Belt Buckle Knives Law in California - Penal Code 20410 PC
The state of California has outlawed certain kinds of weapons, including hazardous weapons that are easily concealed or masked as other objects. Penal Code 16590 PC offers a list of generally prohibited weapons.
One such weapon is the belt buckle knife or "BBK." According to Penal Code 20410 PC, it is against the law to make, possess, transport, or distribute these knives. If you're charged with violating California's belt buckle knife law, you could face up to 3 years in prison.
In other words, under PC 20410 PC, it's unlawful to manufacture any belt buckle knives, cause to be manufactured, import, sell, give, lend, or possess any belt buckle knife.
California prohibits weapons many types of weapons such as a switchblade, wallet guns, lipstick case knives, concealed dirk and daggers, cane swords, brass knuckles, nunchucks, stun guns and tasers, and the belt buckle knife, which is described as a knife with a blade of at least two and one-half inches in length.
Penal Code 20140 is legally defined as “any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps it for sale, or offers or exposes it for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any belt buckle knife is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.”
California law makes certain parties exempt from prosecution for certain belt buckle knife violations. The list includes members of law enforcement and specific martial arts experts, antique dealers, and museum curators. In this article by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, we will examine this law in greater detail below.
What Is an Illegal Belt Buckle Knife?
A belt buckle knife is a type of knife designed to be concealed within a belt buckle. The metal casing of the buckle hides the blade. When the wearer needs to use the knife, they can flick open the buckle to reveal the edge.
However, not all BBKs meet California's definition of an illegal weapon. Penal Code 16260 PC defines a prohibited BBK as "a knife made an integral part of a belt buckle and consists of a blade with a length of at least two and one-half inches." In other words, a BBK with a blade shorter than 2.5 inches would not necessarily be illegal to own.
Penal Code 20410 PC Explained
According to PC 20410, it is a violation of California law for a person to:
- possess an illegal BBK;
- manufacture an illegal BBK;
- import the BBK into California from another state or country; or
- sell, give or lend a BBK to another person.
What Are Some Examples of BBK violations?
- Buying a 2.5-inch belt buckle knife in another state and driving it into California, even for personal use;
- Allowing someone to stash a BBK in your home;
- Wearing a BBK on the street;
- Giving a BBK to someone as a present.
What Are the Penalties for a Penal Code 20410 PC Conviction?
Any violation of California's belt buckle knife law is considered a "wobbler offense," meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal history.
- If you're charged with a misdemeanor offense, the maximum penalties include up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1000 if you're convicted;
- If charged as a felony, the maximum penalties include up to 3 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Readers should note that the judge has the discretion to impose felony probation rather than jail time.
What Are the Related Offenses?
Other prohibited weapons are illegal to carry or use in California, and other related offenses may be charged in tandem with belt buckle knife violations. These include, but are not limited to the list below.
Carrying a concealed dirk or dagger – Penal Code 21310 PC: a dirk or dagger is considered any knife or similar instrument capable of inflicting severe bodily injury or death. You can carry one openly in a sheath, but it's against the law to conceal one on your person.
Carrying/possessing/selling a switchblade – Penal Code 21510 PC: a switchblade is any knife with a blade that folds or closes into the handle and is opened automatically by a spring or other mechanical device. It's against the law to own, carry, buy, or sell one in California.
Possessing a knife on school grounds – Penal Code 626.10 PC: it's a misdemeanor offense to possess or carry any knife, including a BBK, at California's school or college campus.
Possession of a bump stock – Penal Code 32900: a gun stock that can assist in bump firing, using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to fire ammunition in rapid succession.
Weapons at a Public Transit Facility - California Penal Code Section 171.7: It's a misdemeanor crime to carry any weapon into the sterile area of a public transportation facility.
What Are the Best Legal Defenses?
Fortunately, legal defenses can be raised if you're accused of prohibited activities involving a belt buckle knife. These include but are not limited to the items listed below.
You're exempt from prosecution. According to the above definition, your charges will be dismissed if you can demonstrate you are part of an exempt group.
The knife in question doesn't meet the definition of an illegal BBK. For example, if the blade is shorter than 2.5 inches, you cannot be convicted under PC 20410. Likewise, your attorney may be able to get your sentence reduced on the argument that you may have been participating in an illegal action with a weapon. Still, the weapon itself doesn't classify as an unlawful BBK.
The police discovered the BBK during an illegal search and seizure. If the police found the knife on your person or property without probable cause or a warrant, any resulting evidence may be thrown out of court.
Retaining our law firm early in the case process can be crucial to the case's outcome. For example, through prefiling negotiations with law enforcement detectives and the prosecuting agency, we might be able to convince them not to file formal criminal charges. In other words, they would decline to file charges in the first place, which is called a “DA reject.”
The Los Angeles-based criminal defense law firm of Eisner Gorin LLP serves people across Southern California. You can contact us for an initial case consultation by phone or filling out the contact form.