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Name: In re S.C.
Case #: A123371
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/23/2009

Penal Code section 653k, which prohibits possession of a switchblade, is violated whenever an individual carries a switchblade on his person, regardless of where the possession occurs. The minor was at a private residence when police came to investigate a possible crime. An officer decided to search the minor and ordered him down from the front porch onto the grass. After a switchblade was found in the minor’s pocket, he was charged with violating section 653k, and the juvenile court sustained a true finding. The minor argued on appeal that he did not violate the statute because he did not possess the switchblade in a “public place or a place open to the public.” Analyzing the language of the statute, the court determined there were three ways to violate it: possessing the knife while in a vehicle (vehicle clause); carrying a knife on one’s person (carrying clause); or giving or trying to sell the knife to another person (transfer clause). Since the reference to a “public place” occurs only in the vehicle clause, the grammatical structure of the statute limits the requirement only to this clause, and there is no reason to conclude it was meant to apply throughout the statute. Further, the Legislature’s limitation is justified because a switchblade found in the passenger compartment of a car in a non-public place presents less of a risk since people do not spend much time in cars when they are located in non-public places.