “billy” clubs, the California Legislature had made possession of ordinarily harmless objects a crime when the circumstances of possession demonstrated an immediate atmosphere of danger. As an example, the justices said the statute would encompass the possession of a table leg – in one sense an obviously useful item leg – when it is detached from the table and carried at night in a "tough" neighborhood to the scene of a riot. On the other hand, they said, the section would not penalize a Little Leaguer at bat in a baseball game.44

Thus, the surrounding circumstances of possession – including the defendant's intended use – were relevant to the issue of whether an ordinary item was a prohibited weapon.  In so concluding, however, the justices made it clear that "[t]he prosecution need not show the intent of the possessor to use an instrument in a violent manner."45

Other appellate courts, however, reached the opposite conclusion.46 In 1993, the Legislature attempted to resolve these inconsistencies.  It adopted the rationale of cases holding the defendant's intent irrelevant in determining whether he carried a concealed dirk or dagger.

The 1993 version of Penal Code 12020(c)(24) became effective in 1994.  It defined “dirk” and “dagger” as "a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is primarily designed, constructed, or altered to be a stabbing instrument designed to inflict great bodily injury or death."47

Less than two years later, however, the Legislature broadened the definition of "dirk" or "dagger."  It did so by replacing the phrase, "that is primarily designed, constructed, or altered to be a stabbing instrument," with the phrase "that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon."48 The Legislature was concerned that "gang members and other[s] who carry lethal knives hidden in their clothing [were] essentially immune from arrest and prosecution" under the 1993 definition.49

The Legislature recognized that the new definition might criminalize the "innocent" carrying of legal instruments such as steak knives, scissors and metal knitting needles. But it concluded that "there is no need to carry such items concealed in public."50 As a result, the Legislature made "[t]he unlawful concealed carrying of a dirk or dagger in Section 12020…a general intent crime." In doing so, it expressly stated that "[n]o intent for unlawful use would be required for violations of the prohibition on the concealed possession upon the person of an otherwise lawful dirk or dagger."51

Subsequent constitutional challenges to the statute failed.  In People v. Mitchell, a California appeals court held that the dirk and dagger statute does not run afoul of the Second Amendment.52 The court said the statute is narrowly tailored to serve the important governmental interest of preventing exposure to the risk of surprise attacks.  It does not burden the right to bear arms in self-defense beyond what is reasonably necessary to serve that interest.  By prohibiting concealment, the court said, the statute advances the governmental purpose irrespective of the ease with which an unconcealed weapon can be accessed.53

A similar evolution has taken place with the definition of a “switchblade knife.”

California Penal Code 653k was enacted in 1957.  It provided a lengthy definition of “switchblade.”   The definition became increasingly broader in scope as the bill went through successive drafts and when it was amended.54

As originally proposed, the statute proscribed switchblade knives with a blade three inches or longer, but only if carried concealed on a person.55 In successive drafts, the bill was broadened to bar switchblades with two-inch blades.56 It also prohibited the sale, offer for sale, and transfer of such a knife.57 It was adopted in this form in 1957.58

In 1959, the statute added “gravity knife” to the list of prohibited knives.  It also expanded the mode of operation to include a “flip of the wrist” and “the weight of the blade.”59

Courts struggled, however, with the definition.  In 1989, an appeals court held that “balisong,” or “butterfly knives,” and “Tekna sheath-retracting knives,” were “switchblades” under Penal Code 653k.  This was true even though they were not traditional switchblade knives.  The court reasoned that each could be opened with one hand as quickly as a traditional switchblade, with little or no training.60

The decision sparked concerns that the statute was overly broad.61 There were worries that it could cover knives carried for “peaceful utilitarian purposes.”62 Examples given were “hunting, fishing, climbing or any other activity where a knife was necessary but two handed use was not possible or desirable.”63

The problem was perhaps best explained by the California District Attorneys Association, who in opposing the exemption for some knives asked:

What is the essence of a switchblade knife?  That it is spring loaded and can be opened with only the push of a button?  That it may be opened with a hand movement if there is no spring?  That it may be opened with only one hand, regardless of the mechanism?64

Despite the objection of the CDAA, Penal Code 653k was amended by Assembly Bill 3314 in 1996.  The amendment exempted from the definition of “switchblade knife” all knives designed to be opened with one hand via pressure on a thumb-stud or hole in the blade.65

Img-tekna-knife-optimized

Tekna sheath-retracting knife

In its objection to the amendment, the CDAA complained:

The essence of the rule against switchblades is not the mechanism used to open the knife, but the speed with which it can be deployed.  A manufacturer could make a knife that can be flicked open with a bit of thumb pressure on the blade.   This exception could easily distort the rule.66

The CDAA continued to object to the law.  In 2001, it co-sponsored SB 274, which changed the exemption under Penal Code 653k.  To be exempt from the definition of a switchblade, a knife would have to have a detent or mechanism giving the knife a “bias toward closure.”67

That exemption is still the one applicable under current law.  Effective January 1, 2012, Penal Code 16965, 17235, and 21510 replaced, without substantive change, former Penal Code 635k.

The federal Switchblade Knife Act of 1958, 15 U.S.C.1241- 45, has had a similar history.

In 2009, the federal law was amended.  This was done after intense lobbying efforts by knife owners, retailers and manufacturers.  They were concerned that prior restrictions on switchblade possession were making pocket knives, as well as work and hunting knives, illegal.68 The amendment exempted from the definition of “switchblade,” knives containing a detent or other mechanism giving the knife a bias toward closure.69

More recently, the Obama administration, under urging from US Customs and Border Protection, proposed further changes to the definition of “switchblade.”  The changes would have included any spring-assisted or one-handed-opening knife.  The proposed legislation would also have blocked the importing of many common pocketknives.70

Critics of the proposed change included US knife manufacturers and collectors, the National Rifle Association, sportsmen's groups and a bipartisan group of at least 79 House members.  These groups said the change could make de facto criminals of the estimated 35 million Americans who use folding knives.  Hunters and hikers who crossed state lines with their knives could find themselves guilty of a federal felony.71

The proposed change was defeated. But proponents have vowed to fight on.

This inherent tension between the two competing public interests represented by California and federal knife laws was perhaps best stated by the California appeals court in Mitchell:

The risk of a surprise attack exists even if the weapon bearer originally intends to use the weapon only for legitimate self-defense. The public safety risk arising from possession of a weapon (including a knife) even for “anticipatory self-defense” was explained in Mack v. United States (D.C.App.Ct.2010) 6 A.3d 1224: “When dangerous weapons are readily available, death or serious injury too often result. One who carries a knife, a pistol, or an ice pick may think that he will use it only in lawful self-defense. But threats, violence, and other unsettling events may occur without warning. People who are startled or upset may overreact, lose their tempers, or make poor judgments under stress. Even when they start out with good intentions, persons who carry items capable of inflicting death or great bodily injury may use them in ways and in situations that are not justified – with grave results.”72

Call us for help…
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If you or loved one is charged with carrying an illegal knife and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California. For Nevada knife laws, see our article on Nevada knife laws.

Legal References:

1Penal Code 20200 PC -- A knife carried in a sheath that is worn openly suspended from the waist of the wearer is not concealed within the meaning of Section 16140 [air gauge knife], 16340 [cane sword], Section 17350 [writing pen knife], or 21310 [dirks and daggers].

2Penal Code 16470 -- As used in this part, "dirk" or "dagger" means a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death. A  nonlocking folding knife, a folding knife that is not prohibited by Section 21510, or a pocketknife is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.

3Penal Code 16600 PC --  As used in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 25100) of Division 4 of Title 4, "great bodily injury" [in context of California knife laws] means a significant or substantial physical injury.

4Penal Code 21310 PC provides, in relevant part – [A]ny person in this state who carries concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

See also California Penal Code 1170(h)(1) -- Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.

See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.

5Same.

6Penal Code 17235 PC and 21510 PC.

7Same.

8Same.

9Same.

10Penal Code 16140 PC and 20310 PC.

11Penal Code 16220 PC and 21110 PC.

12Penal Code 16260 PC and 20410 PC.

13Penal Code 16340 PC and 20510 PC.

14Penal Code 17290 PC and 20810 PC.

15Penal Code 16830 PC and 20610 PC.

16Penal Code 17160 PC and 20710 PC.

17Penal Code 17350 PC and 20910 PC.

18People v. Plumlee (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 935, 83 Cal.Rptr.3d 172  (The switchblade offense is not more specific than the dirk-or-dagger offense for purposes of the specific-over-general rule. As a result, the choice between the two applicable statutes was within the prosecutor's discretion).

19California Penal Code 20810(a) -- Any person in this state who commercially manufactures or causes to be commercially manufactured, or who knowingly imports into the state for commercial sale, or who knowingly exports out of this state for commercial, dealer, wholesaler, or distributor sale, or who keeps for commercial sale, or offers or exposes for commercial, dealer, wholesaler, or distributor sale, any undetectable knife is guilty of a misdemeanor.

20Penal Code 17290.  As used in this part, "undetectable knife" means any knife or other instrument, with or without a handguard, that satisfies all of the following requirements:

(a) It is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death.
(b) It is commercially manufactured to be used as a weapon.
(c) It is not detectable by a metal detector or magnetometer, either handheld or otherwise, which is set at standard calibration.

21California Penal Code 20310. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any air gauge knife is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

California Penal Code 20410. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any belt buckle knife is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

California Penal Code 20510. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any cane sword is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

California Penal Code 20610. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any lipstick case knife is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

California Penal Code 20710. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any shobi-zue is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

California Penal Code 20910. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any writing pen knife is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

California Penal Code 21110.  Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any ballistic knife is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

22California Penal Code 17235 - As used in this part, "switchblade knife" means a knife having the appearance of a pocketknife and includes a spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, gravity knife, or any other similar type knife, the blade or blades of which are two or more inches in length and which can be released automatically by a flick of a button, pressure on the handle, flip of the wrist or other mechanical device, or is released by the weight of the blade or by any type of mechanism whatsoever.  "Switchblade knife" does not include a knife that opens with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade, provided that the knife has a detent or other mechanism that provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or that biases the blade back toward its closed position.

23In re Gilbert R. (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 514, 149 Cal.Rptr.3d (Knife was not a switchblade where uncontradicted expert testimony established that knife had both the necessary thumb stud intended for the knife to stay closed and a detent mechanism to hold the blade in the fixed and closed position until opened with pressure to the thumb stud overcoming the positive detent mechanism).

24CALJIC 2502.

25Same.

26Same.

27Penal Code 171b PC provides, in relevant part: Unauthorized possession of weapons in state or local public building in california or at public meeting; offense; punishment

(a) Any person who brings or possesses within any state or local public building or at any meeting required to be open to the public…is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison:

(2) Any deadly weapon described in Section 17235 or in any provision listed in Section 16590.

(3) Any knife with a blade length in excess of four inches, the blade of which is fixed or is capable of being fixed in an unguarded position by the use of one or two hands.

Penal Code 16590 provides, in relevant part:
As used in this part, “generally prohibited weapon” means any of the following:

(a) An air gauge knife, as prohibited by Section 20310.
(c) A ballistic knife, as prohibited by Section 21110.
(d) A belt buckle knife, as prohibited by Section 20410.
(h) A cane sword, as prohibited by Section 20510.
(i) A concealed dirk or dagger, as prohibited by Section 21310.
(n) A lipstick case knife, as prohibited by Section 20610.
(s) A shobi-zue [a staff, crutch, stick, rod, or pole concealing a knife or blade within it, which may be exposed by a flip of the wrist or by a mechanical action], as prohibited by Section 20710.
(y) A writing pen knife, as prohibited by Section 20910.

28Same.

29Penal Code 626.10(a)(1) (California knife laws) Any person, except a duly appointed peace officer as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, a full-time paid peace officer of another state or the federal government who is carrying out official duties while in this state, a person summoned by any officer to assist in making arrests or preserving the peace while the person is actually engaged in assisting any officer, or a member of the military forces of this state or the United States who is engaged in the performance of his or her duties, who brings or possesses any dirk, dagger, ice pick, knife having a blade longer than 2 1/2 inches, folding knife with a blade that locks into place, razor with an unguarded blade, taser, or stun gun, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 244.5, any instrument that expels a metallic projectile such as a BB or a pellet, through the force of air pressure, CO2 pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun, upon the grounds of, or within, any public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, is guilty of a public offense, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

Penal Code 626.10(b) Any person, except a duly appointed peace officer as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, a full-time paid peace officer of another state or the federal government who is carrying out official duties while in this state, a person summoned by any officer to assist in making arrests or preserving the peace while the person is actually engaged in assisting any officer, or a member of the military forces of this state or the United States who is engaged in the performance of hisor her duties, who brings or possesses any dirk, dagger, ice pick, or knife having a fixed blade longer than 2 1/2 inches upon the grounds of, or within, any private university, the University of California, the California State University, or the California Community Colleges is guilty of a public offense, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

30Same.

31Same.

32Penal Code 626.10(a)(2) Any person, except a duly appointed peace officer as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, a full-time paid peace officer of another state or the federal government who is carrying out official duties while in this state, a person summoned by any officer to assist in making arrests or preserving the peace while the person is actually engaged in assisting any officer, or a member of the military forces of this state or the United States who is engaged in the performance of his or her duties, who brings or possesses a razor blade or a box cutter upon the grounds of, or within, any public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12,inclusive, is guilty of a public offense, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.

33See, e.g., Federal Land and Facilities, United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

3415 USC1242 - Introduction, manufacture for introduction, transportation or distribution in interstate commerce; penalty Whoever knowingly introduces, or manufactures for introduction, into interstate commerce, or transports or distributes in interstate commerce, any switchblade knife, shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

15 USC 1241 defines “interstate commerce" as commerce between any State, Territory, possession of the United States, or the District of Columbia, and any place outside thereof.

3515 USC 1243 - Manufacture, sale, or possession within specific jurisdictions; penalty Whoever, within any Territory or possession of the United States, within Indian country (as defined in section 1151 of title 18), or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (as defined in section 7 of title 18), manufactures, sells, or possesses any switchblade knife, shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

3615 USC 1244 - Exceptions

Sections 1242 and 1243 of this title shall not apply to–
(1) any common carrier or contract carrier, with respect to any switchblade knife shipped, transported, or delivered for shipment in interstate commerce in the ordinary course of business;
(2) the manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, possession, or introduction into interstate commerce, of switchblade knives pursuant to contract with the Armed Forces;
(3) the Armed Forces or any member or employee thereof acting in the performance of his duty;
(4) the possession, and transportation upon his person, of any switchblade knife with a blade three inches or less in length by any individual who has only one arm; or
(5) a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.

3715 USC § 1242 - Whoever knowingly introduces, or manufactures for introduction, into interstate commerce, or transports or distributes in interstate commerce, any switchblade knife, shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

38California Penal Code 417 PC, California's “brandishing a weapon” law.  (“(a)(1) Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any deadly weapon whatsoever, other than a firearm, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any manner, unlawfully uses a deadly weapon other than a firearm in any fight or quarrel is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 30 days.”)

39California Penal Code 245(a(1)-- Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm or by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.

40California Penal Code 12022 PC -- Personal use of a dangerous or deadly weapon (sentencing enhancement).  (“(b)(1) California knife laws: Any person who personally uses a deadly or dangerous weapon in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for one year, unless use of a deadly or dangerous weapon is an element of that offense.”)

41See, e.g., People v. Mitchell (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 1364, 148 Cal.Rptr.3d 33 (dirk and dagger statute does not run afoul of the Second Amendment because it is narrowly tailored to serve the important governmental interest of preventing exposure to the risk of surprise attacks and does not burden the right to bear arms in self-defense beyond what is reasonably necessary to serve that interest, even if the restrictions prevent instantaneous use of a knife in self-defense.).

42See, e.g., People v. Rubalcava, (2000) 96 Cal.Rptr.2d 735, 23 Cal.4th 322.

43People v. Grubb (1965), 63 Cal.2d 614, 47 Cal.Rptr. 772.

44Same  (“The Legislature thus decrees as criminal the possession of ordinarily harmless objects when the circumstances of possession demonstrate an immediate atmosphere of danger.”).

45Same, fn9: (“The prosecution need not show the intent of the possessor to use an instrument in a violent manner. [People v. McKinney (1935) 9 Cal.App.2d 523, 525, 50 P.2d 827]. A defendant, on the other hand, may justify his possession of an instrument found under suspicious circumstances by proof of his intent to use it in accordance with its ordinary legitimate design.”)

46See, e.g., People v. Barrios (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 501, 8 Cal.Rptr.2d 666, reviewing prior case law (Court of Appeal cases have split over the applicability of the Grubb language to concealed dirks or daggers); People v. Gonzales (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 229, 38 Cal.Rptr.2d 52 (holding it is not the use of the weapon being proscribed by statute, but its possession that matters).

47See, e.g., People v. Mowatt (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 713, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 722 comparing the 1994 and pre-1994 versions of Penal Code 12020 (“It is immediately apparent that the 1993 Legislature chose a considerably more restrictive definition than the courts did. Instead of including “any straight knife…capable of inflicting death,” which “may consist of any weapon fitted primarily for stabbing”  [People v. Ruiz, supra, 88 Cal.App. at p. 504, italics added], the Legislature decided a “dirk or dagger” must be primarily designed as a stabbing weapon, meant to kill or to grievously wound a victim.).

48Compare Stats.1993, ch. 357, § 1, p. 2155, with Stats.1995, ch. 128, § 2, italics added.

49See, Sen. Rules Com., 3d reading analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1222 (1995-1996 Reg. Sess.) as amended May 31, 1995, p. 4; see also, Assem. Com. on Public Safety, analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1222 (1995-1996 Reg. Sess.) as introduced Feb. 23, 1995, p. 2.

50See Sen. Com. on Criminal Procedure, Analysis of Assem. Bill. No. 1222 (1995-1996 Reg. Sess.) as amended May 31, 1995, pp. 3, 5-6.

51Same at p. 6, emphasis added.

52People v. Mitchell,  note 37.

53Same.

54Senate Bill 274 (2001-2002 Reg. Sess.) § 2.

55Assem. Bill No. 202 (1957 Reg. Sess.) § 1.

56Assem. Amend. Bill No. 202 (1957 Reg. Sess.) March 13, 1957.

57Assem. Amend. Bill No. 202 (1957 Reg. Sess.) March 18, 1957.

58Stats.1957, ch. 355, § 1, p. 999.

59Stats.1959, ch. 355, § 1, p. 2278.

60People ex rel. Mautner v. Quattrone (1989), 211 Cal.App.3d 1389, 260 Cal.Rptr. 44.

61See, Assem. Amend. Bill No. 3314 (1995-96 Reg. Sess.) § 1, June 18,1996

62Same.

63Same.

64Same, § 5.

65Same.

66Same, § 5.

67Senate Bill No. 274 (2001-2002 Reg. Sess.) April 3, 2001.

68See also, 19 CFR 12.96 Imports unrestricted under the [Switchblade Knives] Act:

(a) Common and special purpose knives. Imported knives with a blade style designed for a primary utilitarian use, as defined in § 12.95(c), shall be admitted to unrestricted entry provided that in condition as entered the imported knife is not a switchblade knife as defined in § 12.95(a)(1). Among admissible common and special purpose knives are jackknives and similar standard pocketknives, special purpose knives, scout knives, and other knives equipped with one or more blades of such single edge nonweapon styles as clip, skinner, pruner, sheep foot, spey, coping, razor, pen, and cuticle.

(b) Weapons with fixed blades. Importations of certain articles having a fixed unexposed or exposed blade are not within the prohibition of 15 U.S.C. 1241 through 1245. However, upon release by Customs, possession of these admissible articles which include such weapons as sword canes, camel whips, swords, sheath knives, machetes and similar devices that may be capable of use as weapons may be in violation of State or municipal laws.

19 CFR 12.95, Switchblade Knifes – definitions, provides, in part:

(c) Utilitarian use. "Utilitarian use" includes but is not necessarily limited to use: (1) For a customary household purpose; (2) For usual personal convenience, including grooming; (3) In the practice of a profession, trade, or commercial or employment activity; (4) In the performance of a craft or hobby; (5) In the course of such outdoor pursuits as hunting and fishing; and (6) In scouting activities.

69See, e.g., Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 2892, Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010.

70See, e.g., Switchblade law opponents cut in Hill fight, Washington Times, June 27, 2009.

71Same.

72People v. Mitchell, note 37.

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