Penal Code 21110 PC – California Law re: “Ballistic Knives”

Penal Code 21110 PC is the California knife law that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a “ballistic knife,” or “BK.”

A “BK” is a knife with a spring-loaded blade that can be fired, or shout out, like a bullet.

Examples of illegal acts under PC 21110 include:

  • After reading a “how-to” article, Jorge makes a ballistic knife using parts from a local hardware store.
  • Monique stores her boyfriend's BK in her apartment.
  • James buys a ballistic knife in Oregon, puts it in his car, and drives into California.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 21110. These include showing that an accused party:

  • did not have a “BK;”
  • is free from prosecution; and/or,
  • was arrested after a coerced confession.

Penalties

A violation of PC 21110 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to three years; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

ballistic knife
California Penal Code 21110 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a “ballistic knife,” or “BK.”

1. The legal definition of a ballistic knife and what is prohibited under Penal Code 21110

California Penal Code 21110 is California's statute governing BKs. According to this code section, it is a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a ballistic knife.1

According to California Penal Code 16220, a “BK” is a knife with a spring-loaded blade that can be fired, or shout out, like a bullet.2

Please note that BKs are also prohibited under California Penal Code 16590, or California's statute on generally prohibited weapons. This statute lists several weapons/objects that are generally prohibited in the State of California. Ballistic knives are one such type of weapon, specifically banned under PC 16590(c).3

Examples of other prohibited weapons include:

  • shurikans;
  • metal knuckles; and,
  • short-barreled rifles.4

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under Penal Code 21110 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to PC 21110 accusations are:

  1. no “ballistic knife;”
  2. free from prosecution; and/or,
  3. coerced confession.

2.1. No BK

Please recall that Penal Code 16220 provides a specific definition of what a BK is. This means that it is a valid legal defense for an accused to say that while he may have committed an illegal act under PC 21110, he did so with an object that was not a “ballistic knife.”

2.2. Free from prosecution

Please note that certain people and/or situations are free from prosecution for committing certain acts with a BK. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer, or possess these weapons. The same holds true for some antique dealers. It is a defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he falls into one of these exempted categories.

2.3. Coerced confession

This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under PC 21110 following a confession.

California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.

If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:

  1. the judge may exclude the confession from evidence; or,
  2. the case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.
man behind bars
A violation of this crime can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 21110 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:

  • the facts of a case, and
  • the criminal history of the defendant.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.5

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

If a PC 21110 violation is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to three years; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.6

Note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to felony probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to illegal acts with BKs. These are:

  1. illegal acts with an air gauge knife – PC 20310;
  2. illegal acts with belt buckle knives – PC 20410; and,
  3. illegal acts with a cane sword – PC 20510.

4.1. Illegal acts with an air gauge knife – PC 20310

California Penal Code 20310 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess an “air gauge knife,” or “AGK.”7

According to PC 16140, an “AGK” is an object that:

  • looks like or resembles an air gauge; and,
  • has a knife concealed inside it.8

A violation of PC 20310 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of a case.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.9

If a PC 20310 violation is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to three years; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.10

4.2. Illegal acts with belt buckle knives – PC 20410

California Penal Code 20410 PC is the California statute that applies to belt buckle knives, or “BBKs”.

Under PC 20410, it is a crime for a person to do any of the following with BBKs:

  • manufacture them;
  • import them into California;
  • sell, give, or lend them; and/or,
  • possess them.11

California Penal Code 16260 says that a “belt buckle knife” is:

“a knife that is made an integral part of a belt buckle and consists of a blade with a length of at least two and one-half inches.”12

A violation of PC 20410 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of a case.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.13

If a PC 20410 violation is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to three years; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.14

4.3. Illegal acts with a cane sword – PC 20510

California Penal Code 20510 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a “cane sword,” or a “CS.”15

California Penal Code 16340 says that a “CS” is any object that looks like an ordinary cane but has a blade inside it that can be used as a sword.16

A violation of PC 20510 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of a case.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.17

If a PC 20510 violation is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to three years; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.18

Were you accused of committing an illegal act with a ballistic knife in California? Call us for help…

california ballistic knives legal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 21110 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 21110 PC. This code section states: “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.”

  2. California Penal Code 16220 PC.

  3. California Penal Code 16590(c) PC.

  4. California Penal Code 16590 PC.

  5. California Penal Code 21110 PC.

  6. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

  7. California Penal Code 20310 PC.

  8. California Penal Code 16140 PC.

  9. California Penal Code 20310 PC.

  10. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

  11. California Penal Code 20410 PC.

  12. California Penal Code 16260 PC.

  13. California Penal Code 20410 PC.

  14. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

  15. California Penal Code 20510 PC.

  16. California Penal Code 16340 PC.

  17. California Penal Code 20510 PC.

  18. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

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