Possession of "Brass Knuckles" in California - Penal Code 21810 PC

Are “brass knuckles” illegal in California? (Penal Code 21810 PC)

Penal Code 21810 makes possession of brass knuckles a crime in California, as former prosecutor Neil Shouse explains in this video. Penal Code 21810 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess metal knuckles, or brass knuckles (“BKs”). This offense is a wobbler, meaning it could be filed as either a misdemeanor of a felony. As a misdemeanor, it carries penalties of up to a year in county jail. As a felony, it can carry up to 3 years in county jail or state prison. Although possession of brass knuckles is a crime in California, it’s also a charge for which many innocent people get wrongly accused. The metal knuckles may not have belonged to you, or may have been discovered by way of an illegal search or seizure. A good criminal defense lawyer can often get the case reduced or dismissed. More info at https://www.shouselaw.com/brass-knuckles


Penal Code 21810 PC
is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess metal knuckles, or brass knuckles (“BKs”).

Examples of illegal acts under this statute include:

  • Jenny buys a pair of BKs outside of California, but then drives them back into the State.
  • Julio gives his brass knuckles to his girlfriend and she takes possession of them.
  • Martel sells two pairs of metal knuckles to a neighborhood kid.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 21810. These include showing that an accused party:

  • did not have “brass knuckles;”
  • is free from prosecution; and/or,
  • was arrested without probable cause.

Penalties

A violation of PC 21810 is a wobbler offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.

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

bloody brass knuckles
Penal Code 21810 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess metal knuckles, or brass knuckles

1. The legal definition of metal knuckles and what is prohibited under Penal Code 21810

Penal Code 21810 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess metal/brass knuckles.1

Brass knuckles” mean a metal device that is worn on the hand in order to either increase the force of a punch, or the injury resulting from a punch.2

Please note that BKs are also prohibited under California Penal Code 16590, or California's statute on generally prohibited weapons.3

2. Legal defenses

A person accused under Penal Code 21810 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense.

Three common defenses to PC 21810 accusations are:

  1. no “brass knuckles;”
  2. free from prosecution; and/or,
  3. no probable cause.

2.1. No brass knuckles

Please recall that Penal Code 16920 provides a specific definition of what BKs are. 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 21810, he did so with something other than metal knuckles.

2.2. Free from prosecution

Please note that certain people are free from prosecution under Penal Code 21810. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer, or possess these weapons. It is a defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he falls into one of these exempted categories.

2.3. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime. Thus, if a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 21810, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

woman behind bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of PC 21810 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 $1,000.4

If a PC 21810 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 $10,000.5

4. Related Offenses

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

  1. illegal acts with a shobi-zue – PC 20710;
  2. illegal acts with a lipstick case knife – PC 20610; and,
  3. illegal acts with shurikens – PC 22410.

4.1. Illegal acts with a shobi-zue – PC 20710

Penal Code 20710 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a shobi-zue, or a pole with a knife hidden in it.6

A violation of PC 20710 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.7

4.2. Illegal acts with a lipstick case knife – PC 20610

Penal Code 20610 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a lipstick case knife.8

A violation of PC 20610 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.9

4.3. Illegal acts with shurikens – PC 22410

Penal Code 22410 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a “shuriken.”10

A violation of PC 22410 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.11

Were you accused of committing a crime with metal knuckles in California? Call us for help…

california brass knuckles 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 21810 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 21810 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 metal knuckles is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”

  2. California Penal 16920 PC.

  3. California Penal Code 16590 PC.

  4. California Penal Code 21810 PC.

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

  6. California Penal Code 20710 PC.

  7. See same.

  8. California Penal Code 20610 PC.

  9. See same.

  10. California Penal Code 22410 PC.

  11. See same.

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