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Possession of a Dirk or Dagger
PC 21310 Law & Defense

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

Dirk or Dagger Definition

dirk or dagger means a knife or other instrument 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 Abbrev.).

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

  • The defendant carried 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

Note: 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 PC 16590(i) & 21310

The crime of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If PC 16590(i) & 21310 is charged a felony the defendant may be sentenced up to three years in jail. If PC 16590(i) & 21310 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 dirk or dagger charged under PC 16590(i) & 21310. A probation sentence is a period of supervision instead of jail. Sometimes, the court will require a work release or house arrest sentence as a condition of probation.


Note: Suspended jail sentences and split jail sentences for felony convictions of PC 16590(i) & 21310 are common when the defendant is not granted a probation sentence. A suspended jail sentence is a jail sentence that might never have to be served so long as the defendant fulfills the conditions of his or her out of custody release. A split jail sentence is a jail sentence that is served partially in jail and partially out of jail on work release or house arrest.

Crime of Moral Turpitude: Carrying a concealed weapon, including a dirk or dagger, is not considered a crime of moral turpitude.

Strike Crime: PC 16590(i) & 21310 is not considered a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law.

Additional penalties and punishments for PC 16590(i) & 21310 violations include: fines, professional licensing consequences, family law consequences, possible civil lawsuits, victim restitution, loss of the right to own or possess a firearm, and more.

PC 16590(i) & 21310 Defense

Common defenses to possession of a dirk or dagger 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 dirk or dagger, under PC 16590(i) & 21310, 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!


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Possession of a Dirk or Dagger

Code: PC 21310 (CalCrim No. 2501)

Wobbler: Yes. PC 21310 is a wobbler crime. This means that PC 21310 may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.


Incarceration:Felony PC 21310 jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years jail. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation may be available in both felony and misdemeanor PC 21310 cases (assuming other crimes that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 21310 is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

  • Note: Limitations may apply

Strike: PC 21310 is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 21310 is not a crime involving moral turpitude.


Firearms: Felony PC 21310 convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.​

Bail: $25,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

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