Possession of a switchblade knife is covered under California Penal Code Section 21510. Due to the fact that switchblade knives can be dangerous weapons and easily concealed, California has put in place strict laws regulating the sale and possession of switchblades.
It's a crime to carry a switchblade, possess one in your vehicle, or offer to sell or loan one to another person.
A switchblade knife is described as a knife that has the appearance of a pocketknife with a blade that has the ability to be automatically released with a flick of a button or pressure on the handle, or even just a flip of the wrist.
This includes any spring-blade knives, gravity knives and butterfly knives. It should be noted a switchblade knife doesn't include the most common type of knife that can open with one hand by putting thumb pressure on a stud that is attached to the knife.
It's important to note that “possession” of a switchblade means you had control over it, meaning it could be in your pocket or jacket, and you knew it was there. You don't have to have intent to use the switchblade as a weapon in order to be found guilty of violating California Penal Code Section 21510.
A common example in Los Angeles County when you can be charged with carrying a switchblade knife includes a situation where you buy a spring loaded knife with a blade of two inches that can be opened by putting pressure on a button. You put the knife in the glove box of your car for storage.
You are stopped by police and arrested for DUI. A subsequent search of your vehicle reveals the knife which is considered in your “possession” due to the fact it's in your glove box. Under this situation, you could be charged with carrying a switchblade in violation of California Penal Code Section 21510.
If you have been accused of carrying or possessing a switchblade knife, you should consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP to review the details and options moving forward. Let's take a closer review of the legal definitions, penalties, and defenses below.
Legal Definition of Carrying a Switchblade
California Penal Code Section 21510 provides the following legal description of carrying a switchblade:
- Anyone does any of the following acts with a switchblade knife that has blade of two or more inches in length is guilty of a misdemeanor crime; (a) Possesses the knife in any motor vehicle in a public place; (b) Carries the knife on their person; (c) Sells, offers for sale, loans, or gives the knife to another person.
California Penal Code Section 17235 legally describes a "switchblade knife" as a knife with an appearance of a pocketknife with a blade two or more inches that can be released automatically with a flick of a button, pressure on the handle, or just a flip of the wrist.
There are many types of other knives that would qualify a switchblade, such as a:
- gravity knife,
- spring blade knife,
- butterfly knife, and
- batanga knife.
It should be noted under PC 17235; a switchblade knife doesn't include a knife that can be opened with one hand using thumb pressure on the blade of the knife or a knife that has a thumb stud that is attached to the blade.
This means most common pocket and folding knives are not considered a switchblade knife. If you need more information about the legal definition of carrying a switchable, contact our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm.
What Does PC 21510 Make Unlawful?
As described above, Penal Code Section 21510 makes it unlawful to do any of the following:
- To carry a switchblade on your person;
- To possess a switchblade in the driver's area of a vehicle in a public place;
- To sell, offer to sale, or expose a switchblade for sale;
- To loan or transfer a switchblade to anyone.
It's important to note the driver's area of a vehicle covers not only the open driver and passenger area, but also includes any interior compartments, such as the glove box.
As stated above, carrying a switchblade “on your person” doesn't only include holding it, but also includes any situation where you have control over the switchblade, meaning it can be in your pocket or purse.
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to convict you of carrying a switchblade in violation of California Penal Code Section 21510, they must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all the elements of the crime listed below:
- You had knowledge and was aware you were carrying a switchblade on your person or vehicle;
- You knew the it had the characteristics of a switchblade as defined in the legal description.
Again, the LA County prosecutor has no legal requirement to prove you had any intent to actually use the switchblade knife as a weapon to obtain a conviction. PC 21510 makes it illegal just to knowingly have possession of a switchblade. It simply doesn't matter if you had no intention on using it as weapon.
Legal Penalties for Carrying a Switchblade
If you are convicted of possession of a switchblade knife in violation of California Penal Code Section 21510, you are guilty of a misdemeanor crime that can carry the following legal penalties:
- Up to 6 months in a Los Angeles County jail,
- A fine up to $1,000,
- Misdemeanor summary probation.
It's important to note that a misdemeanor conviction above will not normally result in jail time, but there are aggravating circumstances where receiving jail time by the judge is much more likely. Aggravating factors include the following situations:
- You have a prior criminal record;
- You have a history of violence;
- You are a member of a gang or were engaged in gang activity;
- You resisted arrest or not cooperative;
- You had intent to use the switchblade as a weapon.
If any of the above aggravating factors can be proven, the judge has wide discretion of sentencing and will typically base their decision on the specific circumstances and facts of the case.
- California Penal Code Section 171.7 - Weapons at a Public Transit Facility,
- California Penal Code Section 417 – Brandishing a Weapon,
- California Penal Code Section 21310 & 16470 – Carrying Dirk or Dagger,
- California Penal Code Section 245 – Assault with a Deadly Weapon,
- California Penal Code Section 16590 – Possession of Prohibited Weapons,
- California Penal Code Section 20410 - Belt Buckle Knives Law,
- California Penal Code Section 22010 - Nunchucks Law,
- California Penal Code Section 21810 - Brass Knuckles Law,
- California Penal Code Section 626.10 PC - weapons on school grounds,
- California Penal Code 22610 Section PC - stun guns and tasers law,
- California Penal Code Section 12556 - Imitation Firearms Law.
Legal Defense for Carrying a Switchblade
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys could use a wide range of potential legal defenses against your charges of carrying a switchblade knife in violation of California Penal Code Section 21510.
Every case is unique and will require a close review of the details of your case, but some of the most common defenses include the following:
The knife is not legally a switchblade: In some cases, our lawyers might be able to make an argument the knife you were accused of carrying doesn't meet the legal definition of a switchblade. Keep in mind that California Penal Code Section 17235 provides a specific description of a switchblade.
If the knife has any characteristics outside the legal definition, such as a mechanism that gives resistance to opening the knife, then we could show its fails to qualify as a switchblade and you can't be held criminally liable.
You lacked knowledge of its presence: One of the elements of the crime above the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to prove is that you were aware you were carrying a switchblade on your person or vehicle.
If you attorneys can show you didn't know it was in your car or a bag, then we can cast reasonable doubt and possibly avoid a conviction. Remember, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor. We might be able to show evidence the jacket or bag where the switchable was discovered belong to another person.
Illegal search and seizure: In some situations, our criminal lawyers might be able to make a successful argument the switchblade was discovered during and illegal search and seizure.
We could challenge whether the police officer had probable cause to search you or your vehicle. If successful, the switchblade itself could be suppressed as evidence and the prosecutor may have no other choice but to dismiss the charges.
Contact Our Criminal Law Firm For Help
If you have been accused of possession or carrying a switchable in violation of California Penal Code Section 21510, consult with the top-rated Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Eisner Gorin LLP.
We have a track record of success defending clients against weapons related offenses and work aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome. Contact our law firm at 877-781-1570. Eisner Gorin LLP 1875 Century Park E #705 Los Angeles, CA 90067 310-328-3776