California Penal Code 21310 PC: Carrying A Concealed Dagger

California law regulates possession or carrying of certain knives known as daggers or dirks under Penal Code Section 213101.

You may not conceal these knives on your person but you may openly carry them under Penal Code 20200 provided it is in a sheath hanging or suspended from your waist.

What Is Considered A Dirk Or Dagger?

A dagger or dirk is defined under PC 16470.

It is:

  1. A knife
  2. That may or may not have a hand guard
  3. Which is capable of and immediately able to be used as a stabbing weapon2
  4. That can or may cause significant or substantial injury or death

Are You Allowed To Keep A Pocket Knife?

The proverbial Boy Scout knife, however, may be kept in your pocket or concealed so long as it closed3

But utility knives and folding knives that are not switchblades are illegal if the knife blade is exposed and locked into position.

If you do have one, you can lawfully conceal it so long as it is not locked in position and the knife blade is not exposed.

A folding knife or straight knife can be worn openly on your person but must be in a sheath that is suspended from your waist.

You cannot tuck the knife into your waistband or you are in violation of the law.

List Of Other Prohibited Knives

There are also knives that you are not permitted to possess at all and will subject you to criminal penalties if you are found to have any of these in your possession:

  • Belt buckle knife—it is a belt that conceals a blade or knife within it
  • Cane swords—seen in movies or television mostly, it appears as a common cane from which you can remove a blade
  • Pen knives
  • Any other common everyday accessory that hides or conceals a knife or blade

How Does the Prosecutor Prove The Charge

To be convicted of illegally carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, the prosecuor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:

  1. You were carrying a dirk or dagger4
  2. That was substantially concealed or hidden5
  3. And that you were aware of or knew you were carrying the weapon6
  4. Which could be used as a stabbing weapon7

Element of the Awareness of the Knife’s Presence

It can be obvious you were aware you possessed the knife on your person if it is bulging from your pocket or waist but not if it was relatively small and in a jacket or coat that you borrowed from someone else.

Element of Being Substantially and Knowingly Concealed

You need not completely hide or conceal the knife to be in violation of the law so long as it was substantially concealed and you intended to conceal it.

This does not include knives that are kept in a sheath suspended from your waist.

Defenses to Carrying a Concealed Dirk or Dagger

Lack of Awareness

If the concealed knife was inside a coat or jacket, you may have been unaware of its presence. It helps if you can show that the garment belonged to someone else, that you were borrowing it or you had loaned it to someone who may well have placed it in there and had forgotten about it.

It Was Not Concealed

The dirk or dagger must have been in plain view or not substantially concealed. These weapons can be carried openly but only if they are in a sheath suspended from your waist.

This does not apply to switchblades or other knives or stabbing weapons that you are prohibited from possessing.

Illegal Search and Seizure

You cannot be searched by a law enforcement officer unless probable cause exists to do so. This means that the officer must have evidence that you committed or were about to commit a crime. If you are arrested, you may be searched incident to the arrest, which may uncover a concealed dirk or dagger.

If no probable cause exists to stop or detain you and to search you, then a search is only valid if there was a search warrant or you consented to the search. If none of these circumstances existed, the weapon may not be used as evidence against you in any criminal proceeding following a successful motion to suppress use of the evidence8.

Penalties & Sentencing For 21310 PC

Violation of PC 21310 is a “wobbler.”

A “wobbler” means the prosecution has the discretion to charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or a California felony.

Penalties For Penal Code 21310 PC as a Misdemeanor:

Aggravating factors that may result in you serving some time in jail

  • Having a criminal history that includes violence
  • Any ties to gang activity or
  • You intended to use the weapon.

Penalties For Penal Code 21310 PC as a Felony:

  • Probation and up to one year in county jail
  • 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail
  • And/or a fine up to $10,000

Regarding your possession, sale, import or manufacture of other prohibited knives such as belt buckle or cane knives, you face either a misdemeanor or felony with the same penalties.

Potential Penalty Enhancement

If you used the dirk or dagger that is found on your person and it was concealed when you were arrested or searched, you face an additional charge of personal use of a deadly weapon under PC 12022. You can be sentenced with a consecutive sentence of one year in state prison, which is to be served after or before your sentence for violating PC 21310.

Expungement For Penal Code 21310

Under Penal Code 1203.4, convictions for misdemeanors and a number of various felony convictions are eligible for expungement. A conviction under pc 21310, if either a misdemeanor or felony, does not entail any state prison time so your conviction is eligible for expungement.

Applying For Early Termination of Probation

If you are still on probation but have served at least half your probation you may want to consider a motion to terminate probation early before applying for an expungement.

However, if there is an enhancement whereby you were convicted of using the dirk or dagger, then the penalty calls for state prison time. If you are sentenced and do serve time in state prison, then, you are not eligible for expungement of your conviction but other post-conviction relief may be available such as a governors pardon.

Take our Expungement Eligibility Test

  • Find Out if You Are Eligible To Have Your Record Expunged
  • Stop Worrying About Employer Background Checks
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Related Knife Charges

Assault with a Dangerous Weapon—PC 245(a)(1)

Use of knife to injure someone is assault with a deadly weapon as it fits the element of being an object likely to produce great bodily injury to someone. It is a wobbler so you either face a misdemeanor charge or up to one year in county jail, or a felony and 2, 3 or 4 years in state prison.

Brandishing a Weapon—California Penal Code 417

You commit a crime if you brandish a knife. This means waving it around, drawing it, exhibiting it or pointing it at someone in a rude, threatening or angry manner. This is usually done in a fight or if you were insulted or threatened by someone. You face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days and possibly an additional sentence if you were concealing the dirk or dagger.

Possession of Knives in State or Public Building or School-PC 171b and 626.10

Possession of particular types of knives are prohibited but if you are validly searched and possess any of the following knives in a state or public building or a school, you are violating PC 171b or PC 626.10:

Possession of any of these weapons in a state or public building is prohibited under PC 171b:

  • Switchblades
  • Knives at least 4 inches in length that is in a fixed or locked position or unguarded position
  • Air gauge knives
  • Belt buckle knives
  • Cane swords
  • Lipstick case knives
  • Ballistic knives
  • Pen knives
  • Shobi zues—PC 17160

It is a wobbler offense so you face either a misdemeanor charge and sentence of up to one year in county jail or a felony with a sentence of up to 3 years in state prison.

Possession of any of these weapons or objects in a school is prohibited under PC 626.10:

  • Dirk or dagger
  • Razor blade that is unguarded
  • Folding knife that can be locked in place
  • Any knife with a blade at least 2 ½ inches long
  • An ice pick

This is misdemeanor violation with a sentence of up to one year in county jail.

Immigration Consequences of Violating PC 21310

If you are not a legal resident or US citizen and you are convicted of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger under PC 21310, you face serious immigration consequences. Carrying a concealed knife is a crime of moral turpitude and such crimes are deportable offenses under certain conditions:

  1. You are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, of which a sentence of at least one year may be imposed, within 5 years of your lawful admission to the US, or
  2.  You are convicted of two crimes of moral turpitude that did not arise out of a single transaction, incident or criminal scheme

If you are convicted of a felony, the maximum sentence is at least one year so this would qualify as a deportable offense.

If deported, you must wait either 5 or 10 years, depending on the crime, before applying for readmission though there are crimes for which you will never be readmitted such as homicide or sex offenses.

Next Steps

If you have been arrested and would like to learn more about how attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you would like to discuss a pending violation of penal code 21310 pc with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. California penal Copde 21310 Pc -Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who carries concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170. []
  2. Dirk or Dagger Capable of Ready Use – People v. Sisneros (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 1454, 1457 []
  3. Dirk or Dagger – Pocket Knives. “Although they may not have folding blades, small knives obviously designed to be carried in a pocket in a closed state, and which cannot be used until there have been several intervening manipulations, comport with the implied legislative intent that such knives do not fall within the definition of proscribed dirks or daggers but are a type of pocketknife excepted from the statutory proscription.” In re Luke W. (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 650, 655–656 [105 Cal.Rptr.2d 905].) CALCRIM No. 2501 “WEAPONS.” []
  4. Dirk or Dagger Defined. Pen. Code, § 16470 [The definition of “dirk or dagger” contained in Penal Code section 16470 was effective on January 1, 2012. Prior decisions interpreting the meaning of “dirk or dagger” should be viewed with caution. (See People v. Mowatt (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 713, 719–720 [65 Cal.Rptr.2d 722] [comparing old and new definitions]; People v. Sisneros (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 1454, 1457 [67 Cal.Rptr.2d 782] [same];In re George W. (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 1208, 1215 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d]. []
  5. Substantial Concealment. People v. Wharton (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 72, 75 [6 Cal.Rptr.2d 673]; People v. Fuentes (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 953, 955 [134 Cal.Rptr. 885]. []
  6. The Knowledge Element -[T]he relevant language of section 12020 is unambiguous and establishes that carrying a concealed dirk or dagger does not require an intent to use the concealed instrument as a stabbing weapon.” (People v. Rubalcava (2000) 23 Cal.4th 322, 328 [96 Cal.Rptr.2d 735, 1 P.3d 52] [interpreting now-repealed Pen. Code, § 12020].) However, “to commit the offense, a defendant must still have the requisite guilty mind: that is, the defendant must knowingly and intentionally carry concealed upon his or her person an instrument ‘that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon.’ ([now repealed] § 12020(a), (c)(24).) A defendant who does not know that he is carrying the weapon or that the concealed instrument may be used as a stabbing weapon is therefore not guilty of violating section 12020.” (Id. at pp.  331–332 [emphasis in original] [referencing repealed Pen. Code § 12020; see now Pen. Code, §§ 16479, 21310]. []
  7. In re Victor B (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 521, 526. []
  8. Mapp v. Ohio (1961) 367 U.S. 643; Ker v. California (1963) 374 U.S. 23 []
  9. Penal Code 21310 – Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who carries concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170. []

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