Knife laws in California can be complex and confusing, especially for those who are new to the state or just starting to carry a knife for self-defense or other purposes.
Understanding knife laws is important for both residents and visitors, as violating them can result in serious criminal consequences. In this blog post, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of California knife laws to help you stay informed and avoid any legal issues.
Overview of California Knife Laws
In California, knife laws are designed to protect the public from injury by restricting certain types of knives. It is illegal to possess, sell, manufacture, or import certain kinds of knives.
These include ballistic knives, cane knives, air gauge knives, switchblades with a blade longer than two inches, and fixed blades with a blade longer than four inches. Switchblades with blades less than two inches long are legal to carry concealed in California.
Folding knives are allowed to be carried openly or concealed as long as they are folded and in a closed position. All other laws regarding knives in California such as those concerning brandishing of knives and carrying a knife on commercial aircraft must be followed in order to ensure the safety of the public.
Illegal Knives Under California Knife Laws
Some folks think it’s against the law to own knives in California, especially the kitchen and hunting knives. This is a widespread fallacy. You should be aware of the following.
Here is a list of prohibited knives according to the California Penal Code, which is not all-inclusive:
- A ballistic knife, as prohibited by Section 21110.
- A belt buckle knife, as prohibited by Section 20410.
- A cane sword, as prohibited by Section 20510.
- A concealed dirk or dagger, as prohibited by Section 21310.
- A leaded cane or an instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slungshot, as prohibited by Section 22210.
- A lipstick case knife, as prohibited by Section 20610.
- Metal knuckles, as prohibited by Section 21810.
- A nunchaku, as prohibited by Section 22010.
- A shobi-zue, as prohibited by Section 20710.
- A writing pen knife, as prohibited by Section 20910.
- The California Attorney General has concluded that a “butterfly knife” is considered a switchblade. 68 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 332.
- “Balisong” and Tekna sheath-retracting knives are considered prohibited switchblades. See People ex rel. Mautner v. Quattrone, 260 Cal. Rptr. 44 (Ct. App. 1989).
Source: Los Angeles Trial Lawyers
Are Switchblades Legal in California?
In California, switchblades are legal to own, sell, buy and transport as long as the blade is 2 inches or less. Furthermore, it is important to note that while folding knives may be carried freely in the open, switchblades must remain folded and concealed on the person.
A California appellate court has ruled that a switchblade can be classified as a dangerous weapon, so it must be kept out of sight at all times. Carrying a switchblade openly in public could result in criminal charges being brought against the individual.
It is also important to remember that carrying a knife on school grounds or in an aircraft is strictly prohibited by law. Therefore, if you are considering carrying a switchblade in California, it is important to make sure you understand the relevant laws before doing so.
Are Butterfly Knives Legal in California?
California knife laws are strict when it comes to certain types of knives, including butterfly knives. Under Penal Code 21510 PC, butterfly knives are considered a form of a switchblade and are illegal in California. Knowingly doing any of the following things with a switchblade is prohibited in California: possessing, distributing, or using one.
In addition, butterfly knives whose blade exceeds 2 inches are illegal to own. The California Attorney General has concluded that a “butterfly knife” is considered a switchblade, so it is important to be aware of the state’s restrictions before carrying one.
It is also important to note that the open carry law states that the hilt or handle of a knife cannot be hidden (or concealed), even by clothing or the sheath. With this in mind, it is important to understand the state laws before carrying a knife in California.
Are Spring-Assisted Knives Legal in California?
Spring-assisted knives are legal in California, so long as they do not fall into the category of a forbidden knife. As previously mentioned, California Penal Code Section 17235 states that folding knives are legal in the state, provided they are in the folded position.
As such, spring-assisted knives are considered legal since they are a type of folding knife and their blades remain closed until the user applies pressure to open them.
That said, it is important to remember that it is illegal to conceal any knife with a blade over 2 inches in length, regardless of its type. Additionally, it is important to know that there are special considerations for carrying a knife on school grounds and commercial aircraft.
Can You Carry Folding Knives Openly or Concealed?
Under California law, folding knives can be carried openly or in a concealed position as long as they are in a closed position. This is in accordance with the Penal Code Section 17235 which states that all folding knives can be carried either openly or as a concealed knife provided that they are in a folded or closed position.
The open carry law states that the hilt or handle of a knife cannot be hidden (or concealed), even by clothing or the knife’s sheath. This law exists as a safety precaution to ensure that weapons are not used for malicious purposes. As such, it is important to remember that folding knives should always be kept in a closed position when being carried, regardless of whether it is carried openly or concealed.
Are Knives Legal to carry on School Grounds in California?
In California, the law is very clear when it comes to carrying a knife on school grounds. According to Penal Code 171b, it is illegal to possess any type of knife in a state or local public building, and schools are considered public buildings.
Therefore, it is against the law to carry any type of knife, including a folding knife, on school grounds. This applies even if the folding knife is in its folded and closed position.
Additionally, switchblades with blades that measure two inches or more in length are also strictly prohibited on school grounds. It is important to note that California schools are considered weapons-free zones and knives of any kind are not allowed on school property.
Laws Concerning Brandishing of Knives
It is important to remember that brandishing any type of knife is illegal in California. Penal Code Section 417 makes it illegal to brandish a deadly weapon, including a knife.
Brandishing a knife can result in up to three years of jail time, while assault with a deadly weapon has a maximum sentence of four years in state prison. It is also important to note that carrying a knife on school grounds is illegal, regardless of whether it is concealed or openly carried.
Therefore, it is essential to always remain aware of your surroundings and not take any chances when carrying knives in California.
Carrying a Knife on a Commercial Aircraft
In California, it is illegal to carry a knife on a commercial aircraft. According to the Penal Code, it is unlawful to possess any dangerous or deadly weapon on board a commercial aircraft that is intended for use as a weapon. This includes knives, switchblades, butterfly knives, and other weapons.
It is also unlawful to bring any replica of a firearm on board an aircraft. Penalties for violating this law can include fines and jail time. It is important to be aware of the laws surrounding carrying knives before bringing them on board a commercial aircraft in California.
Frequently Asked Questions
The maximum legal length for a switchblade knife is 2 inches.
According to California Penal Code Section 17235, all folding knives are legal in the state and can be concealed if they are in the folded position.
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.
No, gravity knives are illegal in California. According to the California Penal Code, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, offer for sale, expose for sale, loan, transfer, or give to any person a switchblade knife having a blade longer than 2 inches or a gravity knife. Possession of a gravity knife is considered a criminal offense in California and can result in fines and possible jail time.
According to California Penal Code Section 17235, all folding knives are legal in the state and may be concealed as long as they are in the folded position. And this includes a “pocketknife” or “Swiss army knife,” box cutter, or “utility knife.”
In Summary, California knife laws are complex and varied. Depending on the type of knife, it may be legal to carry it openly or concealed. However, certain types of knives are always illegal to own and possess in California, including switchblades and butterfly knives. It is important to understand the laws surrounding knives before carrying one in public.
Additionally, it is important to remember that regardless of the laws, it is illegal to brandish a weapon or use a knife to threaten or intimidate another person. Finally, remember that most commercial airlines have restrictions on what types of knives can be carried onto aircraft. Knowing your state’s knife laws and abiding by them can help ensure that you stay on the right side of the law.