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IS A SWISS ARMY KNIFE A WEAPON?

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments within the last week in a case in which a defendant received an enhanced sentence for possessing a multi-tool Swiss army knife at the time of a traffic stop. During the traffic stop, the Swiss army knife was discovered in the defendant’s pocket, with the blade allegedly in a deployed position. The issue before the State Supreme Court is whether the concealed Swiss army knife qualifies as a weapon capable of inflicting bodily harm.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the underlying court decision, finding that no reasonable juror could determine that the Swiss army knife blade was “locked into position,” in order to be considered a weapon under the Penal Code of the State of California. Section 16470 of the California Penal Code states that: “a non-locking folding knife” or “a pocket knife” can be used as a stabbing weapon “only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.”

There are multiple opinions from law enforcement sources, district attorneys, and appellate counsel as to whether this multiple use tool is a weapon under the Penal Code. One source states that to exclude these Swiss army-type knives would be to frustrate the language of the Penal Code. Other attorneys suggest that the Swiss army knife is not capable of stabbing, as it is more prone to collapse under the sufficient pressure of a stabbing maneuver.

The Supreme Court appears to have focused in on the issue of whether the Swiss army knife is a locking or “non-locking device” capable of inflicting bodily harm. The issue remains unresolved, as the State Supreme Court has taken the matter under submission as it ponders whether the Swiss army knife is a weapon capable of inflicting bodily harm.

A word to the wise — be careful when carrying these multi-use tool/army knives, pending a decision as to whether they constitute a weapon capable of inflicting bodily harm. We know that these items are not permitted in courts; however, possession during a traffic stop may still pose a problem until the Supreme Court rules on this issue.

If you have any questions or issues regarding legal matters of any nature, from criminal to civil, feel free to call the Law Offices of Heiting & Irwin for a free consultation.

Sara Morgan

Ms. Morgan obtained her Juris Doctor from Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California. She contributes to the improvement of both the local and legal communities, having provided pro- and low-bono legal services, and volunteering at legal clinics and other programs serving the community. View Attorney Sara Morgan's Attorney Bio Here.

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