People v. Rubalcava

Decision Date12 June 2000
Docket NumberNo. S081209.,S081209.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ernesto Arnoldo RUBALCAVA, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

George A. Winkel, Hemet, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren and Bill Lockyer, Attorneys General, George Williamson and David P. Druliner, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Keith I. Motley and Randall D. Einhorn, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


In this case we consider whether the unlawful carrying of a concealed dirk or dagger is a specific intent crime that imposes a sua sponte duty on trial courts to instruct with CALJIC No. 12.42. We conclude the offense does not have a specific intent requirement. Thus, courts have no duty to instruct the jury with CALJIC No. 12.42.


On or about July 29, 1997, Officer Roland Elkins arrested defendant Ernesto Arnoldo Rubalcava on an outstanding warrant. During the arrest, Officer Elkins discovered a knife on Rubalcava's person. The knife had a blade roughly three inches long and a handle approximately three and one-eighth inches long. The tip of the blade was chipped. One side of the blade was "totally blunt," and the other side was dull. The blade, however, showed signs of having been sharpened at one time.

Based on his possession of the knife, Rubalcava was charged by information with one count of "willfully and unlawfully carrying concealed upon his/her person a dirk and dagger" in violation of section 12020, subdivision (a) of the Penal Code.1 The information further alleged that Rubalcava committed the offense (1) while he was out on bail on another felony offense (§ 12022.1), and (2) within five years after his release from prison on another felony conviction (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).2

At trial, Officer Elkins testified that, upon arresting Rubalcava, he asked him whether he had any "weapons on him." According to Officer Elkins, Rubalcava replied that "he had a knife" and motioned with his head toward his right hip. Officer Elkins then stated he retrieved a knife from Rubalcava's right coin pocket—a knife he could not see before because Rubalcava wore a long white shirt that hung down to his thighs and covered the pocket and the handle of the knife protruding from the pocket. Officer Elkins also testified that Rubalcava carried a white plastic bag containing a pouch for holding sunglasses, a pair of wirecutters, two screwdrivers, a punch, a crescent wrench, a pair of pliers, some "bondo" tools and several other items. Rubalcava testified on his own behalf and contradicted Officer Elkins's testimony on several fronts. He first stated he worked in an automotive body repair shop and was bringing tools to a friend after his doctor's appointment and only brought the knife because he kept it with his tools. Rubalcava then testified that, on the day of his arrest, he placed the knife and tools in the sunglasses pouch and had the pouch in his pocket and clipped to his belt. He further stated that he tucked his shirt in and wore the pouch with the knife in plain view because he did not want to be arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. According to Rubalcava, the knife was also a letter opener—and not a weapon. Finally, Rubalcava testified that, upon his arrest, an officer asked him whether he had any sharp objects or needles and that he only told the officer he had some tools and putty knives.

In rebuttal, Officer Curtis Hale testified that he saw Officer Elkins lift Rubalcava's loose shirt and retrieve a knife from his waistband area. He also claimed he could not see the knife when he approached Rubalcava. Based on his extensive training and experience with homemade weapons, Officer Hale opined that the knife had been sharpened at some point and could be used as a stabbing weapon. Officer Elkins also testified in rebuttal and reiterated his prior testimony.

At the close of testimony, the trial court instructed the jury on the elements of the crime of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger by reading modified versions of CALJIC Nos. 12.41 and 3.30. These instructions defined the offense as a "general intent" crime and stated that a defendant violates section 12020, subdivision (a), if he "carried a dirk or dagger" "substantially concealed upon his person" and "knew he was carrying the weapon."3 Rubalcava did not object to these instructions, and did not request CALJIC No. 12.42—which stated that the jury may consider "intended use" when determining whether the instrument is a dirk of dagger—or any other comparable instruction.4

The jury found Rubalcava guilty of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. The trial court later sentenced Rubalcava to three years and eight months in prison to run consecutive to his four-year sentence in another case.

The Court of Appeal affirmed. The court rejected, among other things, Rubalcava's contention that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury sua sponte with CALJIC No. 12.42 because the intent to use the concealed instrument as a stabbing weapon is an element of the offense. In doing so, the court declined to follow People v. Aubrey (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 1088, 83 Cal.Rptr.2d 209 (Aubrey),

and People v. Oskins (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 126, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 383 (Oskins).

We granted review to determine whether the intent to use the concealed instrument as a stabbing weapon is an element of the crime of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger in violation of section 12020, thereby requiring the trial court to instruct the jury sua sponte with CALJIC No. 12.42.


At the time of Rubalcava's arrest, section 12020, subdivision (a) stated in relevant part: "Any person in this state ... who carries concealed upon his or her person any dirk or dagger is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison." (Stats.1995, ch. 128, § 2.) Section 12020, subdivision (c)(24) defined a "`dirk'" or "`dagger'" as "a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death." Relying on Aubrey and Oskins, Rubalcava contends that section 12020 makes the intent to use the concealed instrument as a stabbing weapon an element of the crime. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury with CALJIC No. 12.42 even though he did not request it. We disagree.

When interpreting a statute, "we turn first to the language of the statute, giving the words their ordinary meaning." (People v. Birkett (1999) 21 Cal.4th 226, 231, 87 Cal.Rptr.2d 205, 980 P.2d 912

.) If the language permits more than one reasonable interpretation, then the court looks "to a variety of extrinsic aids, including the ostensible objects to be achieved, the evils to be remedied, the legislative history, public policy, contemporaneous administrative construction, and the statutory scheme of which the statute is a part." (People v. Woodhead (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1002, 1008, 239 Cal.Rptr. 656, 741 P.2d 154.) In the end, "[w]e must select the construction that comports most closely with the apparent intent of the Legislature, with a view to promoting rather than defeating the general purpose of the statute, and avoid an interpretation that would lead to absurd consequences." (People v. Jenkins (1995) 10 Cal.4th 234, 246, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 903, 893 P.2d 1224.)

Here, the relevant language of section 12020 is unambiguous and establishes that carrying a concealed dirk or dagger does not require an intent to use the concealed instrument as a stabbing weapon. "When the definition of a crime consists of only the description of a particular act, without reference to intent to do a further act or achieve a future consequence, we ask whether the defendant intended to do the proscribed act. This intention is deemed to be a general criminal intent. When the definition refers to defendant's intent to do some further act or achieve some additional consequence, the crime is deemed to be one of specific intent," (People v. Hood (1969) 1 Cal.3d 444, 456-457, 82 Cal.Rptr. 618, 462 P.2d 370

.) Subdivision (a) of section 12020 describes a single criminal act—carrying a concealed dirk or dagger on the person—and makes no reference to any other act or consequence. Likewise, the definition of dirk or dagger in subdivision (c)(24) of that section focuses on the characteristics of the concealed instrument without explicitly or implicitly referring to the possessor's "intent to do a further act or achieve a future consequence."

462 P.2d 370.) Accordingly, defendant's intended use is not an element of the crime, and "no further mental state beyond willing commission of the act proscribed by law" is necessary. (People v. Sargent (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1206, 1215, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 835, 970 P.2d 409.)

The legislative history provides further, albeit unnecessary, confirmation. Until 1994, section 12020 made it a crime to carry a concealed dirk or dagger without defining the terms "dirk" or "dagger." (See People v. Mowatt (1997) 56 Cal. App.4th 713, 717, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 722 (Mowatt).) As a result, courts provided their own definition: "A dagger has been defined as any straight knife to be worn on the person which is capable of inflicting death except what is commonly known as a `pocket-knife.' Dirk and dagger are used synonymously and consist of any straight stabbing weapon, as a dirk, stiletto, etc. [Citation.] They may consist of any weapon fitted primarily for stabbing. The word dagger is a generic term covering the dirk, stiletto, poniard, etc." (People v. Ruiz (1928) 88 Cal.App. 502, 504, 263 P. 836; see also People v. Bain (1971) 5 Cal.3d 839, 850-851, 97 Cal.Rptr. 684, 489 P.2d 564 [applying this definition]; People v. Forrest (1967) 67 Cal.2d 478, 480, 62 Cal.Rptr. 766,...

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