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Name: People v. Pellecer
Case #: B238949
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/17/2013
Summary

Carrying knives in a backpack does not result in a violation of former Penal Code section 12020, subdivision (a)(4) (carrying a concealed dirk or dagger), because the statute requires that the item be concealed upon his or her person. Police officers went to a park in Los Angeles in response to a call of a possible burglary suspect and found appellant crouching in an enclosed patio in the park. He was leaning on a closed backpack. The officers searched the backpack and found three identical throwing knives. At a jury trial, appellant was convicted of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger on his person after the court instructed the jury that “on his person” includes “a bag or container carried by the person.” On appeal, he argued that insufficient evidence supported the conviction because he was carrying the knives in his backpack, not on his person. Reversed. Former section 12020, subdivision (a)(4) provided criminal penalties for any person who “[c]arries concealed upon his or her person any dirk or dagger.” Applying rules of statutory interpretation, the court determined that a dirk or dagger inside a carried or adjacent container, such as the backpack, does not fall within the language of the statute. The ordinary and usual meaning of “upon his or her person,” is on the body or in the clothing worn on the body. In order to avoid making some words meaningless surplusage, the phrase “upon his or her person” cannot be construed to include a container that is carried. This interpretation is also supported by the legislative history of the statute.