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Belt Buckle Knives

Getting caught with a restricted weapon in California does carry criminal consequences. Prohibited weapons range from loaded or unloaded firearms to military-grade weapons and certain types of knives.

It is highly recommended that you find a criminal defense lawyer if facing a weapons charge. A belt buckle knife offense is a wobbler, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. Potential county jail time and high fines could be a punishment regardless of how the prosecution chooses to charge you.

To gain a critical understanding of the possession of prohibited weapons and the criminal charges it can lead to, let’s review how California defines belt buckle knives.

Definition of Belt Buckle Knife

What is a belt buckle knife?

California PC 16260 defines a belt buckle knife (BBK) as a knife that is included as an important part of a belt buckle and has a blade that is at least two-and-a-half inches long. A BBK is also considered a prohibited weapon under PC 16590(d).

California Penal Code 20410 is the law that governs belt buckle knives. This law applies to knives that make up most or are an essential part of a belt buckle and are otherwise referred to as a BBK. PC 20410 states it is a crime if you:

  • Made, imported, sold, lent, owned, or possessed a belt buckle knife, OR
    • This includes manufacturing, trading, distributing, or acquiring a BBK.
  • Cause them to be made, imported, sold, or given away,
    • Such as providing another party with the means to manufacture or distribute such weapons.
  • That belt buckle knife fits the definition as outlined under PC 16260, the blade is a minimum of two-and-a-half inches long.

What about intent?

When it comes to intent, what the defendant planned on doing with the weapon is irrelevant. Even if they never intended on using the BBK as a weapon, simply having a BBK could result in being charged with PC 20410.

Concerning “knowledge” of the object’s utility

According to PC 16590, being charged with possession of generally prohibited weapons means the defendant knew that the object they had was a weapon or could be used as a weapon. With regards to belt buckle knives, if the defendant is convicted, they had to have had some knowledge that the object they were wearing or had in their possession was a weapon or could be used as one. Even if they did not know it was a weapon, knowing that it could be used as one is enough.

Although knowing is not specifically an element of the PC 20410 crime, it is detailed under California’s generally prohibited weapons law. This means, if the defendant was not aware of what was in their possession, their legal defense lawyer could dispute the charges due to the defendant’s overall lack of knowledge.

Associated Offense

California PC 16590 – Prohibited Weapons;

This list details all the generally restricted weapons in California and each one carries similar penalties to a belt buckle knife offense.

  • Firearms and related equipment;
    • Camouflaging firearm containers, PC 24310
    • Cane guns, PC 24410
    • Firearms that are not easily recognizable as a such, PC 24510
    • Undetectable firearms, PC 24610
    • Wallet guns, PC 24710
    • Bullets containing explosive compounds, PC 30210
    • Unconventional pistols, PC 31500
    • Multiburst trigger activators, PC 32900
    • Short-barreled shotguns and rifles, PC 33215
    • Zip guns, PC 33600
  • Knives or Swords
    • Air gauge knives, PC 20310
    • Belt buckle knives, PC 20410
    • Cane swords, PC 20510
    • Lipstick case knives, PC 20610
    • Shobi-Zeus, PC 20710
    • Writing pen knives, PC 20910
    • Ballistic knives, PC 21110
    • Switchblade or spring-loaded knife, PC 21510
  • Martial arts weapons
    • Nunchakus, PC 22010
    • Shurikens, PC 22410
  • Miscellaneous weapons,
    • Metal military-grade grenades or practice grenades, including replicas, PC 19200
    • Brass knuckles or metal knuckles, PC 21810
    • Batons, blackjacks, leaded/weighted canes, sandbags, sand clubs, or slungshots, PC 22210

Similar Offenses

It is not uncommon for defendants to possess multiple prohibited weapons, especially in cases where they can use scrap metal to make their own. If you or someone you know is facing multiple weapons charges, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Acting swiftly and getting legal help as soon as possible to combat these offenses could make a difference in whether you face the minimum or maximum penalties.

California PC 20910 – writing pen knife;

This law applies to WPK or writing pen knives which is an instrument that looks like a writing pen but has a knife concealed inside of it. It is a crime to make, sell, import, give, or possess such an instrument.

California PC 21110 – ballistic knife;

A ballistic knife is a knife with a spring mechanism that allows the blade to shoot out of the handle like a bullet. You violate this statute if you possess, make, import, give, or sell a ballistic knife.

California PC 21310 – carrying a concealed dirk or dagger;

This law prohibits the concealed carry of a dirk or dagger, also known as fixed knives that may or may not have a handguard and are capable of causing severe stab wounds.

California PC 24710 – Wallet gun;

This law applies to wallet guns which are firearms that are mounted or enclosed in a case that usually resembles a wallet. It is a crime for someone to manufacture, import, sell, give, lend, or possess any type of wallet gun.

California PC 25850 – Carrying a loaded firearm in public;

It is a crime to carry a loaded firearm in a public place, on a public street, or in a motor vehicle.

California PC 417 – Brandishing a weapon;

You commit this crime if you brandish, draw, or exhibit a deadly weapon or a firearm in the presence of another person and/or in a public area.

The Prosecution

To get a conviction for PC 20410, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the basic elements of the crime. These elements are also known as the facts of the case which are:

Elements of the Crime

  • The defendant makes, imported, traded, acquired, sold, distributed, gave, or possessed a belt buckle knife, OR
    • Makes means manufactured, constructed, or built.
    • Imported means having them shipped to you, usually from a different state.
    • Importing a belt buckle knife includes cases where you traveled out-of-state to purchase one and bring it back to California.
    • Trading includes exchanging other weapons or services to get one.
    • Acquiring a BBK means you bought or purchased one.
    • The sale of BBK’s means selling them in exchange for money.
    • Distributing or giving BBK’s away, even if you do not accept money, is still a crime.
  • They helped or caused the manufacturing, import, trade, or acquisition of a belt buckle knife, and
    • If you helped or caused the BBK to be made or imported, you could face this offense.
  • The belt buckle knife fits the detailed definition of BBK under PC 16260.

If the defendant had more than one belt buckle knife, the prosecution could pursue the maximum charges. They would likely aim for a felony conviction if aggravating factors were involved. For example, did the defendant have more than one restricted weapon? Were there illicit drugs involved? Did the defendant commit a violent crime using these weapons? If these factors are part of the defendant’s case, they could face enhanced penalties.

Who Can Be Charged

The following examples help illustrate what situations can lead to being charged with PC 20410. Remember, intent to use the BBK is not a requirement for being charged. 

Example 1: Imported

Mario was growing his collection of knives and wanted to buy a unique knife from every state he vacationed in. He came home from a recent trip with a belt buckle knife and a cane sword. Although he only intended for both weapons to be added to his collection, he was aware that they were weapons and could be used as such. Mario could be charged with importing a belt buckle knife under PC 20410 as well as PC 20510 for importing a cane sword.

Example 2: Caused or Helped

Lisa wanted to impress her date, who loved constructing straight-edged weapons. After sharing how he struggled to buy the material he needed to make them, she offered to cover the costs. She also asked if she could watch him during the manufacturing process. She gave him the money and bought him the scrap metal. He made multiple types of daggers along with some belt buckle knives and shuriken. Lisa was gifted with a BBK and a shuriken she could keep.

In this case, although Lisa was not the one who manufactured the weapons, she did help in getting the materials necessary to make them. Furthermore, she accepted two of them, both of which are considered restricted weapons under PC 16590. Her date is guilty of violating several of California’s generally prohibited weapons laws. Lisa could also face charges for PC 20410, for aiding in the manufacturing of belt buckle knives. She could also be charged with PC 22410 for accepting the shuriken he made her.

Example 3: Possession

Maritza rode the trolley home every night and would often have pepper spray and a small pocket knife with her for protection. She failed to use either when her purse was stolen, mainly because she kept them in her bag. So she decided to start carrying concealed weapons. She would hide a bra knife in her brazier, wear a belt buckle knife, and had brass knuckles in her pocket.

Maritza could be charged with PC 20410 as well as PC 21810 for the brass knuckles. Her bra knife is legal because California does allow one to carry concealed folding knives. However, if her bra knife turned out to be a spring-loaded knife with a blade longer than two inches, she could face a PC 21510 offense for possessing a spring-loaded knife. Because she had that bra knife concealed, the charge could become a PC 21310 offense for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with the common legal defenses used to challenge a BBK offense. If you are facing a PC 20410 offense and can relate to any of these examples, contact a trusted legal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Here are just a few of the most common legal defenses used to dispute a PC 20410 offense.

Did not have a BBK

Remember, one of the elements of the crime is the object must fit the definition of a BBK. Under PC 16260, a belt buckle knife is a blade/knife that is made as an essential part of a belt buckle and has a minimum length of at least two-and-a-half inches. If the belt buckle in question does not meet that definition, then you should not be charged with a BBK.

Example

Stan worked with scrap metals and hard plastics, often building random objects with them. He was tasked with making unique, yet fashionable belt buckles. Several of the buckles he made had spikes and/or small knife-like attachments. He posted some of his creations to social media and was reported for manufacturing unlawful knives. He was facing a BBK offense for the belt buckle knives he made.

Fortunately, his defense lawyer argued that the BBK’s he made do not fit the legal definition under PC 16260. The knife lengths of each buckle he made were no more than half an inch and they were not essential parts of the buckle. The PC 20410 offense was dropped.

Coerced Confessions

Sadly, law enforcement agencies have been known to force a person of interest or suspect into confessing to crimes, even if they are not guilty of the allegations. Any type of coerced or forced confessions is inadmissible in court. California law states that police officers and other law enforcement agencies cannot use “overbearing measures” to coerce confessions from people.

If threats or aggressive tactics were used to coerce a confession from someone, there will be shade cast on that admission of guilt. The defense could argue that the only reason the suspect admitted guilt was that they were under mental or physical pressure.

If the accused and their legal defense can show or prove that coercive tactics were used to get a confession, it is likely the judge will not allow the confession as evidence. The judge could also choose to drop the case altogether if it is revealed that the accused was pressured into confessing even though they did not commit the crime(s).

Exempt from Prosecution

There is a shortlist of people who are exempt from being prosecuted for this offense. These people are allowed to possess, sell, or transfer these objects, only if it is relevant to their professions. Such individuals include members of law enforcement, as well as professionals who work in antiques, museums, or the martial arts fields.

Penalties for PC 20410

This offense is a wobbler which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. It all depends on the details of the case and the defendant’s criminal background history.

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

A potential three years in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars in fines.

Can you lose your Gun Rights?

Under California’s PC 29800 felon with a firearm law, anyone convicted of a felony loses their right to purchase and/or possess a firearm. If someone is convicted of felony PC 20410 BBK, they will lose their right to possess or acquire a firearm.

Enhanced Penalties

In cases where the defendant is caught with a variety of prohibited weapons, they will likely face all the penalties associated with each offense. For instance, if George was found with multiple BBKs, metal knuckles, and a writing pen knife, he would face multiple counts of PC 20410 along with PC 21810, metal knuckles, and PC 20910, writing pen knife. Each count includes a separate set of penalties that range from serving county jail time to thousands of dollars in fines.

California PC 16590 – Prohibited Weapons;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

A maximum fine of one thousand dollars.

Felony;

A potential three years in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

California PC 20910 – writing pen knife;

Misdemeanor;

A possible one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

As long as three years in county jail, and/or

A potential ten thousand dollars in fines.

California PC 21310 – carrying a concealed dirk or dagger;

Misdemeanor;

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as one thousand dollars.

Felony;

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California PC 24710 – Wallet gun;

Misdemeanor;

A possible one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

As long as three years in county jail, and/or

A potential ten thousand dollars in fines.

California PC 25850 – Carrying a loaded firearm in public;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

A maximum fine of one thousand dollars.

California PC 417 – Brandishing a weapon;

Misdemeanor;

Between three months and one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Let Us Help

Are you located in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Orange County and need legal assistance? If you or someone you are concerned about is facing any of the aforementioned offenses, contact the law offices of Anna R. Yum. Attorney Yum has earned accolades as a top-rated legal defense lawyer and understands how serious a conviction can impact your future.

For more information on PC 20410, belt buckle knives, or any of the associated offenses, we can help. Simply call us at 619-233-4433 to schedule your no-obligation, free consultation.