PEOPLE v. FORREST

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeal, First District, Division 3, California.

The PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Frank Eugene FORREST, Defendant and Appellant.

Cr. 5845.

Decided: April 13, 1967

Gary C. Britton, Public Defender of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, for appellant. Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Robert R. Granucci, Don Jacobson, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for respondent.

Defendant Frank Eugene Forrest appeals from a conviction after a trial by court (a jury having been waived) for violation of section 12020 of the Penal Code, i.e., carrying a concealed dirk or dagger.

Defendant was stopped by officers of the California Highway Patrol on State Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County along with a group of other motorcyclists for various equipment violations.   Defendant was cited by the officers for mechanical violations.   As defendant opened his jacket to obtain his driver's license, the officers noticed a knife handle sticking out of his right front pants pocket.   Both officers testified that defendant's closed jacket covered the knife.   The knife was admitted into evidence at the trial and has been made a part of the record on appeal.   The knife was produced before this court during oral argument.

The sole question presented on this appeal is:  Did the trial court err in ruling the knife to be a dirk or dagger within the meaning of section 12020 of the Penal Code?

The knife has a blade length of 63/838 inches (measured from tip of blade to handguard).   The blade is narrow and pointed at the tip;  only one edge is sharpened but near the tip the unsharpened edge is beveled;  it does not lock in place but operates in the same manner as a common pocketknife;  there are two small handguards at the base of the blade.   The handle is 71/414 inches in length, and its overall length when open is in excess of 13 inches.   The weapon also had a short cutting blade at the other end of the handle.

The pertinent part of section 12020 of the Penal Code provides:  “Any person * * * who carries concealed upon his person any dirk or dagger, is guilty of a felony * *.”

In People v. Ruiz, 88 Cal.App. 502, 263 P. 836, the weapon was a filed-off bayonet.   The court defined a dagger as follows:  “A dagger has been defined as any straight knife to be worn on the person which is capable of inflicting death, except what is commonly known as a ‘pocket-knife.’  ‘Dirk’ and ‘dagger,’ are used synonymously and consist of any straight stabbing weapon, as a dirk, stiletto, etc.   Century Dictionary.   They may consist of any weapon fitted primarily for stabbing.   The word dagger is a generic term covering the dirk, stiletto, poniard, etc.   Standard Dictionary.  * * The weapon itself was in evidence, and the jury was in a position to judge its character.  * * * ”   (People v. Ruiz, supra, at p. 504, 263 P. at p. 838.)

The court approved the definition stated in People v. Syed Shah, 91 Cal.App.2d 716, 720, 205 P.2d 1081, 1083:  “ * * * it must be found that the weapon was ‘fitted primarily for stabbing’ and ‘capable of inflicting death * * *.’ ”

 The knife in question definitely is a dirk or dagger as set forth in section 12020 of the Penal Code.   The test is not whether its blade may be opened or closed nor whether its blade may be locked in place when opened in the manner of a switchblade knife.   The questions to be determined are:  Was the weapon fitted primarily for stabbing and was it capable of inflicting death?  (People v. Ruiz, supra, 88 Cal.App. at p. 504, 263 P. 836;  People v. Syed Shah, supra, 91 Cal.App.2d at p. 720, 205 P.2d 1081.)

The knife in question is in excess of one foot in overall length when opened.   Although the blade is sharpened on one side only, the unsharpened edge for a distance of almost 21/212 inches from the point is beveled.   This made for a sharper point, obviously to facilitate stabbing.   The knife also has a double handguard where the blade meets the knife handle to prevent the holder's hand from slipping from the handle onto the blade when the point meets resistance and also to prevent penetration of the blade beyond the handguards.   The lethal character of the weapon is manifest.   The trial court did not err in concluding that defendant's knife was primarily designed as a straight stabbing weapon capable of inflicting death.

The judgment is affirmed.

HAROLD C. BROWN, Associate Justice.

DRAPER, P.J., and SALSMAN, J., concur.