Are brass knuckles illegal in California? Know possible penalties and associated charges

Brass knuckles are considered to be the most dangerous weapon in many states.  In the United States, some states prohibit only metallic knuckles while some ban the knuckles of every kind. Brass knuckles are also known as knucks and knuckle dusters and they are commonly used as defensive and offensive weapons. No matter if you use them in one or both hands, they are considered illegal in many states. If you live in California, you might be thinking, are brass knuckles illegal in California?

For this, keep reading to know more about brass knuckles and laws about them in California, United States.

Laws regarding Brass knuckles

State laws have different angles to see this weapon and thus the laws are diversified with respect to each other. In addition, the states like Illinois, California, Michigan, and Vermont – restrict their citizens from possessing, trading, or utilization of brass knuckles. Plus, they prohibit any other device or object that looks like brass knuckles such as plastic knuckles. 

Some states only keep the possession of brass knuckles illegal if they are kept with the intent of executing a crime. Laws for states differ when it comes to possessing brass knuckles, metallic knuckles, or hardened knuckles of any kind. Hardened knuckles include brass, metal, hard plastic, and even acrylic.

In many states where it is illegal to possess, sell, or use brass knuckles, they take the offense as a misdemeanor while the repercussions of violating the laws can bring felony charges for the defendant.

The use of brass knuckles is not only prohibited in the United States but also other countries like Switzerland. It makes the possession, transport, and trading of brass knuckles against the laws. People use and sell brass knuckles as a piece of art and wear them as a part of jewelry. Where the law makes it illegal to conceal the possession of brass knuckles with the intent to kill or harm someone, wearing them as a knuckle or a piece of jewelry negates the law. People often use this dangerous weapon to brandish instead of committing any criminal activity. However, it entails danger around it. 

Dangers of Brass knuckles

When someone is injured from brass knuckles, their injuries can be severe and life-threatening. This is because the weapon is made from hard materials such as brass, hard plastic, or chrome. Being hit by such a hard metallic weapon can result in broken bones and teeth, cuts, nose, and eye injuries.

Although the injuries after the knuckle fight are not fatal there are cases where the injuries were severe enough that they resulted in the demise of a victim.

In California, brass knuckles or metal knuckles are strictly prohibited and covered under the Penal code 21810. The penal code defines that it is a criminal offense to:

  • Produce, manufacture, sell, transport, or possess brass knuckles. This even includes accepting or giving them as a gift.
  • Use them as jewelry. This metallic weapon is used by wearing on the fingers as metallic rings. They are illegal in California because they are used to enhance the strength of a fist punch. They can produce instant injuries by a severe punch.

In California, even if you never intend to use this powerful weapon to harm someone, you can still be charged with the offense of possessing it.

Associated offenses

As said, you can be charged with criminal offenses even if you just possess the brass knuckles without the intent of hurting someone. Here are some of the additional offenses that you can get with the possession;

  • Possession of switchblade – California PC 21510

This statute prohibits selling, loaning, carrying, or transporting switchblades in public or in a vehicle.

  • Possession of baton – California PC 22210

The statute comes into action when someone manufactures, sells, or keeps a baton in his possession that can be used on an individual on point.

  • Prohibited Weapon – California PC 16590

The crime is committed when someone sells, imports, or trades a prohibited weapon. These weapons include – knives, prohibited firearms, martial arts weapons, and other restricted weapons.

  • Disturbing the peace – California PC 415

You can be charged with the violation of this law if you play loud music or use offensive words in public.

  • Public intoxication – California PC 647 (f)

 The statute restricts Californians to drive or be in public while under the influence of alcohol or any illegal substance.

  • Battery – California PC 242

On possessing brass knuckles in the public, you can be charged along with PC 242 which says that it’s illegal to intentionally use physical force on someone.

The prosecution

In California, weapons that are illegal and are restricted by law cannot be found in the local store. They say that they are generally recognizable and if someone is caught dealing with the sale and purchase of a prohibited weapon, they will face strict charges.

Pretending that the knuckles are a form of jewelry and you were only dealing with it as a fashion accessory will not be considered a defense. However, the prosecution may pursue PC 21810 charges against the defendant where there can be some reasonable evidence to prove the offense.

Before a prosecutor pressed charges against you, they must prove;

  • The prohibited metal was sold, produced, traded, and given away.
  • Knuckles are made with hard metals
  • Knuckles can be used to provide harm to another person.

In addition, being unaware of the law does not make a good defense. Keep in mind that you can be charged with the offense even if you did not have the intent to harm any person. Whether you trade-in brass knuckles or it is gifted to you, possessing them will be enough to bring charges for the violation of PC 21810.

Potential charges

Here is an example that explains the scenarios where someone can be charged along with the situation where other charges can also be pressed.

For example; Johanna went to Las Vegas to meet her friend for the weekend. On returning her friend gifted her a pocket knife, a pepper spray, and rubber-sleeved knuckles made of metal. She drove back to California with the gifts, keeping them wherever she goes from downtown to the clubbing.

One night when she came out of the club, clumsily walked to the parking lot and drove, missing out on the first stop sign.

A traffic police officer who was watching for drunk drivers across the street, noticed her clumsy moves before she could pass the stop sign. He approached Johanna on the road and suspected that she was drunk which she denied. On asking for ID she was spotted with brass knuckles in her purse.

The officer charged the girl PC 21810 along with the DUI charges of violating the penal code 23152 (a) and PC 22450 for violating traffic rules and stopping at the stop sign.

Your legal rights and Brass knuckles

Now you know how someone can be charged with additional charges. This is why people need to understand and observe the laws first so that they can prepare legal defenses. If you are charged for violating the brass knuckles laws or caught when committing brass knuckles-related crimes, then you should immediately contact a lawyer and know your legal rights.

Your criminal defense attorney will likely look into these factors while preparing for your defense;

  • What exactly are the charges in your state for violating the brass knuckles laws legislated in your state. The length of the prison time (if any), the penalties, and the potential defenses.
  • If you or anyone you know are a victim of brass knuckles-related crimes, whom you should contact for recovering your damages. Your employer or the third-party insurance is liable for recovering the brass knuckles damages.

Penalties for pc 21810

The probable penalties depend on the damages of a brass knuckle injury and the background criminal history of the defendant. Many times it is at the discretion of the prosecutor to charge a defendant with a felony or misdemeanor crime. However, if the brass knuckles were used intensively to cause serious injuries to the victim with violent actions, and you have a prior criminal conviction, you may get harsher penalties with felony charges.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you may face;

  • A prison time of one year
  • One thousand dollars as fine

If convicted of a felony;

  • A prison sentence of up to three years
  • A potential penalty of ten thousand dollars

In addition, it is also important to know that your convictions will be on your records for life until they are expunged. And this will seriously impact your life. Having a criminal conviction in your history means that laws will be stricter on you. For example, if a traffic police officer pulled you over for a traffic violation they will become more intense while dealing with your case as they are more trained to remain cautious for people who have been detained for keeping deadly weapons or have been engaged in criminal activities.

Penalties for associated offenses

California state regulates penalties for deadly weapon-associated crimes as well.

Possession of a switchable blade – California Penal Code 21510

For a Misdemeanor, you may face;

  • A prison time in county jail for up to 6 months
  • A fine of up to $1000.

Possession of batons – California Penal Code 22210

For a Misdemeanor, you may face;

  • A prison time in county jail for up to 6 months
  • A fine of up to $1000.

For Felony;

  • Prison time up to three years in jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Possession of prohibited weapons – California Penal Code 16590

For a Misdemeanor, you may face;

  • Prison time in county jail for up to one year
  • Fine of up to $1000

For Felony;

  • A prison time of up to three years
  • Fine as much as $10,000

Disturbing the peace – California Penal Code 415

Infraction – Fine up to $400


  • Prison time of 90 days in county jail
  • Fine up to $4000

Public intoxication – California Penal Code 647 (f)


  • Summary, probation or; Prison time in county jail for 6 months
  • Fines up to $1000

Battery – California Penal Code 242


  • Summary, probation or; Prison time in county jail for 6 months
  • Fines up to $2000

Battery Causing bodily injuries – California Penal Code 21510


  • Summary, probation or; Prison time in county jail for one year
  • Fines up to $1000


  • Felony probation
  • Prison time up to 4 years
  • Fines as much as $10,000

Safety tips for Brass knuckles

Here are some tips that you can avail of in order to avoid brass knuckles charges.

  • Know and follow your state laws regarding brass knuckles. Even your state laws do not keep them legal, still, you need to take extreme care while handling such deadly weapon
  • If you are traveling to another state, make sure to know about the laws regarding the use of brass knuckles.
  • Similar to any deadly weapon, a brass knuckle can be very deadly when it is used against someone during a fight. Do remember that the use of brass knuckles whether accidentally or purposely, can take you under civil charges and you may end up facing charges and lawsuits in civil court.
  • Avoid using and possessing brass knuckles while drinking or under the influence of substances that may alter your senses.

In any of the cases when you are detained or charged for violating brass knuckles laws contact a defense lawyer immediately to protect your legal rights.

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