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Knife laws in California: What you can and can’t carry

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Knives may not get as much flak as firearms when it comes to the issue of legalization, but California still has strict rules on what type of knives a person may own. Understanding the state’s specific regulations surrounding knife possession is crucial for ensuring you’re on the right side of the law.

Legal knives

California law permits the open carry of most types of knives. This includes folding pocket knives and other blades that do not lock into place. Legal folding knives must be the kind where the owner must manually fold the blade into place.

However, switchblade knives – which are a type of knife that can deploy automatically at the flick of a button or similar other mechanism – are prohibited.

Restricted knives

These types of knives are illegal to own, carry or sell in California. They include:

  • Switchblades: Switchblades with a blade length of two inches or more are illegal. A switchblade is a knife that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle.
  • Ballistic knives: These knives can shoot out the blade component and are illegal.
  • Undetectable knives: Knives that are not detectable by metal detectors are a security threat and illegal.
  • Belt buckle knives: These knives can slip into a belt buckle sheath and are a subcategory of dirks or daggers, which are also illegal.

Generally speaking, if a knife has a mechanism that allows the user to deploy the blade quickly or is designed to be easily concealable, it’s prohibited by law.

Concealed carry of knives

When it comes to concealed carry, the law is much more restrictive. Under state law, it is illegal to carry concealed “dirks or daggers” with blades over two inches, which means any knife capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict significant injury or death.

The penalties for carrying a concealed knife include up to a year in jail.

Carrying a knife in a sheath that’s worn openly suspended from the waist isn’t considered concealed by the law.

Navigating knife laws in California can be complex, but staying informed is the best way to avoid unintentional violations. If you face weapon offense charges for carrying an illegal blade, an experienced legal professional may be able to help. Legal counsel can explain your options in court and fight to protect your rights.