California Penal Code 21310 - Carrying A Concealed Dirk or Dagger

Charges for carrying concealed dirks or daggers should not be taken lightly. A criminal record with any type of weapons offense on it will impact all future interactions with law enforcement. Furthermore, a conviction for this offense will show on a background check, which can affect future employment, higher-education goals, and housing opportunities.

It’s highly recommended you seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who understands how to fight these charges. Many weapons offenses are known as “wobbler” cases in California which means you could be facing either a misdemeanor or felony consequences.

To gain a deeper understanding of what this statute entails, let’s take a look at how California defines it.

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How is carrying a concealed dirk or dagger defined in California?

California defines carrying concealed dirk or dagger under Penal Code 21310. This law states it’s a crime to carry a concealed long-thrusting knife that is capable of causing great bodily injury or death if it’s used to stab another person.

What is a dirk or dagger?

A dirk or dagger under this statute would be any knife or closely-related instrument, regardless of whether it has a handguard. Pocket knives and other folding knives, excluding switchblades, fall under the category of dirks and daggers if the blade is exposed and/or locked into position. Pocket knives fall under PC 21310 if the knife is exposed and capable of causing serious injury or death to another individual if they are stabbed with it.

When can you carry a dirk or dagger?

Carrying a concealed dirk, dagger, or similar knife is illegal, however, you are legally permitted to carry a dirk if it’s properly sheathed and openly worn. For instance, it’s legal to wear a sheathed dagger that is openly fastened to your leg or hanging from your hip. 

You are also permitted to carry or possess a pocket knife or folding knife, as long as the blade is not exposed and locked into the outright position.

Defining Great Bodily Injury

Severe or great bodily injury under these circumstances would include life-threatening wounds as a result of stabbing or cutting. For instance, stabs that can puncture organs or deep gashes/cuts that pierce vital arteries are considered great bodily injuries.

Under PC 21310, you can still be guilty of this crime without ever having used the weapon in question. No other person has to suffer great bodily injury nor even be aware of the knife for the defendant to be guilty. Simply being in possession of a dirk or dagger that is substantially concealed is enough to face this offense.

Associated Offenses

There are closely-related offenses that are sometimes charged in addition to PC 21310. The list below is just a few of these statutes.

California Penal Code 20510 - Cane Swords;

This law prohibits the import, possession, sale, and/or manufacture of a cane sword.

California Penal Code 417 - Brandishing a weapon or firearm;

It is a crime to brandish, show, exhibit, draw, or use a weapon in a threatening way.

California Penal Code 626.10 - Certain knives in public and private schools;

This crime is committed by bringing certain knives into a public or private school such as pre-K through 12th-grade schools as well as public or private colleges and universities. 

California Penal Code 171b - Restricted knives in public buildings and public meetings;

This law makes it a crime to carry or possess any type of prohibited weapon into a local, state, or federal public building and/or to meetings that are open to the public.

California Penal Code 25400 - Carrying a concealed weapon;

It is a crime to conceal a firearm on your physical person or in a motor vehicle.

What does the Prosecution do?

There is a specific set of elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction for PC 21310, carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. These factors are also referred to as the facts of the case which are;

Elements of the Crime

  • The defendant carried a dirk, dagger, knife or similar stabbing weapon on their person,
    • Having a stabbing instrument on your person means it was in your physical possession. This would include carrying it in your purse, backpack, knapsack, or similar bag where you have control of it.
  • They attempted to completely conceal the weapon,
    • The dirk or dagger has to be substantially concealed. In other words, the dirk or dagger was hidden away from public view.
  • They knowingly possessed said weapon, and
    • The defendant knew the dirk or dagger was on their person.
  • They knew it could easily be used as a stabbing weapon.
    • The defendant knew the knife in question could be used to seriously injure or potentially kill someone.
    • In this case ‘easily’ means the hidden dirk or dagger was readily available and/or within the defendants’ immediate reach.

Interestingly enough, the prosecution can still pursue charges of PC 21310, even if the defendant never used or had intentions of using the dirk, dagger, or another stabbing instrument as a weapon.

Who Can Be Charged

For a better idea of what situations can lead to charges for PC 21310, carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, take a look at the examples below.

Example 1:

George had a collection of daggers, knives, and swords. He would openly carry one of his knives with him everywhere he went. While at the movie theatre, he yelled at the concession stand worker for forgetting to butter his popcorn. The fact that he was armed with a noticeable weapon and yelling in a theatre made other patrons nervous. Several of the movie-goers were scared enough to call the police on him. Once police scrutinized the knife on George’s hip, they proceeded to search him. At this point, George would not be guilty of breaking any laws. However, one of the officers asked to check George’s steel-toe boots. They discovered he had a dirk tucked into the inner lining of his boots.

Openly carrying a large sheathed knife suspended from his hip would not be cause for charging him with a crime. However, George did conceal a dirk inside his boots and will face charges for PC 21310.

Example 2:

Maria would go clubbing with friends every weekend and bring a pocket knife with her for protection. She left her pocket knife in the car and decided to rely on her bra knife. After drinking too much, she and another woman began fighting on the dance floor. The bouncers kicked them out. Once the women were out on the sidewalk they continued to fight. Police officers arrived just as Maria motioned for her bra knife.

Both women would be guilty of public intoxication, PC 647f for being publicly intoxicated outside of the club. They could also face charges for PC 415, disturbing the peace by unlawfully fighting on the sidewalk. Maria may not have used the knife, but her intent was evident when she was caught reaching for it. Maria would face additional charges for PC 21310 for carrying a concealed knife in her bra. 

Example 3:

Lucas got off work at two in the morning and would have to walk home. His backpack contained his work gear and lunch. Seeing more headlines about muggings and random assaults had him on edge. Every time he left his home for work he would stick his favorite kitchen knife in his backpack. He worked as a janitor at a public college. On his way home, a police car spotted the tip of something shiny cutting through the bottom of his backpack. They suspected a dagger or similar weapon and he was stopped and searched.

Lucas would be guilty of carrying a concealed knife under PC 21310 for the kitchen knife in his backpack. Although he felt it was a necessity for self-defense it’s still a crime to carry a concealed weapon. He would also face charges for PC 626.10 for carrying a knife while on a college campus.

Example 4:

Ashley studied witchcraft and believed she was a Wicca. In her purse was a dagger with intricate elemental carvings on the wooden handle. While walking on the beach a couple of drunk beach-goers began making fun of her skirt and cloak outfit. Angry, she reached into her purse and pulled out her dagger. The people laughing at her backed away and she continued her walk in peace. However, they reported her to the nearest lifeguard and she was eventually stopped by a beach patrol unit.

Ashley would face charges for PC 21310, carrying a concealed dagger in her purse. She could face additional charges for pulling the dagger out and showing it to the people poking fun of her. This act is considered brandishing a weapon under PC 417.

Legal Defense

Fortunately, several common defenses have been used to fight carrying a concealed dirk or dagger charges. An effective criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with what these defenses are.

The following explains just a few of the legal defenses used against PC 21310 charges.

Was the knife concealed?

For someone to be guilty of this law, they would have to hide the knife, dirk, dagger, or similar weapon in such a way that no one else around them could see it or even suspect it was present. Substantially concealing it means the stabbing weapon was fully hidden. If the knife is visible, PC 21310 would not apply. California permits the legal possession of sheathed knives, as long as it’s openly carried. If the dagger, knife, dirk, or related stabbing instrument was not fully concealed, you should not be guilty of this crime.

For example, Marcus had his hunting knife fully sheathed and strapped to his thigh. As he was eating at a restaurant, he got too hot. He removed his sweater and tied it around his waist. This partially covered the knife. Concerned restaurant-goers called the police and reported him.

Marcus would not be guilty of PC 21310 because he was openly carrying his knife when he entered the restaurant. It was also not fully concealed behind the knotted sleeves of his sweater.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

California has strict search and seizure laws, which means law enforcement must have a legal search warrant or justifiable cause for searching your person or property. If law enforcement conducts a search that does not adhere to what is approved in the warrant or if they did not have reasonable cause to search you, this would be a suitable defense.

For example, law enforcement had a search warrant for Joel’s home. They were searching for drugs and related paraphernalia. Amelia, Joel’s girlfriend arrived just as they were finishing the search. After failing to find any incriminating evidence the detective in charge decided to search all the vehicles in the driveway, including the girlfriends’. When she refused their entry, they restrained her and searched her car anyway. Failing to find anything they patted her down and arrested her after finding a dirk tucked into the inside pocket of her leather jacket.

The search warrant only covered Joel’s home. Amelia’s car and property were not included. Although she was in possession of a dirk that was concealed in her jacket, the detectives had no reasonable cause to search her property or her person. This would be an example of unlawful search and seizure.

False Accusation and/or Wrongful Arrest

Sadly, there are instances where false accusations are made which sometimes leads to a wrongful arrest. If the instrument in question does not qualify as a dirk or dagger, you should not be guilty of PC 21310.

For instance, Christopher was walking to work when he was stopped by the police. They claimed he resembled someone that robbed an am/pm the night before. They questioned Christopher and had him turn out his pockets. He placed a box knife that he used at work on the hood of the squad car. The blade was set into a locked-out position, with the tip barely exposed. Christopher was accused of carrying a concealed dagger and arrested.

In this situation, his box knife was a company approved tool used for cutting cardboard. The box knife would not be considered a dagger as it had a maximum lock setting. The blade could not be exposed more than three-quarters of an inch. Christopher would not be guilty of carrying a concealed weapon. 

Lack of Knowledge

To be guilty of PC 21310, the defendant would have had to know they were carrying a concealed knife and that the knife in question was capable of causing serious bodily injury or death if used to stab another person.

Natalie, for example, borrows Stan’s jacket after losing hers at the park. While taking the trolley home she pulls her cellphone out and several empty baggies fall from the pocket. It catches the attention of a couple of patrolmen in the same trolley car. Noting a white residue coating the inside of the baggies, they suspect illicit substances and question her. Upon further inspection of the sandwich bags, they denote a chemical-like aroma from them and detain her. After searching the jacket, no drugs are found but they do find a dirk concealed in an inside pocket and arrest her for PC 21310.

To be guilty of carrying a concealed dirk, one would have to know they were carrying it in the first place. Natalie only borrowed the jacket from Stan. She was not aware of empty baggies that allegedly contained unlawful drug residue nor did she have knowledge of the dirk that was concealed inside the jacket she borrowed.

Penalties for Penal Code 21310 - Carrying a Concealed Dirk or Dagger

If convicted of PC 21310 as a misdemeanor, you face; Summary (misdemeanor) probation, Up to one year in county jail, and/or up to one thousand dollars in fines. If convicted of PC 21310 as a felony, you face; Felony (formal) probation, up to three years in county jail, and/or as much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

Enhanced Punishments

Also, if the defendant is convicted of felony PC 21310 their gun rights will be affected. In California, it’s illegal for a convicted felon to own or possess a firearm. In other words, the defendant could lose their right to possess, own, acquire, or purchase a gun.

It’s also possible to face additional offenses depending on the defendant’s actions regarding the weapon and the location of the incident. For instance, carrying a concealed dirk or dagger into a government building and/or brandishing it in an intimidating manner could result in multiple charges. In this situation, the defendant would likely face felony penalties. The overall fines and county jail time would also increase. 

Penalties for Associated Offenses

California Penal Code 20510 - Cane Swords;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

Up to three years in county jail, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 417 - Brandishing A Weapon or Firearm;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in jail.

Felony;

Up to three years in state prison.

California Penal Code 626.10 - Certain knives in public and private schools;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Summary (informal) probation.

Felony;

Up to three years in state prison, and/or

Felony probation.

California Penal Code 171b - Restricted knives in public buildings or public meetings;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail.

Felony;

16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison.

California Penal Code 25400 - Carrying a concealed weapon;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

Up to one year in county jail, or

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

A maximum fine of ten thousand dollars.

Who Can Help

Are you or someone you love facing charges for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger? If you are located in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Orange County don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. Attorney Yum understands how weapons charges can affect the rest of your life. As your criminal defense lawyer, you can expect an aggressive fight for your rights.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation call 619-233-4433 or use our online contact form.

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