Can you Brandish a Fake Knife in California?

You might not think that brandishing a fake knife in California is a big deal but California’s lawmakers don’t agree. If you draw a knife and brandish it in a manner that’s deliberately designed to make other people think it’s a genuine weapon, you violate Penal Code 417.4 PC. This is one of California’s misdemeanors. The incident could end with you spending some time in one of California’s county jails.

In most cases, the brandishing of a fake knife is done during the execution of another crime, such as a burglary, but have been instances of a person who was simply playacting and getting arrested and charged with brandishing a fake weapon.

The problem with brandishing a fake knife, especially while playing, is that it can be difficult to fully understand what is going through the other person’s mind during the incident. If they believe that the weapon is real and don’t understand that you’re not serious, it’s likely that you’ll face criminal charges and might have a difficult time putting together a solid defense.

The good news is that when cases of brandishing a fake knife in California go to court, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution’s shoulders. To secure a conviction against you, the prosecutor handling your case must prove that:

  • Your “victim” was genuinely concerned that you intended to bodily harm them
  • That you did brandish the weapon in a manner that’s reasonably considered threatening

Another issue that has come up in some cases is that while they were brandishing the fake knife in a manner that was meant to be threatening, they were doing so in an act of self-defense.

The other thing that has come up in similar cases is how authentic the fake weapon appeared. You shouldn’t be charged, much less convicted, of the crime if the weapon you used was easily identified as a toy.

If you’re convicted of brandishing a fake knife in California, you will be sentenced to anywhere from 30 days to six months in a county jail. The mandatory minimum sentence for this misdemeanor is a 30-day incarceration, though the law does bend enough to allow a judge to order misdemeanor probation rather than sending you to a jail cell.