CA Supreme Court: Swiss Army Knives Are Not Daggers

Welcome Instapundit readers. Thank you for visiting. The Good Doctor tossed us the brass ring right in the midst of our biggest weekend of the year: the 2016 BLADE Show in Atlanta, GA. The world’s largest consumer knife show. David and I have been reporting from the floor, here on the blog as well as on Facebook, Twitter (@knifetruth), or Instagram (@knifetruth), Please give it a look. 


Image courtesy KnifeRights

As Clay and I readied to hit the road for BLADE Show this morning, there was a fantastic email to read from Knife Rights before we set out. Not only has momentum in New York been picking up steam, but in a rare occurrence of common sense, the Supreme Court of California unanimously upheld a lower court determination that a Swiss Army Knife is not a “dirk or dagger.” Read on for all the juicy details, and we will have more BLADE Show coverage coming soon.


NY Assembly Passes Bill to Stop Bogus NYC Gravity Knife Arrests
CALL & EMAIL Leader Flanagan TODAY!
Do it AGAIN If You Already Did It Previously

In a bipartisan vote yesterday, the New York Assembly voted 99 – 12 to pass A9042A, Knife Rights’ gravity knife and switchblade reform bill. A9042A, and its companion bill in the Senate, S6483A, add clarifying bias-toward closure exclusions to the state switchblade and gravity knife definitions, similar to that included in the revision to the Federal Switchblade Act that Knife Rights helped pass in 2009. This clarifying exclusion should prevent the bogus Gravity Knife arrests and prosecutions of honest law-abiding individuals in New York City who are carrying common folding knives, tools that are legal to carry everywhere else in the U.S.

Now all focus moves to the Republican controlled Senate, which has sent mixed messages on how they intend to act on this bill. As a knife owner, whether for work, collecting, sporting or other legitimate purposes, we must ask why would the Republican controlled New York Senate not immediately allow a vote on a bill that would protect workmen, sportsmen, collectors and shop keepers from being arrested for possessing a simple pocket knife?

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article on the pending lawsuit and the legislation to address the issue contained the following statement: “Legislation is also pending before the state Senate, although a spokesman for the Senate Republicans said it wasn’t clear if it would be voted on this session.”

S6483A has already unanimously passed the Senate Codes Committee and now requires only one final vote of the whole Senate to go to the Governor.  Again we must ask, why the Republican controlled Senate is not moving with all haste to get this important bipartisan legislation through before the session ends in mid-June?

If you live, work or travel in New York and New York City, please CALL or EMAIL Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, TODAYand simply deliver the message that you are “calling/writing to respectfully request that Leader Flanagan please schedule S6483A for a vote” and then thank him. Please be POLITE and RESPECTFUL. 
CALL Majority Leader Flanagan TODAY at:
EMAIL Majority Leader Flanagan TODAY
Again, please be POLITE and RESPECTFUL, just deliver the message: “I am calling/writing to respectfully request that Leader Flanagan please schedule S6483A for a vote,” and then thank him. That’s it, keep it short and simple and above all BE POLITE and RESPECTFUL.

If Emailing, use the SUBJECT: Please Schedule S6483A for Senate Vote
If you call, they may ask you the city and state where you live, for their call record. If you email, include your city and state. In either case, if you live out-of-state, explain how you work in, or travel to, New York / New York City.

Neither Gravity Knives nor Switchblades have a bias towards closure found in common folding knives to keep the blade safely closed in the pocket. Only in New York City has the NYPD and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. abused the state’s gravity knife law to prosecute those carrying simple pocket knives by claiming they are illegal Gravity Knives.


The City’s Village Voice newspaper found two years ago that there had been as many as 60,000 gravity-knife prosecutions over the past decade! You can read the Village Voice article at:

Hundreds of innocent pocket knife carriers are being arrested every week!

Meanwhile, our Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. continues with a trial date now scheduled for June 16, which will be just over five years since the lawsuit was filed.

California Supreme Court Affirms “Swiss Army Knife” NOT Illegal Dagger

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a lower court ruling which held that a common slipjoint folding knife, in this case specifically a “Swiss Army Knife,” was not a “dirk or dagger,” prohibited when carried in the open position and concealed, under California law.  Click here to read the decision.

The case arises from a 2012 arrest of a man in San Diego, California, after a traffic stop.  Mr. Castillolopez was a passenger in the vehicle, who was found to be in possession of a Swiss Army Knife, which was being carried in a jacket pocket, with the blade in the open position.  Mr. Castillolopez was not cited or charged with any other crime other than possession of a Dirk or Dagger, the concealment of which is a felony under California law.

Mr. Castillolopez’s was convicted of carrying a dirk/dagger, and his conviction was reversed on appeal, as the appellate court found there was no evidence that the open blade of the Swiss Army Knife was “locked into position,” and therefore, definitionally a dirk or dagger under California law. The California Attorney General appealed the decision, claiming that it was a lockblade knife. The California Supreme Court today affirmed the lower court’s reversal.

In an amicus (friend of court) brief, Knife Rights Foundation, joined by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), had urged the California Supreme Court to affirm the appellate court reversal of Mr. Castillolopez’s conviction.  Our brief expressed specific concern about the over-criminalization of the carrying of innocent items highly unlikely actually to be used as weapons.  Knife Rights Foundation and SAF also argued that a Swiss Army knife was neither historically a stabbing weapon, nor did it fit the definition as one because it lacked an overt locking mechanism that would allow its blade to be locked in place within the meaning of the statute.

Castillolopez’s attorney, Raymond Mark DiGuiseppe, invited Knife Rights Foundation to participate in the oral argument and the Supreme Court granted the request. At oral argument, Knife Rights Foundation and SAF’s attorney asserted that the knife in question contained a simple “slipjoint” mechanism, a feature that is common to Swiss Army-style knives, and that such a mechanism would not allow the knife to be “locked into place” as the California legislature intended when it amended the dirk and dagger statute in the 1990s.

Moreover, if the Attorney General were to prevail, then virtually any folding knife would be considered a lockblade knife in California, which defied both common sense and the intent of the legislature.

George M. Lee, a partner at Seiler Epstein Ziegler & Applegate LLP, attorneys for Knife Rights Foundation and SAF, said he was gratified by the court’s unanimous ruling today.  “It’s a victory of common sense, and a small step away from the reflexive view that any citizen carrying a pocketknife is also considered to be carrying a deadly weapon, which of course, would be nonsense.”

Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter said, “this was an important case for knife owners because it could have redefined slipjoint knives as lockblade knives, which would have had potentially far-reaching consequences for knife owners in California and elsewhere. We are very pleased that the California Supreme Court declined to be taken-in by the Attorney General’s far-fetched arguments.”

Ritter expressed his appreciation to Second Amendment Foundation for partnering in the amicus brief and to Calguns Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition for their assistance and support. Ritter also congratulated attorney Guiseppe for his outstanding and extraordinarily well-researched and eloquent defense of Castillolopez and noted, “we were honored to stand beside this passionate defender of a knife owner’s civil rights in this critical case.”


  1. JohnS says:

    Just a bit of emphasis – the article above correctly states “Mr. Castillolopez was not cited or charged with any other crime other than possession of a Dirk or Dagger, the concealment of which is a felony under California law.”

    It’s the CONCEALMENT that is the issue. Possession and use (for peaceful purposes, of course) is unexceptional.

    And, CA cares nothing at all about ‘double edged’. The definition of ‘dirk or dagger’ is at Penal Code 16470
    As used in this part, “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 nonlocking folding knife, a folding knife that is not prohibited by Section 21510, or a pocketknife is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.”

  2. Fenwick P. Dynamo says:

    The 2A protects “the right to keep and bear arms”. Note the 2A does not say “firearms”, but “arms”, which means any common lightweight one-person weapon held in the hand or “on the arm”, such as a sword, knife or gun, hence the term “arms”. Weapons that couldn’t be carried by one man, such as cannons (that were kept in forts and armories), were not considered “arms” and were excluded from the individual 2A right. Everyone in colonial times knew what “arms” were, although the morons who now lord over California don’t. So when some lib says “So you think you have a right to keep bazookas or RPGs?”, just realize you are talking to an idiot who knows nothing about American history.

    1. DonM says:

      One might note that the Letters of Marque and Reprisal clause presumes very heavy weapons, attached to a ship for mobility, and operated by a crew, would be privately owned. Such a ship would be armed, and operate against merchant ships of an enemy power.

      So, yes, crew served weapons would also be privately owned (kept), and regulated by Congress.

  3. Fish says:

    That nasty Leftiwet Coont Kamella Harris should be FIRED for this action AGAINST FREEDOM. Then HUNG for treason.

    1. Sigivald says:

      … do you ever wonder why sometimes the other side thinks we’re violent people who want to cause mayhem and are sexist asses who view opposition as worthy of killing?

      You’re the reason.

      Please stop.

      (“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort”.

      Nothing in there about arguably unconstitutional weapon bans or being an attorney general enforcing them.

      But what does the Constitution matter, right?)

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CA Supreme Court: Swiss Army Knives Are Not Daggers

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