California Penal Code Section 21510 PC: Carrying A Switchblade

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

switchblade possession

Because of how easily they can be concealed, switchblade knives are considered to be highly effective weapons. As a result, carrying a switchblade on one’s person or in one’s vehicle or offering to sell or provide a switchblade to another person is a criminal offense under California Penal Code Section 21510 PC.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of carrying or providing a switchblade, the prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant possessed or offered to sell or provide a switchblade knife
  2. The blade of the knife was two or more inches long
  3. The defendant did this knowingly
  4. AND the defendant knew that the knife had the characteristics of a switchblade.

A switchblade knife is defined as a knife that looks like a pocketknife and has a blade that 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 any other mechanism. Spring-blade knives, snap-blade knives, gravity knives and butterfly knives are all considered switchblades under the statute.

A 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, if the knife has a divot or other mechanism that provides resistance and makes it difficult to open or close the blade quickly.

The defendant does not have to intend that the switchblade be used as a weapon in order to be guilty of this offense.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Manufacturing, Selling or Possessing Dangerous Weapons - California Penal Code Section 16590 PC
  2. Carrying a Concealed Dirk or Dagger - California Penal Code Section 21310 PC
  3. Brandishing a WeaponCalifornia Penal Code Section 417 PC
  4. Assault with a Deadly WeaponCalifornia Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) PC

3. Examples

A man buys a spring-loaded knife that opens automatically when he presses a button. The blade is over two inches long and the man keeps the knife in his automobile. The man could be prosecuted for carrying a switchblade in violation of California Penal Code Section 21510 PC.

In another example, a man carries a fishing knife on him that folds in and can be concealed. While the swinging mechanism of the blade is stopped by a divot in the blade, the knife can be opened quickly with a strong flick of the wrist. This man would not be guilty under California Penal Code Section 21510 PC because even though the knife is capable of being quickly flipped open, it does contain a mechanism that keeps it closed and is exempt under the law.

4. Defenses to Carrying a Switchblade

If the knife in question does not meet the statutory definition of a switchblade, the defendant could not be prosecuted for this offense. Additionally, if the defendant did not know that he or she was carrying a switchblade, he or she would not be criminally liable under the statute.

If the switchblade was found during an illegal search and/or seizure, the defendant may be able to challenge whether the officer had sufficient probable cause to search the defendant or seize the knife. If successful, the switchblade would be suppressed and the prosecutor would be unable to proceed.

5. Penalties

Carrying a switchblade knife is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, forfeiture of the switchblade and any other conditions of probation that a judge may deem appropriate.

6. Criminal Defense for Carrying a Switchblade Cases

If you have been charged with carrying a switchblade, it is crucial that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively defend people charged with weapons offenses. Mr. Kraut is highly respected throughout the court system as a tough litigator who possesses a deep knowledge of law and procedure. Mr. Kraut works hard to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about carrying a switchblade, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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