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Penal Code 21810 PC | Possession of Brass Knuckles

Penal Code 21810 PC – Possession of Brass Knuckles in California

Getting caught with brass knuckles in California can lead to being charged with a crime under Penal Code 21810 PC. This law makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, lend, or possess metal or brass knuckles. But what exactly are brass knuckles and why are they illegal in California?

What are Brass Knuckles?

Brass knuckles are metal objects that fit over the fingers and are worn on the hand. They are designed to increase the force and impact of a punch. Many brass knuckles are shaped to fit around a clenched fist. The name is a bit misleading though – brass knuckles can be made from various metals like iron, steel, or aluminum – not just brass.

When someone punches while wearing brass knuckles, the force is concentrated on a smaller area, so the impact can cause much more damage. A brass knuckles punch can easily break bones, knock teeth out, or even kill someone if the blow lands in the right spot.

Why Are Brass Knuckles Illegal in California?

Brass knuckles are illegal in California because they are considered a “generally prohibited weapon” under Penal Code 16590 PC. This law prohibits the manufacture, importation, sale, or possession of any metal knuckles in the state of California.

The reason brass knuckles are banned is that they have no lawful purpose except to inflict serious bodily injury. They turn a regular punch into a potentially lethal blow. Brass knuckles are lightweight, easily concealed weapons that can cause tremendous damage.

Penalties for Possessing Brass Knuckles in California

Possession of brass knuckles is a wobbler offense under Penal Code 21810 PC. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, at the prosecutor’s discretion.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties can include:

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2024-02-24
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  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Informal probation

If charged as a felony, the penalties can include:

  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison
  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Formal probation

In determining whether to charge as a misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor will consider factors like:

  • Your criminal history
  • Whether the brass knuckles were used to injure or threaten someone
  • Whether children were present

Legal Defenses Against Brass Knuckles Charges

There are several legal defenses that a criminal defense attorney may use to fight brass knuckles charges, including:

You Did Not Actually Possess Brass Knuckles

If the object you possessed does not meet the legal definition of brass knuckles under Penal Code 16920, this defense argues you are not guilty of violating 21810 PC. For example, if you possessed a rubber novelty item that resembles brass knuckles but isn’t capable of inflicting injury like real brass knuckles can.

You Are Exempt from Prosecution

Certain people like peace officers, National Guard members, and antique collectors may possess brass knuckles in California legally. It’s a defense to show you fall under one of the exemptions in Penal Code 22010 PC.

Lack of Criminal Intent

If you did not knowingly possess real brass knuckles – for example, someone slipped them into your bag without your knowledge – you can argue you lacked criminal intent to break the law.

Illegal Search and Seizure

If police illegally stopped and searched you without probable cause and found brass knuckles, any evidence found may be excluded. This could result in the charges being reduced or dismissed.

Related Offenses

There are other related weapons charges in California law that may apply if brass knuckles are involved. Some examples include:

  • Penal Code 245 PC – Assault with a Deadly Weapon – if you use brass knuckles to commit an assault, this charge can apply and is a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.
  • Penal Code 417 PC – Brandishing a Weapon – if you take out and show brass knuckles in a rude, threatening, or angry way in the presence of another person.
  • Penal Code 20610 PC – Possession of a Lipstick Case Knife – this applies to brass knuckles disguised as a lipstick case or other harmless object.

Conclusion

Being caught with brass knuckles can have severe consequences in California. The best defense is to avoid possessing them altogether. But if you are facing charges, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the evidence against you and develop an effective legal strategy to fight the charges. Getting experienced legal help immediately can be key to avoiding heavy fines and jail time.

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