FAQ: California’s Knife Laws

Although the state of California has knife-friendly laws, it doesn’t mean that people can simply carry around any knife of their choosing. In fact, depending on the type of knife, it might be a criminal offense to own one in the Golden State. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our criminal defense lawyers understand why some people find California’s knife laws confusing, which is why we answer some of the common questions we are asked about legally carrying or owning certain types of knives.

Question #1: Can I legally carry 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.

Question #2: Can I legally carry a switchblade?

A: A switchblade, also known as a “pushbutton knife” or “ejector knife, is a knife with a blade contained within the handle that can be opened automatically via a spring, button, or switch. In California, it is illegal to carry a switchblade knife that is longer than 2 inches.

Question #3: Can I legally carry a folding knife?

A: A folding knife can be opened by applying pressure to the blade and a mechanism that provides resistance when the blade is opened. Pocketknives, Swiss Army knives, box cutters, and utility knives are all considered folding knives. Under California Penal Code Section 17235, all folding knives are legal in the state and can be concealed if they are in the folded position. There is no restriction on the blade length when it comes to owning or possessing a folding knife.

Question #4: Can I legally carry a dagger?

A: When a knife doesn’t have a folding mechanism or ejector button, it is considered a fixed blade knife. Kitchen knives, ice picks, and other sharp objects are included in this category. Under California law, a “dagger” is a knife that can be readily used as a stabbing weapon. Daggers and other sheath knives must be carried openly and cannot be concealed in the state of California.

Question #5: Which types of knives are illegal to carry in California?

A: The following types of knives are illegal to carry in California:

  • Belt buckle knives
  • Writing pen knives
  • Cane knives
  • Ballistic knives
  • Switchblades longer than 2 inches
  • Lipstick knives
  • Air gauge knives

Question #6: Can I carry all legal knives in public buildings in California?

A: Penal Code 171b states that certain knives are illegal to have in your possession while you are in a state or local public building. Switchblades, fixed blade knives with blades longer than 4 inches, and any other knives restricted by California law can’t be carried in public buildings.

Question #7: Can knives be carried in California schools?

A: According to Penal Code 626.10(a)(1) and (2), it is illegal to carry certain types of knives in your possession if you are on the premises of a California State University, California Community College, University of California, private university, or any school with grades K-12.

The following types of knives are prohibited on California school grounds:

  • Folding knives with locking blades
  • Razors with unguarded blades
  • Razor blades or box cutters
  • Knives with blades longer than 2 ½ inches
  • Daggers
  • Ice picks

Question #8: What are the penalties for violating California’s knife laws?

A: If you violate California’s knife carrying laws, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges. If convicted, it can result in 1-3 years in a county jail or state prison. If you are convicted of using a knife as a weapon, you can be sentenced to additional jail time for illegally carrying a knife. The laws and penalties for knife crimes vary depending on the type of knife, if it is restricted, and whether it is legal to conceal it.

Question #9: What is considered “brandishing a weapon”?

A: Under California Penal Code 417, it is illegal to brandish a knife in a threatening, angry, or aggressive manner during a physical confrontation. Brandishing a knife is an extra charge that prosecutors can add to other knife-related offenses you are accused of committing. If you are charged with brandishing a weapon, you can face additional penalties ranging from 30 days in county jail to 3 years in state prison.

Question #10: What should I do if I’m accused of a violating California’s knife laws?

A: You should immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the details of your situation and how to best defend you against these charges. If you are facing charges for a knife crime, you need an aggressive and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney representing you and fighting for your innocence and freedom as soon possible.

Speak with Our Criminal Defense Team Today

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our award-winning team of attorneys are dedicated to providing our clients with the best defense they can find. With over 50 years of combined experience, we understand criminal law and are equipped with the extensive resources that you need to fiercely advocate for your rights. Please reach out to us today to discuss your concerns with one of our compassionate and insightful legal professionals.

To schedule a case consultation with Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, give us a call at (800) 462-7160 or complete our convenient online form.