Orange County Criminal Defense
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Possession Switchblade Knife

Penal Code section 21510

Every person who does any of the following with a switchblade knife having a blade two or more inches in length is guilty of a misdemeanor:

  • Possesses the knife in the passenger or driver’s area of any motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public;
  • Carries the knife upon the person;
  • Sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or gives the knife to any other person.

Penal Code section 17235 defines a switchblade knife as having “the blade or blades of which are two or more inches in length and which 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 by any type of mechanism whatsoever”

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, provided that the knife has a detent or other mechanism that provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or that biases the blade back toward its closed position.

Elements of Penal Code section 21510 (a) or (b)

In order to prove this crime, the People must prove each and every one of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant possessed a switchblade knife, either in a public place, carrying it on his person, or in the driver or passenger area of a motor vehicle;
  2. The blade of the knife was two or more inches long;
  3. The defendant knew that they possessed or carried the knife; and
  4. The defendant knew it had the characteristics of a switchblade.

The People do not have to prove that the defendant used or intended to use the alleged switchblade knife as a weapon.

Two or more people may possess something at the same time.

A person does not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it. It is enough if the person has control over it or the right to control it, either personally or through another person.

Related Statutes

Penal Code sections 21510 and 17235 replaced Penal Code section 653k in prohibiting and describing a switchblade knife.

Also, Penal Code section 21310 prohibits a carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. That crime is a wobbler.

Defenses to Possession of a Switchblade Knife

Most police officers will cite a person for possession of a switchblade knife without actually measuring the length of the blade or determining whether the blade can be released automatically. It is important to hire a defense attorney who understands the elements of possession of a switchblade knife in order to provide the best defense possible.

Also if the spring mechanism on the knife did not work at the time of possession, then it is possible to use that as a defense to the possession of a switchblade knife.

Other Consequences

Not only can a switchblade knife conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have potential employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has a Penal Code section 21510 conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. Furthermore, Penal Code section 21510 convictions can have potential immigration consequences. Although the crime itself is not considered an aggravated felony or a crime of moral turpitude, it can indirectly lead to inadmissibility.

The Right Attorney

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing possession of a switchblade knife charges. Many people who face Penal Code section 21510 charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of possession of a switchblade knife, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need an attorney from Right Choice Law.

As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah, and his team have the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for his clients. If a client has no criminal record, our attorneys can often negotiate a dismissal of the charges, either through a diversion program or through a civil compromise. For clients that have been in trouble in the past, our attorneys can often negotiate a reduction of the charges or penalties, that may help avoid jail, licensing consequences or immigration consequences. Fred Thiagarajah and his team have helped clients with switchblade knife charges in the past. For an example of their work, please read our client testimonials. With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Rancho Cucamonga, Murrieta and Riverside, Fred Thiagarajah and his team have criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

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