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Carrying a Concealed Dirk or Dagger Law

Penal Codes 16590(i), 16470, & 21310

Information on the crime of possession of, or carrying, a concealed dirk or dagger is found at California penal code sections 16590(i), 16470, and 21310 (Formerly PC 12020(a)(3)&(4)).

PC 16590(i) is the corresponding charge for the crime of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. PC 16470 provides a definition of a dirk or dagger, and PC 21310 gives information on the punishment for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger.

PC 16590(i), carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, falls under the general heading of "generally prohibited weapons," which list crimes that were formerly charged under PC 12020(a).  

Definition of Dirk or Dagger

A dirk or dagger means a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death. A pocket knife is not a dirk or dagger if the knife is not in a locked position with the blade exposed (PC 16470).

To be found guilty of concealing a dirk or dagger the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant carried, on his or her person, a dirk or dagger
  • The defendant knew that he or she was carrying the dirk or dagger
  • The dirk or dagger was concealed on the defendant's person, and
  • The defendant knew that the dirk or dagger could readily be used as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury

The district attorney does not need to prove that the defendant intended to use the dirk or dagger as a weapon, but only that the defendant knew that the dirk or dagger could be readily used as a stabbing weapon that may cause great bodily injury and the defendant intentionally concealed the weapon.

The term capable of ready use means that the knife was in a configuration that does not require assembly before it can be utilized. For example, a pocket knife is not a dirk or dagger unless the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.

The term concealed means that the dirk or dagger was substantially concealed and not readily identifiable as having possession of a knife. For example, a knife carried in a sheath and worn openly suspended from the waist of the wearer is not a concealed weapon.

The term great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.

Punishment & Sentence for PC 16590(i)

The crime of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If PC 16590(i) is charged a felony the defendant may be sentenced up to three years in prison. If PC 16590(i) is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may be sentenced up to one year in the county jail.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence, without the imposition of jail, is a common sentence for any generally prohibited weapons violations, including charges for carrying a concealed weapon charged under PC 16590(i). Suspended sentences and split sentences for felony convictions of PC 16590(i) are also common. Whether or not a probation sentence, without jail, is available to the defendant largely depends on the nature of the offense and the defendant's criminal history. 

Crime of Moral Turpitude: Carrying a concealed weapon, including a dirk or dagger, is not considered a crime of moral turpitude, which means that the crime is not considered to be morally wrong. Crimes of moral turpitude carry special punishments for non-U.S. citizens. Note: Any prison sentence imposed that is longer than a year will be considered an aggravated felony for purposes of immigration. Aggravated felonies also carry special punishments for non-U.S. citizens.

Strike Crime: PC 16590(i) is not considered a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law. Also, PC 16590(i) is not considered to be a violent or serious offense as those terms are defined under California law. This means that the defendant may be eligible for early release on parole if the primary offense conviction is for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger (Prop 57).

Firearm Prohibition: Felony convictions for any generally prohibited weapon, including the crime of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, will carry a lifetime ban of the ownership or possession of firearms. 

Additional penalties and punishments for PC 16590(i) violations include: fines, professional licensing consequences, family law consequences, possible civil lawsuits, victim restitution, and more.

Defense to PC 16590(i)

Common defenses to carry a concealed weapon include: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant actually possessed a dirk or dagger or that the knife that the defendant possessed actually qualifies by definition as a dirk or dagger. Mistake of fact, statute of limitations, coerced confessions, illegal search or seizure of the defendant that lead to the discovery of the dirk or dagger, momentary possession, and more.

If you have been charged with possession of, or carrying a concealed weapon under PC 16590(i), or the corresponding former charge of possession of  deadly weapon under PC 12020(a), contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our attorneys will explore your defense options and answer all of your questions. Call today!


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PC 16470 & 16590(i): Possess a Dirk or Dagger

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PC 16470 & 16590(i): Dirk or Dagger Possession

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Possession of generally prohibited weapons: Dirk or Dagger (Knife): PC 16590(i), 16470, & 21310

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