Penal Code 20910 PC – California Law re Writing Pen Knives

Penal Code 20910 PC is the California statute that applies to writing pen knives (“WPK”), or a device that looks like a writing pen but has a knife concealed inside it.

Under this code section, it is a crime for a person to do any of the following with WPKs:

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

In particular, the statute says:

“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.”

Examples of illegal acts under PC 20910 include:

  • Roberto purchases a writing pen knife in Arizona, puts it in his car, and drives into California.
  • Luis agrees to store his girlfriend's WPK in his apartment.
  • Chantel makes a writing pen knife using items purchased at a hardware store.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 20910. These include showing that an accused party:

  • did not have a “writing pen knife;”
  • is exempt from prosecution; and/or,
  • was arrested after an unlawful search and seizure.

Penalties

A violation of PC 20910 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.

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:

writing pen knife
Penal Code 20910 PC is the California statute that applies to writing pen knives (“WPK”), or a device that looks like a writing pen but has a knife concealed inside it.

1. What is the legal definition of a WPK and what is prohibited under Penal Code 20910?

Penal Code 20910 is California's statute governing writing pen knives. According to this statute, it is a crime if any person does the following with a WPK:

  • manufactures or makes one,
  • imports one into California,
  • sells, gives, or lends one, and/or
  • possesses one.1

California Penal Code 17350 says that a “writing pen knife” is:

“a device that appears to be a writing pen but has concealed within it a pointed, metallic shaft that is designed to be a stabbing instrument…”2

Please note that WPKs 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. Writing pen knives are one such type of weapon, specifically banned under PC 16590(y).3

Examples of other prohibited weapons include:

  • concealed daggers;
  • wallet guns; and,
  • metal knuckles.4

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 20910 violations?

A person accused under Penal Code 20910 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to PC 20910 accusations are:

  1. no “writing pen knife;”
  2. exempt from prosecution; and/or,
  3. unlawful search and seizure.

2.1. No WPK

Please recall that Penal Code 17350 provides a specific definition of what a WPK is. This means that it is a valid legal defense for an accused to say that while he may have committed an act outlined in PC 20910, he did so with an object that was not a “writing pen knife.”

2.2. Exempt from prosecution

Please note that certain people are exempt from prosecution for committing certain acts with a writing pen knife. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer, or possess WPKs. 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. Unlawful search and seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that we have the right to be free from unreasonable “searches and seizures” by law enforcement. If authorities obtain evidence from an unreasonable, or unlawful search and seizure, then that evidence can get excluded from a criminal case. This means that any charges in the case could get reduced or even dismissed.

man 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 20910 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 $1,000.5

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 20910 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 writing pen knives. These are:

  1. illegal acts with wallet guns – PC 24710;
  2. illegal acts with belt buckle knives – PC 20410; and,
  3. carrying a concealed dirk or dagger – PC 21310.

4.1. Illegal acts with wallet guns – PC 24710

Penal Code 24710 is California's statute governing wallet guns. According to this code section, it is a crime for a person to do any of the following with a wallet gun:

  • manufacture them,
  • import them into California,
  • sell, give, or lend them, and/or
  • possess them.7

A violation of PC 24710 is charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.8

4.2. Illegal acts with belt buckle knives – PC 20410

Penal Code 20410 is California's statute governing belt buckle knives. According to this code section, it is a crime for a person to do any of the following with a belt buckle knife:

  • manufacture them,
  • import them into California,
  • sell, give, or lend them, and/or
  • possess them.9

A violation of PC 20410 is charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.10

4.3. Carrying a concealed dirk or dagger – PC 21310

It is a crime in California, per California Penal Code 21310, for a person to carry a concealed dirk or dagger.

Under Penal Code 16470, a “dirk or dagger” is:

  • a knife or other instrument,
  • with or without a hand guard,
  • that is capable of being used as a stabbing weapon, and
  • that may inflict a significant or substantial physical injury or death.11

Carrying a concealed dirk or dagger is a wobbler, meaning it can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail; and/or,
  • a significant fine.12

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

california pen knife lawyers
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 20910 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 20910 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 writing pen 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 17350 PC.

  3. California Penal Code 16590y PC.

  4. California Penal Code 16590 PC.

  5. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 1170h PC.

  7. California Penal Code 24710 PC.

  8. See same.

  9. California Penal Code 20410 PC.

  10. California Penal Code 20410 PC.

  11. California Penal Code 16470 PC.

  12. California Penal Code 16470 PC.

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