Possession of a Switchblade – California Penal Code 21510

California Penal Code Section 21510 PC makes it a crime for a person to carry, possess in public, sell, or transfers a switchblade that is two or more inches in length. A person who violates penal code 21510 is guilty of a misdemeanor offense. If you have been charged with the possession of a switchblade in violation of penal code 21510, you should not this charge lightly as a conviction carries a maximum jail sentence of up twelve months in county jail, as well as the payment of a $1,000 fine. So, if you have been charged with the possession of a switchblade charge, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and keep you from going to jail for a long period of time. Our attorneys have represented thousands of clients, so they have the knowledge and experience to achieve the best possible results for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Text of California Penal Code 21510 – Possession of a Switchblade Knife

According to California Penal Code Section 21510 PC: 

“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:

(a) Possesses the knife in the passenger’s or driver’s area of any motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public.

(b) Carries the knife upon the person.

(c) Sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or gives the knife to any other person.”

Summary of the Law: This penal code section makes it a crime for a person to public possess, transfer, or sell a switchblade knife, commonly known as a pushbutton knife, switch knife, flick knife, springer knife, or butterfly knife that is more than two inches long.

Proving a Person Guilty of Possessing a Switchblade Knife

For the prosecution to convict a person of possessing a switchblade knife, the prosecutor must prove a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to prove even one element, it will not be able to convict the defendant of possessing a switchblade knife.

The prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant had a switchblade knife either on his person or in his vehicle, AND
  • The defendant knew that the knife he had was a switchblade

Note: For the prosecutor to convict the defendant of possessing a switchblade knife, the prosecutor is not required to prove that the defendant used or intended to use the knife. For the prosecution to convict a person of possessing a switchblade knife, the prosecution must either prove actual possession or constructive possession over a switchblade knife.

So, what qualifies as a switchblade knife?

A switchblade is a knife that has a length of two or more inches and can be released by a flick of the wrist, placing pressure on the handle, by clicking a button, or by the use of any other mechanical device. Said differently, it’s a knife that automatically opens.

Penalties for a Person Convicted of Possessing a Switchblade Knife

If the prosecution convicts a person of possessing a switchblade knife, the penalties depend on whether the prosecution convicts a person of misdemeanor possession of a switchblade or felony possession of a switchblade.

The prosecution’s decision to charge possession of a switchblade in violation of Penal Code 21510 PC as a misdemeanor vs a felony depends on the following factors:

  • Whether you have a criminal record
  • Whether you attempted to use the knife
  • Whether you have a violent history
  • Whether you had the intent to use the knife
  • Whether you resisted arrest
  • Whether you cooperated with the arresting officer

Misdemeanor Possession of a Switchblade

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor offense
  • Imprisonment for up to 12 months in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Placement on informal summary probation for three years

Felony Possession of a Switchblade

  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • Imprisonment for up to three years in county jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Placement on felony formal probation

Defenses for Possession of a Switchblade Charge

If you have been charged with possession of a switchblade, there are a number of defenses that your attorney can make to defend you and keep you from going to jail. Here are some of those defenses:

  • The defendant’s knife was not a switchblade knife – Your attorney may be able to argue that the knife you had in your possession does meet the legal definition of a switchblade. If successful, you cannot be convicted of possession of a switchblade.
  • The defendant did not know that he was in possession of a switchblade knife – For the prosecutor to convict the defendant of possession of a switchblade, he must show that you knew you had a switchblade in your possession, in your bag, or in your car. So, if you can successfully argue that you did not know that you had the switchblade, you cannot be convicted of possessing it.
  • The switchblade knife as uncovered as a result of an unlawful search or seizure. For a police officer to search you or your personal belonging, he must have probable cause. If the police officer did not have PC to search you, our attorneys will argue that the evidence (switchblade knife) should be suppressed, meaning it cannot be used against you as evidence in court.

Examples of Possession of a Switchblade

John is a collector of knives. So, as he’s driving home, he visits the local pawn shop. He finds a butterfly knife that is 3 inches long and has a button the opens the knife immediately. John buys the knife and hides it in the center compartment of his vehicle. Two weeks later as John’s driving home from a friend’s home, he gets pulled over for drunk driving and the police officer searches his vehicle and finds the knife. John can be charged with and convicted of possession of a switchblade knife because he knew he had the knife in his vehicle and the knife was a switchblade.

Offenses Related to Possession of a Switchblade

  • California Penal Code Section 417 PC – Brandishing a weapon
  • California Penal Code Section 21310 PC – Carrying a dirk or dagger
  • California Penal Code Section 245 PC – Assault with a deadly weapon
  • California Penal Code Section 16590 PC – Possession of prohibited weapons

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Are switchblades illegal in California?

Yes, switchblades are illegal in California. Penal Code Section 21510 makes it unlawful for a person to possess, sell, or transfer a switchblade knife.

2) Is possession of a switchblade a criminal offense?

Yes, possession of a switchblade is a criminal offense under PC 21510. A person caught with a switchblade can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

3) Why are switchblades illegal?

California has outlawed the use of switchblades because they are extremely dangerous, can easily be concealed, and can be opened quickly to launch an attack. As such, California has placed tough laws and penalties for persons who are caught possessing them.

4) What is Unlawful Under PC Section 21510?

PC 21510 makes it unlawful to do any of the following:

  • Carry a switchblade in your pocket
  • Carry a switchblade in your bag
  • Sell a switchblade knife
  • Give, loan, or provide another person with a switchblade

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with the possession of a switchblade knife, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and keep you from going to jail for a long period of time. Our defense attorneys have handled thousands of cases, so they have the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Charged with a Crime?


Act now to protect your legal rights.

Charged with a Crime?


Act now to protect your legal rights.