People v. Steven Berrezueta


Issue before the Court: Whether the knife in question was a “switchblade” knife within the statutory definition, so as to be a per se weapon, i.e. one of strict liability.


Held: Yes, but the majority opinion only says that it does, without explaining why. 


CAL Observes: There was a long solo dissent by Judge Rivera, unusual for an SSM – in normal times.  She points out that the statute defines switchblades as having a button “in the handle of” the knife which, when pushed, springs the blade out.  The knife in question had a button “in the blade”, that is, it was not on the handle.  The majority opinion dances around this distinction.  Judge Rivera’s point was that, if the State is convicting someone of possessing a per se weapon with no mens rea, attention must be paid to the statutory definition, which this knife doesn’t meet.  In this case, there was no question that the defendant used the knife only in the mailroom for his job.  Another victim of DA Vance’s war on poor schlubs who buy these knives legally and have no way to know that they are criminals.  Judge Rivera is right.  Shame on the judges in the majority, hiding behind this “mem.”