Traffic Cop: Let’s Get to the Cutting Edge!

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I enjoyed your article about toy and real guns. I wanted to ask if you might be able do one about knife’s.  I have seen a lot of cool knife’s online and in stores but I don’t know what is ok to have and under what conditions.  Thank you for your time.

Unless you’re asking about carrying a knife in specific areas that are prohibited (schools, courthouses, some governmental offices, etc.), the two laws you need to know are Penal Code sections 12020 and 653k.

Penal Code section 12020(a) makes it a felony to carry a “dirk or dagger” concealed on your person.  A knife, no matter how big and ugly, carried on a sheath on your belt (if not covered by a jacket or shirt) is not concealed and is not against the law.  A “dirk or dagger” is an object with or without a handguard that is readily capable for immediate use as a stabbing instrument.  It does not have to be a knife.  Sharpened screwdrivers and other tools can qualify as well.  A folding knife, carried folded in your pocket does not qualify as a concealed dirk, since when it’s folded, it’s not “readily available” for use as a stabbing instrument.

The types of knives that are illegal to carry are covered in Penal Code section 653k.  That makes it illegal to carry on your person or in the passenger compartment of a car any switchblade or similar knife.  It also includes butterfly knives, gravity knives or other knives that can be opened with the push of a button, a flick of the wrist or gravity.  Included in this section is, a “belt buckle knife” is a knife which is made an integral part of a belt buckle and consists of a blade with a length of at least 2 1/2 inches, a “lipstick case knife” means a knife enclosed within and made an integral part of a lipstick case,a “cane sword” means a cane, swagger stick, stick, staff, rod, pole, umbrella, or similar device, having concealed within it a blade that may be used as a sword or stiletto, a “shobi-zue” means a staff, crutch, stick, rod, or pole concealing a knife or blade within it which may be exposed by a flip of the wrist or by a mechanical action, an “air gauge knife” means a device that appears to be an air gauge but has concealed within it a pointed, metallic shaft that is designed to be a stabbing instrument which is exposed by mechanical action or gravity which locks into place when extended, a “writing pen knife” means a device that appears to be a writing pen but has concealed within it a pointed, metallic shaft that is designed to be a stabbing instrument which is exposed by mechanical action or gravity which locks into place when extended or the pointed, metallic shaft is exposed by the removal of the cap or cover on the device.  It is a misdemeanor to carry one of these knives.

It is really pretty scary how there are so many different types of knives out there and a good deal of them are designed to hurt someone.  Whenever you decide to choose your knife, I hope it’s just to whittle on a nice piece of wood and make something to give to a friend.  I would like to thank Joe Dane, a Criminal Defense Attorney in Southern California for providing information included in this column.

I have noticed lately that several drivers are using the “buffer zone”  When they stop at red light or stop signs. They leave a car length buffer zone between the stop-line And or the next car

While I can almost understand the reasons behind this Type of safety driving; nevertheless, I wonder if it is an annoyance To other drivers besides just me?

Yes – I understand that no harm is done by this safety driving Other than not tripping the light switch; however, if it is such a good Idea – let’s invite everyone to participate.  Maybe the CHP can give tickets or have an advertisement campaign, or outline the locations on the streets. Can you imagine the traffic jams in the big cities?

There is nothing in the California Vehicle Code that states specifically how far away or close you are supposed to stop behind a limit line, crosswalk or another vehicle.  There is a very good safety reason as to why you would want to stop a reasonable distance behind any of these three situations.

Regarding the distance prior to a limit line or crosswalk.  As you approach the line, knowing that you are going to stop, if you stop so that you can see the line over the hood of your vehicle this allows you a little leeway so that you don’t inadvertently roll forward and strike a pedestrian that may be in the crosswalk.   It also allows you time to react if at the limit line you unintentionally release the brake and don’t roll into the intersection.

With regards to stopping behind another vehicle, this principal holds true.  You should stop so that you can see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you where they touch the ground.  By doing this it allows you to pull around the vehicle should it become stalled and also it gives you that cushion in the event your vehicle is rear ended and pushed forward.

As far as traffic jams in the big cities, studies have shown that if the proper spacing is maintained as we discussed earlier over a third more traffic will be able to traverse an intersection through a green light as opposed to vehicle’s stopped bumper to bumper.

So I’m not saying it’s just you that finds fault with folks that give a little space, but up until now, I haven’t heard anyone else complain.  I think what you need is a nice trip out of the city where you can go out and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.

Monty Hight
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.
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3 Responses

  1. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    From the above, I infer that a Leatherman worn in a sheath on one's belt is neither a dirk nor a dagger, correct?

    Glad to see you back giving pragmatic views on the esoteric subjects of law. This is sorely needed. Thanx.

  2. Avatar Joe Dane says:

    Thanks for the link and quote. The webpage you link to has been updated to reflect the new Penal Code sections. Dirks and daggers are now covered in Penal Code section 21310 (formerly in 12020) and switchblades are covered in section 21510 (formerly in 653k).

  3. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I learned a lot. Many people in our area carry knives. Except when I'm going to work at the high school, I have a pocket knife in my pocket! A friend of mine carries a hunting knife by his gear shift in his car after a respected North State man was stabbed and bludgeoned to death this last year.