California Brass Knuckle Law

By Noel Shankel ; Updated June 13, 2017
brass knuckles

California, like many other states, has a ban on brass, plastic and composite knuckles. Brass knuckles, despite their name, aren't necessarily made of brass and are often referred to as "metal knuckles." State law prohibits both the possession and sale of brass knuckles. Those who are found in violation of this law are subject to imprisonment in either jail or California state prison.

Types

The California Supreme Court defines “brass knuckles” as a weapon worn over the fist and used to protect a person’s hand while striking a blow or to increase the overall impact of the punch being thrown. Brass knuckles are typically made of brass, metal or some form of alloy. A recent California Supreme Court ruling stated that a metal footrest from a bicycle, although it can be used as a weapon, is not considered a brass knuckle.

Penalties

Violators can end up in prison.

California penal code 12020 (a) states that it is illegal to own, carry, or manufacture brass knuckles. It is also illegal to import, sell, keep for sale, lend or give brass knuckles to another person within California. Those found in violation of penal code 12020 (a) are subject to no more than one year in county jail. Those who are caught selling brass knuckles can face up to three years in California state prison.

Plastic Knuckles

California law states that hard plastic knuckles, also known as composite knuckles, are subject to the same laws as traditional brass knuckles. This bill was signed into California law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002. Hard plastic knuckles are defined as any instrument or device constructed entirely, or partially, of plastic instead of metal for the purpose of defense or offense. California penal code 12020.1 states that it’s a misdemeanor to manufacture, import or sell plastic knuckles.

Advertising

It's illegal to advertise brass knuckles for sale in California.

California penal code 12020.5 states that it is illegal to advertise brass knuckles, hard plastic knuckles or composite knuckles in magazines or any form of print ad, as well as on TV, radio or any other platform used for advertising. On the other hand, it is not illegal to advertise the sale of brass knuckles on the Internet. However, if you are a resident of California or any other state that bans brass knuckles, you cannot purchase them over the Internet. Internet sales can only be conducted within states that allow the possession of brass knuckles.

Illegal Promotion

Electronic Arts (EA) recently shipped out golden brass knuckles to the press as part of a promotion for their video game “The Godfather 2.” EA, which is based out of Los Angeles, California contacted those who received the brass knuckles and asked for them to be returned once they realized they had broken the law. However, since EA is based out of California, it would be illegal for those who received the brass knuckles to ship them back. Some members of the press, depending on where they live, may be able to “properly dispose” of the brass knuckles by turning them into paperweights or belt buckles. There has yet to be any legal action taken against EA.

About the Author

Based in California, Noel Shankel has been writing and directing since 2002. His work has been published in "Law of Inertia Magazine." Shankel has a Bachelor of Arts in film and writing from San Francisco State University.