Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Swiss Army Dirk?

A Swiss Army knife should be considered a dirk (or dagger) under the law so sayeth California Attorney General Kamala Harris. She is appealing a California Court of Appeals ruling that a Swiss Army knife, even if carried with the blade open, cannot be considered a dirk or dagger. The case is California v. Castillolopez.

I first heard about the case from Brandon Combs of the Firearms Policy Coalition over lunch at the NRA Annual Firearms Law Seminar. He was telling those of us at the table about the case and that the Second Amendment Foundation was joining with Knife Rights on an amicus brief.

As to Kamala Harris and the state of California, it is as if they have something against the Scots-Swiss carrying a Swiss Army knife in their sporran.

The joint release from SAF and Knife Rights on their amicus brief is below.
A legal brief urging the California Supreme Court to rule that common, non-locking Swiss Army Knives and similar pocketknives are not illegal 'dirks' or 'daggers' was filed on Monday.

George M. Lee, a partner at the San Francisco law firm of Seiler Epstein Ziegler & Applegate, wrote the "friend of the court" brief in the criminal matter of State of California v. Emmanuel Castillolopez on behalf of the civil rights organizations Knife Rights Foundation and Second Amendment Foundation.

Knife Rights would like to thank our good friends at the Second Amendment Foundation, Cal Guns and the Firearms Policy Coalition for their support of this brief.

The case stems from a dispute over section 16470 of the California Penal Code, which defines a dirk or dagger as "a knife or other instrument....that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death." But, for everyday pocketknives like the one at issue in Castillolopez, the definition applies only "if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position."

Castillolopez was convicted in 2012 by a San Diego County jury for illegally carrying a concealed dirk or dagger after law enforcement found a Swiss Army Knife with the blade open in his pocket following a traffic stop. The Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal later overturned his conviction, holding that Castillolopez' pocketknife didn't meet the statutory definition of an illegally-carried 'dirk' or 'dagger' because it didn't have a locking mechanism.

"For simply having a common, everyday Swiss Army multi-tool with the blade open in his pocket, Mr. Castillolopez was charged, prosecuted, and convicted of a very serious crime," explained Lee. "We strongly believe that the Court of Appeal correctly held that the State's arguments are wrong on the law and hope the Supreme Court similarly disposes of the matter in its forthcoming decision."

Doug Ritter, founder and Chairman of the Knife Rights Foundation, said, "Ultimately, our important brief is about protecting knife owners from prosecutorial overreach by maintaining the historical definition of a 'dirk' or 'dagger' in California. If the State wins this case with their expansive theory on how a 'dirk' or 'dagger' is defined, every Boy Scout and slipjoint folding knife owner in California might one day be guilty of a felony. With millions of Californians at risk, and a potential bad state precedent to be set, we were compelled to stand up for their rights as we have elsewhere in this country when the government attempts to overreach in cases against knife owners."

Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb agreed, saying that he hoped the high court would keep owners of regular, non-locking pocket knives from being subjected to felony criminal liability. However, he was quick to clarify that, "in order to secure the rights of law-abiding people, sometimes we have to take a strong position on a law's application, even when the person at issue in a given case isn't ideal."

The Calguns Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition contributed assistance to the brief's preparation.

A copy of the filed Amicus Brief can be viewed at:

The Opening Brief from California Attorney General Kamala Harris can be viewed at:

The Appellant's Answer Brief can be viewed at:

The State's Reply Brief can be viewed at:


  1. As Weer'd says, "Anti-freedom, not just anti-gun."

    This is pathetic, outlawing something so basic (an ubiquitous) every Boy Scout carries one, without incident.

    As to that, wouldn't that very ubiquity lend itself to a "commonly used for lawful purposes" argument, a la Heller? When was the last time someone was assaulted/killed with a Swiss Army knife? Isn't this just a solution in search of a problem?

  2. And another EXCELLENT REASON to stay the HELL OUT of Kalipornia.

  3. I hope the judge hearing this ludicrous case, has a swiss army in his pocket ! They are sooooo common ! Harris is without a doubt mentally defective !

  4. This is just the latest in CA knife dramas. The definition of a "dirk or dagger" is so broad that in order for you to know whether it applies to your grandmother's knitting needles, a camper's tent stakes, an awl, an ice pick, a pair of scissors, or even a sharpened pencil, requires access to the latest in precedent and a functional crystal ball. And even if you are, in fact, completely within the law, police are *NOT* legal experts, and sometimes they are trained that a "dirk or dagger" means "double-edged" or some other bullony, which allows them to arrest anyone for almost anything, charge them with a felony, and the innocent citizen is left with six months of hassle and a legal bill in the thousands.

    For those of you who don't know Kamala Harris, she's one of those ban-guns-at-ANY-cost loons. It's funny how selective her enforcement is. She doesn't seem concerned with people who go to the shopping mall and buy cutlery with 8" fixed blades, and then carry it home concealed in a shopping bag.

    Of course all these laws are mentally retarded, and illegal under the 2nd amendment. But that doesn't matter. Because the government said it doesn't.