Getting caught with prohibited weapons in California means you could face some long-term consequences. Examples of unlawful weapons include brass knuckles, billy clubs, and cane swords. These weapons are outlined in specific statutes and are considered “wobblers.” This means you can either face misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on the details of your case.
Attempting to defend yourself against charges for possessing brass knuckles can be extremely difficult. It’s highly recommended you find a criminal defense lawyer who understands what is needed to successfully protect your rights.
To gain a more critical understanding of this statute, let’s take a look at how California defines it.
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Defining Brass Knuckles
Metal knuckles or brass knuckles are prohibited weapons that are specifically covered under Penal Code 21810. This law states it is a crime to:
- Manufacture, trade, import, sell, share, give, or possess;
- This includes making them, accepting them as gifts, or purchasing them across state lines.
- Metal knuckles or brass knuckles sometimes referred to as BK’s, knuckle rings, or iron rings.
- Brass knuckles are metal instruments that fit around all four fingers as a singular piece.
- They can be made from any type of metal, not just brass. They can be composite knuckles, made with resin, or similar types of hardened material.
- This instrument can be used to strike a serious bodily injury to another person.
- Their general purpose is to help increase the force of a punch which also increases the severity of injuries sustained from the punch.
Even if you never intended to use the dangerous instrument, you can still face this offense for simply having it.
Here are some similar offenses that can be charged in addition to the possession of brass knuckles.
California Penal Code 21510 – possession of a switchblade;
This statute prohibits carrying, selling, transporting, loaning or possessing a switchblade while in public or while in a motor vehicle.
California Penal Code 22210 – possession of a baton;
This crime is committed when someone makes, sells, transfers, or possesses a baton or leaded weapon that can be used as a deadly weapon to bludgeon another person.
California Penal Code 16590 – prohibited weapons
Under this statute, it’s a crime to make, sell, trade, import, or possess prohibited weapons, which includes prohibited knives, certain martial arts weapons, modified/prohibited firearms, and other generally restricted weapons.
California Penal Code 415 – disturbing the peace;
You can be guilty of this crime if you fight someone, use offensive words, or play loud music in public.
California Penal Code 647(f) – public intoxication;
This law prohibits being under the influence of alcohol while in a public place,
California Penal Code 242 – battery;
This law prohibits willfully and unlawfully using physical force on another person.
California Penal Code 243(d) – battery causing serious bodily injury;
This crime is commonly referred to as aggravated battery and is committed when you willfully and unlawfully touch another person in an offensive or harmful manner, causing them serious bodily injury. Put simply, you committed battery on another individual that resulted in sustaining a serious injury.
Weapons that are generally restricted in California usually cannot be legally bought or sold at a local store. That said, they are not very common and can be easily recognizable by law enforcement. Pretending metal knuckles are a fashion accessory is not a reasonable excuse for possessing them. The prosecution takes these statues seriously and will pursue PC 21810 charges to the fullest, particularly in cases where there is obvious proof.
However, before the prosecution can get a conviction they must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts of the crime took place. Commonly referred to as the elements of the crime, the prosecutors must prove you:
- Made, possessed, sold, transported, imported, traded, shared, or gave away,
- Metal knuckles, brass knuckles, composite or hardened knuckles, and
- The knuckles can be used to cause serious bodily injury to another person.
Remember, you can still be charged with this crime even if no one was hurt. Furthermore, ignorance of the law does not excuse you from the consequences. Whether metal knuckles were freely given to you or you purchased them, being in possession is enough to face a PC 21810 offense.
Who Can Be Charged
Each of the scenarios below explains who can face a PC 21810 brass knuckles charge along with situations that can lead to someone facing multiple offenses.
Brie traveled to Las Vegas for the weekend. Her friends gifted her with pepper spray, a pocket knife, and rubber-sleeved metal knuckles. She drove back to California with the gifts and would bring one of them with her any time she went downtown or clubbing. After a night of drinking and dancing, she clumsily walked to her car. As she drove out of the bar’s parking lot, she ran the first stop sign.
A police officer was watching for possible drunk drivers from a 7/11 across the street. He noticed her clumsy movements as she climbed into her car and pulled her over when she ran the stop sign. He suspected she was drunk, she denied it and he asked for her ID. When she reached into her purse, he spotted the metal knuckles and charged her with possession of metal knuckles, PC 21810.
Brie will also face a DUI under Vehicle Code 23152(a) for driving under the influence of alcohol and VC 22450 for failing to stop at a stop sign.
Preston liked to collect weapons and display them in his living room. He loved his collection hobby despite knowing that many of the weapons he possessed were restricted. The weapons displayed on his wall included sharpened metal ninja throwing stars, nunchucks with spiked metal ends, swords, cane swords, shobi-zues, and spiked metal knuckles. He invited some co-workers over for a party and showed-off his impressive weapons.
After a lot of drinking, they decided to start playing with some of the weapons. One of the party-goers picked up the shobi-zue and threw it. It broke through the living room window and got lodged in one of the hedges in the front yard. A neighbor assumed the party was getting out of hand and called the police. Preston was throwing ninja stars at his dart-board when police arrived.
Preston is guilty of possessing generally prohibited weapons under PC 16590. Aside from facing charges for PC 21810 for the deadly spiked metal knuckles, he can also be charged with PC 22410 for having shurikens, PC 20710 for possessing shobi-zues, PC 22010 for the spiked nunchucks, and PC 20510 for the cane swords he had on display.
Marty loved making homemade tools with his 3D printer. His friend Tyler suggested he make composite knuckles and see how they would compare to brass knuckles. After printing one, Tyler brought over his brass knuckles and they compared the two. When they discovered the 3D printed ones were just as effective as the brass, they decided to print more for sale. Tyler suggested they make a dozen to start and bought more 3D print material for Marty.
In this situation, Marty could face charges for PC 21810 for manufacturing composite knuckles. Tyler would also be guilty of PC 21810 for possessing brass knuckles. Both men could face steeper penalties based on how many composite knuckles they chose to make.
Even though they used a 3D printer, which does not make brass or metal instruments, the composite material used to produce the knuckles is solid. It is equally capable of causing serious bodily injury if used.
Although some of these situations can seem like no big deal at first, your whole life changes when facing the reality of a misdemeanor or felony. Ease some of that stress by finding a criminal defense attorney who understands how to fight such serious allegations.
Luckily, there are legal defenses that have been used to fight possession of brass knuckles charges. Without proper and professional legal advice, disputing this offense can feel like an uphill battle. An effective criminal defense lawyer has a critical understanding of the common defenses used to mitigate these charges.
The following questions offer a closer look at the legal defenses that have been used to challenge a PC 21810 offense.
Did you possess a prohibited weapon?
To be guilty of this crime is to have been in possession of brass or metal knuckles. If you were not, you should not be held accountable.
For instance, Greg loved buying gag gifts for his friends. He bought a pair of gag rubber knuckles that resembled brass knuckles. The ones he bought were flexible and squishy. It was not really capable of producing the same amount of damage as metal knuckles would. While skateboarding at the park with some friends, he put the knuckles on and showed them off.
A patrolman saw the knuckles and charged Greg with PC 21810. Luckily, Greg’s defense lawyer was able to prove the supposed prohibited weapon was not brass, metal, or solid composite material. If it were used to punch someone, it would not inflict the same serious damage as brass knuckles would. Squishable, stretchable rubber knuckles are not specifically listed as a prohibited weapon under this statute.
Were you allowed to have brass knuckles?
Members of law enforcement are generally exempt from this law as they are permitted to possess metal knuckles. There are unique situations where civilians may have them as well. However, this defense lies with the defendant’s ability to prove they were operating within their rights to have brass knuckles.
For example, Duncan owned an antique shop and often had a variety of weapons in stock. He had a series of cast iron, lead, brass, and wooden knuckles that were decades old. Some of them dated back to the civil war. Wanting to rearrange his display case, he packed up the antique knuckles and wanted to store them in his storage unit. As he was walking toward the parking garage, he tripped and dropped the bag. The items flew out onto the pavement where a passing police car spotted them. The police officers confiscated the knuckles and charged Duncan with PC 21810.
Fortunately, Duncan’s defense attorney was able to prove the brass, metal, and wooden knuckles were antiques that he had legally purchased for historical display in his shop. In this case, although Duncan was not a member of law enforcement, he was within his legal right to have them.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
California has strict search warrant laws and any deviation from a legal search warrant could result in an unlawful search and seizure case. Legal warrants are often specific in what they cover. For instance, some warrants cover searching a home while others only cover searching business property.
Detective Parker and Grim attained a warrant to search Sergio’s house for illegal contraband, such as drugs and restricted weapons. When his home was searched, nothing incriminating was found. They did, however, find a storage key to a unit down the street. Without first attaining a warrant, they decided to confiscate the key and check it out. The only thing they found was some brass knuckles and charged Sergio with PC 21810.
In this case, Sergio’s defense lawyer was able to contest the evidence because the detectives attained the brass knuckles through unlawful search and seizure. Just because they could not find anything in Sergio’s house did not give them the right to search the storage unit. The search warrant only covered the home. What the detectives found in the storage unit was inadmissible and the charges were dropped.
Penalties for PC 21810
The prosecution has the discretion to pursue misdemeanor or felony penalties. Their decision is often based on the details of your case and criminal background history. Essentially, if illegal acts were committed with the brass knuckles, such as acting extremely violent or causing serious injury you would most likely face the harsher penalties.
If convicted as a misdemeanor you face;
A potential county jail sentence of one year, and/or
As much as one thousand dollars in fines.
If convicted as a felony;
A possible county jail sentence of up to three years, and/or
Maximum fines of up to ten thousand dollars.
It’s important to mention any conviction on your criminal record will be permanent unless successfully expunged.
Having a weapons offense on your record means future interactions with law enforcement can be more stressful for you. For instance, getting pulled over for a standard traffic violation can become more intense, as officers are trained to be extra-cautious around people believed to be familiar with generally deadly weapons.
A criminal history also carries social consequences like impacting job opportunities, assistance programs, higher education goals, and housing choices.
Potential Penalty Enhancements
If you were convicted of prior serious or violent felonies the penalties could be multiplied. It depends on whether this or prior felonies count as a ‘strike’ on your record. California has a “Three Strikes Law” under PC 667. It states if you are convicted of a certain serious or violent felony, that would be considered your first strike. A second strike results in double the standard sentence for the crime committed.
A third strike could result in double the normal sentencing for the crime OR a possible twenty-five years to life in prison (if the third strike was due to a serious or violent felony).
Penalties for Associated Offenses
California PC 21510 – possession of a switchblade;
A possible county jail sentence of up to six months, and/or
A potential fine of up to one thousand dollars.
California PC 22210 – possession of batons;
As long as one year in county jail, and/or
Possible fines of up to one thousand dollars.
As long as three years in county jail, and/or
Maximum fines of up to ten thousand dollars.
California PC 16590 – possession of prohibited weapons;
County jail sentence for up to one year, and/or
Up to one thousand dollars in fines.
A potential three-year county jail sentence, and/or
As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.
California PC 415 – disturbing the peace;
Up to four-hundred dollars in fines.
Up to ninety days in county jail, and/or
Fines of up to four-hundred dollars.
California PC 647(f) – public intoxication;
Summary (informal) probation, or
A possible six-month county jail sentence, and/or
Fines of up to one thousand dollars.
California PC 242 – battery;
Summary (misdemeanor) probation,
A possible six months in county jail, and/or
As much as two thousand dollars in fines.
California PC 243(d) – battery causing serious bodily injury;
Summary (informal) probation,
A possible one-year county jail sentence, and/or
Potential fines of up to one thousand dollars.
Formal (felony) probation,
2, 3, or 4 years in county jail, and/or
As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.
We Can Help
Are you or someone you love facing charges for PC 21810, metal or brass knuckles? If you are located in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Orange County consider the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. Attorney Yum is a top-rated, highly trusted lawyer who has successfully defended people who were facing violent and non-violent offenses.