April 14, 2015 (San Francisco, CA) – 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.
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 that, “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. We aren’t going to let the government run over the rights of knife owners in this or any other case.”
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: http://www.kniferights.org/S218861_OBM_People.pdf
The Appellant’s Answer Brief can be viewed at:
The State’s Reply Brief can be viewed at: http://www.kniferights.org/S218861_RBM_People.pdf
The Knife Rights Foundation (www.kniferights.org) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging safe and responsible use of knives and edged tools through education and outreach, educating knife owners, public officials and the general public about the history of knives and edged tools, educating knife owners, public officials and the general public about knife and edged tool related laws and regulations, and the defense of knife owners’ civil rights through legal action. Knife Rights Foundation is leading the Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against New Your City over its persecution of knife owners that has resulted in over 60,000 prosecutions.
The Second Amendment Foundation (www.saf.org) is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.
Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization that serves its members and the public through legal efforts, direct and grassroots lobbying, education, and technology. The Coalition’s mission is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms.
The Calguns Foundation (www.calgunsfoundation.org) is a nonprofit organization that serves its members, supporters, and the public through educational, cultural, and judicial efforts to advance Second Amendment and related civil rights.