California Knife Laws: What You Need to Know (2023)

California knife laws can be confusing and sometimes contradictory. If you intend to own or carry certain types of knives, a better understanding of the laws can help you avoid the hassle and expense of a gun show.

However, you should be aware that carrying a knife or weapon of any kind increases the likelihood of embarrassing encounters with the police. It is not uncommon for police officers to make false gun-related arrests when no law has been broken; And even if you manage to avoid a conviction, you'll still face the hassle of missing work and paying all the associated fees.

If you have been accused of a knife crime, an experienced attorney who understands the ins and outs of California knife law can evaluate your case and determine the best defense strategy for you.

table of contents


  • What types of knives are allowed in California?
    • Springmesser
    • folding knife
    • Fixed knives (daggers and daggers)
  • What types of knives are illegal in California?
  • Specific codes and restrictions
    • Knives in public buildings - Criminal Code 171b StGB
    • Knife restrictions in California schools
  • Switchblades on federal property
  • California Knife Laws, Offenses, and Penalties
    • Hidden dagger and dagger laws
    • Restricted knife laws
    • wield a gun
    • Attack with a deadly weapon
    • Improved the penalty for using a deadly weapon.
  • Legal defense against knife charges

What types of knives are allowed in California?

There are two important factors when it comes to owning and carrying knives in California: (1) whether the type of knife is legal or restricted and (2) the open carry law. In California, it is legal to purchase, possess, carry and possess any knife that is not restricted.

The three most common types of knives - pocket knives, folding knives and fixed-blade knives (also called daggers and daggers) - are subject to certain rules, which are explained in more detail below. The open carry law states that the handle or hilt of a knife must not be covered (or obscured), even by clothing or the knife sheath. This law was created to ensure that anyone close to the person carrying the knife can see it clearly to prevent surprise attacks.


A switchblade knife (which may be known by many other names, including "button knife" or "ejector knife") has a blade contained in the handle that opens automatically by pressing a button or switch on the handle.Switchblade knives with blades greater than 2 inches cannot be transported in California.

folding knife

Folding knives are knives that are opened by applying pressure to the knife blade(s) and have a mechanism that resists the blade opening. These include a "Swiss Army Knife" or "Swiss Army Knife", a pocket knife or a "Swiss Army Knife". Under Section 17235 of the California Penal Code,All folding knives are cool and can be hidden as long as they are in the folded position. There is also no limit to the length of a folding knife blade..

Fixed knives (daggers and daggers)

A fixed knife is one without a folding mechanism. A kitchen knife is a common example. Ice axes and other items can also fall into this category. Under California law, the words "dirk" and "dagger" mean the same thing: a knife that can easily be used as an assault california, daggers and daggers and other traveling knives must be carried openly and not hidden.

(Video) California Knife Laws

What types of knives are illegal in California?

In California, it is illegal to carry certain knives, especially when they are misleading or untraceable. In general, illegal knives are the most commonly used to commit crimes and have no obvious use as a tool or look like knives.

Knives that are illegal in California include:

  • Rohrmesser
  • Messer air gauge
  • lipstick knife
  • betting buckle knife
  • razor
  • Pocket knives with a blade longer than 2 inches
  • ballistic mess

Carrying daggers and daggers is not illegal as long as they are carried in plain sight. While they should not be carried in a briefcase, purse, or other container, they may be carried open in a hip holster.

Specific codes and restrictions

In addition to laws regarding certain types of knives, there are also specific restrictions on carrying knives in public buildings, US government property, and schools.

Knives in public buildings - Criminal Code 171b StGB

Under Penal Code 171b, possession of certain knives is illegal in a state or local public building. These illegal knives are:

  • Springmesser
  • A fixed knife with a blade longer than 4 inches
  • Any knife restricted in the State of California (listed above)

Knife restrictions in California schools

"Mr. Helfend did an excellent job defending my case. I would recommend him to anyone in need of a great criminal defense attorney."Anonymous, California

Pursuant to Penal Code 626.10(a)(1) and (2), it is illegal to possess certain knives on the following California campus:

(Video) California Knife Laws (a former D.A. explains)

  • california state university
  • University of California
  • any private university
  • California Community Colleges
  • Any school that teaches grades K-12

Knives prohibited on this site are:

  • daggers and daggers
  • Knives with blades greater than 2 ½"
  • Folding knife with lockable blades
  • ice pick
  • Razors with unprotected blades
  • Razor blades or stilettos

Possession of any of these restricted knives on school property listed above may result in a misdemeanor or felony charge and 1 to 3 years in prison. Charges and penalties for knife offenses are discussed in more detail below.

Switchblades on federal property

While most crimes committed in the state of California are punishable under California law, crimes committed on federal property are punishable under federal law. The state's knife statute - 15 USC 1241-44 - makes it illegal to own a knife on state or property or to carry a knife in interstate commerce. Exceptions to this law apply to active-duty military personnel or individuals with one arm carrying a switchblade knife with a blade 3 inches or less in length.

California Knife Laws, Offenses, and Penalties

Violation of California knife carrying laws can result in misdemeanor or criminal charges and, if convicted, can result in 1 to 3 years in state or county prison. Using a knife as a weapon can result in an additional prison term in addition to the penalty for illegally carrying a knife. Laws and penalties vary depending on the type of knife, whether or not it is restricted, and whether or not it is legal to hide it.

Hidden dagger and dagger laws

Penal Code 21310 prohibits carrying a dagger or concealed dagger, including knives concealed by clothing (eg tucked into the waistband). In California, carrying a concealed dagger or dagger is a "wobbler" offense. A misdemeanor wobbler is one that the prosecutor can charge as a misdemeanor or felony.

Possible penalties for carrying a concealed dagger include:

  • Up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000 per misdemeanor
  • 16 months to 3 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000 per crime

Restricted knife laws

Under California Penal Code 21510, carrying a knife is a misdemeanor and penalties are up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Penalties may vary for possession of other restricted knives. Some other possible fees and penalties include:

(Video) California knife carry laws

  • possession, sale, manufacture or importation of an untraceable knife: up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000
  • Possessing, selling, manufacturing or importing any other type of prohibited knife(a Wobbler count): Up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000 per misdemeanor; 16 months to 3 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

wield a gun

California Penal Code 417, also known as "wielding a weapon," makes it illegal to brandish a knife in a threatening, angry, or aggressive manner, or brandish a knife during an altercation. Wielding a knife is an additional charge that can be added to other knife offenses. The weapons charge can lead to additional sentences ranging from 30 days in county jail to 3 years in California state prison.

Attack with a deadly weapon

California Penal Code 245(a)(1), also known as the Assault With a Deadly Weapon Act, designates an offense that can be added to other knife offenses. ADW means that an attack was committed with a deadly weapon or other deadly means. Assault with a lethal weapon is a Wobbler felony with a maximum sentence of 4 years at the California State Penitentiary for felony conviction.

Improved the penalty for using a deadly weapon.

Criminal Code 12022 PC states that you can receive an additional 1 year sentence in state prison on top of the sentence you were convicted of carrying a knife. This damnation benefit cannot be added to penalties for wielding a weapon or attacking with a deadly weapon.

Legal defense against knife charges

If you are accused of violating California knife laws, there are many possible strategies your attorney can use in your defense. Some of these strategies include:

  • Your knife does not violate any restrictions or concealed carry laws:If the knife you carry does not meet all of the criteria in the definition of that knife, you cannot be convicted of violating this Law of the Knife. For example, the definition of a switchblade knife states that the blade must be at least 2 inches long. If your knife blade is less than 2 inches long, you cannot be convicted of carrying a knife.
  • It is forbidden to carry a knife without knowing:To get a conviction on a knife charge, the prosecutor must show that you (1) knew you had the knife and (2) knew the knife was illegal. If neither of these two factors apply to you, you cannot be convicted of carrying a restricted knife.
  • open wear:If you are accused of carrying a dagger or dagger but lawfully carry the knife openly, you cannot be convicted of carrying a concealed dagger or dagger.
  • Illegal search:If a police officer discovers the knife in your possession as a result of an illegal search.
  • Police Misconduct:If you have been arrested or confessed as a result of police misconduct.

If you have been accused of violating California knife laws, your best defense is a qualified and competent attorney. California knife laws can be confusing and difficult to navigate on your own. As a California defense attorney with over 30 years of experience, I know the ins and outs of California knife laws and can develop the best defense strategy for your case. Contact my office today!

What types of knives are illegal in California?

In California, it is illegal to carry certain knives, especially when they are misleading or untraceable. generally,knives that are illegalthey are most commonly used to commit crimes and have no obvious use as a tool or resemble knives.

(Video) Is carrying a concealed knife or box cutter legal in California? Does the length of blade matter?


What are the laws for carrying a knife in California? ›

A: In California, you can legally purchase, own, transport, and carry any knife that is not restricted under the law. California's open carry law states that the hilt or handle of a knife can't be hidden or concealed. This includes if the hilt is hidden underneath clothing or in the blade's sheath.

Is a 3 inch blade legal in California? ›

In California, switchblades with blades of two inches or longer are illegal. Fixed-blade knives with blades of two-and-a-half inches or longer are illegal on college/university/school premises. And any knife with a blade longer than four inches is illegal in a public building.

What size fixed blade knife is legal to carry in California? ›

Any knife with a blade that is 2 inches or longer and can be opened with a button or the flick of your wrist is illegal. Concealed possession of fixed blade knives (dirk or dagger), irrespective of blade length is illegal. Sale or possession of a disguised blade is illegal.

Can you wear a knife on your belt in California? ›

Concealment. A California statute, § 20200 provides: A knife carried in a sheath that is worn openly suspended from the waist of the wearer is not concealed within the meaning of Section 16140, 16340, 17350, or 21310.

Can a 16 year old carry a pocketknife in California? ›

It is currently legal for a minor to carry a knife in California as long as that knife complies with other state laws. No part of the California Penal Code explicitly prohibits minors (persons under the age of 18) from carrying a knife. A fixed blade knife is a knife without a folding mechanism.

How long can a knife be to carry around legally? ›

Knife blades cannot be longer than 5.5 inches. Certain types of knives, such as switchblades, spring-loaded knives, swords, spears, and daggers are also outlawed.

What is the longest knife you can carry in California? ›

A. In the State of California, there is no maximum length for knives in general. However, the maximum legal length for a switchblade knife is 2 inches. Additionally, it is illegal to carry daggers or dirks concealed, and also illegal to carry many types of knives which are designed for concealment.

What makes a pocket knife illegal in California? ›

Knives that are illegal to possess in California include ballistic knives, cane knives, air gauge knives, lipstick knives, belt buckle knives, writing pen knives, switchblades with a blade of two inches or longer, and undetectable knives made from materials that cannot be detected by metal detectors.

Can a felon carry a pocket knife in California? ›

Convicted felons may possess daggers, dirks or stillettos in his or her residence, but may not carry them in cars or in public. The other weapons cannot be owned.

What blades are illegal in California? ›

Knives that are illegal to possess in California include: Cane knives. Air gauge knives. Lipstick knives.
  • Switchblades.
  • Folding knives.
  • Fixed blade knives (dirks and daggers)

What is a dirk or dagger in California? ›

A dirk or dagger is 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. Most pocketknives and folding knives are not considered to be dirks or daggers unless the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.

Are spring loaded knives illegal in California? ›

A spring assisted knife is legal in California as long as it “opens with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade, provided that the knife has a detent or other mechanism that provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or that ...

Can I carry a sword on my back in California? ›

In California, anything with a fixed blade (like a sword) must be worn in plain view. But sheathed knives worn openly are not considered illegal concealed weapons. However, if you're carrying a cane sword, you can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Can I carry a sword in California? ›

Possession of a cane sword could lead to criminal charges. Penal Code 20150 PC makes it a crime to possess, manufacture, sell, or give away a cane sword. Cane swords are illegal in California under Penal Code 20510 PC, which states that it is a criminal offense to manufacture, sell, import, give, or possess them.

What's a dirk knife? ›

A dirk is a long bladed thrusting dagger. Historically, it gained its name from the Highland Dirk (Scots Gaelic "Dearg") where it was a personal weapon of officers engaged in naval hand-to-hand combat during the Age of Sail as well as the personal sidearm of Highlanders.

Is it legal to carry a Taser in California? ›

California Penal Code 22610 PC states in part: “anyone may purchase, possess, or use a stun gun, subject to the following requirements: (a) Nobody convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault, or convicted of misuse of a stun gun under Section 244.5, shall purchase, possess, or use any stun gun.

Can I own a switchblade in California? ›

You Can Legally Own a Switchblade at Home

It is also important to know that it is only illegal to possess a switchblade knife in the passenger or driver's area of a vehicle, to carry the knife on you, and to sell, offer to sell, loan, or give the knife to someone else.

Are butterfly knives illegal in California? ›

In California, butterfly knives are prohibited. Under California Penal Code 21510 PC, butterfly knives are classified as a form of switchblade. Carrying, possessing in public, selling, or otherwise transferring a butterfly knife is illegal under this legislation.

What state has the strictest knife laws? ›

California is known for having rather complicated weapon laws, and knives are no exception. It is completely unlawful to bring a weapon into public spaces like schools, public buildings, and any property owned by the U.S government.

What is a valid reason to carry a knife? ›

Good reasons for carrying a knife or weapon in public

If the knife or weapon is not banned, some examples of 'good reasons' include using it: for your work. for religious reasons, such as the kirpan some Sikhs carry. as part of any national costume.

How far do you have to throw a knife from Target? ›

Generally for a half rotation spin, you will want to be about six feet from your target. (experiment with different distances to find your "sweet spot"). Next, grip your knife with blade facing you (handle towards the sky). Throw the knife at your target with moderate force.

Are OTF knives legal in California? ›

This is our selection of California legal out-the-front knives. These knives are compact, but there's nothing “little” about the action on these OTFs. With great action and a travel-friendly size, you can't go wrong with a Cali-legal OTF.

Can you open carry a Bowie knife in California? ›

Bowie knives are legal. Large knives are legal (no restrictions in size). Carrying knives in the open is legal in California.

Can you have a 10 round shotgun in California? ›

Penal Code 32310(c) goes on to make it a crime for a person to possess a large capacity magazine, regardless of the date is was acquired. A “large-capacity magazine” means any ammunition-feeding device with the capacity to hold more than 10 rounds.

Can you have a knife as a belt buckle in California? ›

It is against the law to use belt buckle knives (BBKs) in California. In fact, individuals are not even allowed to possess these weapons in most circumstances. Individuals who are caught with belt buckle knives can face charges under Penal Code 20410. California treats PC 20410 as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Can a felon own a BB gun in California? ›

The short answer is no. California has instituted some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and conviction of any felony and certain misdemeanors will render you ineligible to own or possess a gun in California.

What weapons can a felon own in California? ›

In California, anyone who has a prior conviction for a felony offense cannot own a gun. Doing so violates California Penal Code section 29800 PC – the state's “felon with a firearm” law.
This statute also prohibits felons from:
  • purchasing,
  • receiving, or.
  • having possession, custody, or control of a firearm.
Aug 11, 2022

Do cops carry pocket knives? ›

While not considered to be a primary weapon of choice in a defense-of-life situation, officers may, under extraordinary circumstances, use a tactical folding knife in defense of their life and the lives of others.

Why are gravity knives illegal? ›

A knife is not illegal because it is designed to open by the force of gravity and lock into place; the knife is illegal when it actually does open by the force of gravity and locks into place by means of a procedure used by the District Attorney's office to identify a gravity knife, called the “wrist flick test.”

Is it illegal to carry a straight razor in California? ›

We have checked rules & regs in many states including OR, CA, WA, CO, UT, PA, FL, TN, NY, NJ… In fact, the only state we have confirmed explicitly prohibits use of conventional straight razors is Rhode Island!

What is a ghost gun California? ›

California has been the epicenter of a devastating and fast-growing ghost gun crisis as ghost gun companies sought to exploit legal loopholes in the definition of the word “firearm” itself to sell unfinished DIY gun build kits and other products designed to circumvent California's strong gun safety laws.

What is a stiletto blade? ›

A stiletto (Italian: [stiˈletto]) is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, primarily intended as a stabbing weapon.

What is the blade in California? ›

They were rescued from “The Blade,” a sinister new term for the mean streets, where they plied their trade. They were placed for care, treatment and education in Children of the Night, a 24-bed group home in Van Nuys.

Are brass knuckles legal in California? ›

Brass knuckles are prohibited in California under the state's statute on generally prohibited weapons. This statute can be found in the California Penal Code 16590 PC.

What weapons are illegal to carry in California? ›

Prohibited Weapons in California
  • short-barreled rifle/ short-barreled shotgun.
  • camouflage firearm container.
  • air gauge knife.
  • ammunition that contains a flechette dart.
  • ballistic knife.
  • belt buckle knife.
  • bullet that contains an explosive agent.
  • cane gun.

Can you open carry in your yard in California? ›

Last updated September 15, 2021 . A U.S. citizen or legal resident over age 18 may generally carry a handgun anywhere within his or her place of residence, place of business, or on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident.

Can you open carry in the woods in California? ›

In California, you cannot transport a loaded firearm in a vehicle, and you cannot have a loaded firearm on private property unless you have permission. You can only possess a loaded firearm while you are pursuing your wildlife, and only when you are on property in which you are permitted.

Can I carry gun in my car trunk California? ›

California generally prohibits a person from carrying a concealed handgun in a motor vehicle, unless the handgun is in a locked container or the vehicle's trunk,1 or the person has a valid concealed weapons license.2.

Can you carry an open weapon in California? ›

Openly carrying loaded or unloaded firearms in public is generally prohibited in California. However, the sheriff of any county with a population under 200,000 people, or the chief of police of a city within that county, may issue licenses to carry a loaded, exposed handgun.

Can you carry a gun in a casino in California? ›

The possession of firearms by any person in the Gaming Facility is prohibited at all times, except for federal, state, or local law enforcement personnel or tribal law enforcement or security personnel authorized by tribal law and federal or state law to possess firearms at the Facility.

Is it legal to carry a spear in California? ›

(a) No person shall carry, possess or discharge across, in or into any portion of any unit any weapon, firearm, spear, bow and arrow, trap, net, or device capable of injuring, or killing any person or animal, or capturing any animal, or damaging any public or private property, except in underwater parks or designated ...

Can you carry a knife for self defense in California? ›

As long as the knife must be opened manually, pocket knives are fully legal for anyone to concealed carry while folded. Any unfolded or fixed knife must be carried openly, a belt or leg sheath is fine as long as it's visible and readily apparent what it is. Spring-loaded or other switchblades are illegal above 2″.

What kind of knives are illegal in California? ›

Knives that are illegal to possess in California include ballistic knives, cane knives, air gauge knives, lipstick knives, belt buckle knives, writing pen knives, switchblades with a blade of two inches or longer, and undetectable knives made from materials that cannot be detected by metal detectors.

What can I carry to protect myself in California? ›

Five legal self-defense weapons in California are:
  • pepper spray,
  • stun guns or tasers,
  • certain knives (such as a pocketknife or non-switchblade folding knife),
  • personal alarms, and.
  • certain guns (such as handguns or shotguns).
Apr 25, 2022

Are butterfly knives a felony in California? ›

In California, having a butterfly knife is a misdemeanor. Convictions can result in up to 6 months in county prison and/or $1,000 in fines.

What caliber is illegal in California? ›

In addition, California generally prohibits any person, firm or corporation from selling, offering for sale, possessing or knowingly transporting any fixed ammunition greater than . 60 caliber.


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