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California

California Knife Laws

Knife laws in California can be a little confusing because they are not necessarily the same in all parts of the state.

California Knife Laws Quick Look:

Preemption? No

Concealed carry? Depending on the type of knife

Open carry? Allowed for legal knives.

Schools? No

Off-limits places:

  • Public or private school.
  • Private or state universities.
  • Community college.
  • Residential facilities in colleges or universities
  • Local and public buildings.
  • Meetings
  • Passenger terminals in airports.
  • Transport facilities

Length & critical dimensions: The length accepted for knives is a maximum of 2 inches’ blade length. This means that legal knives with blade lengths of 2 inches or shorter are allowed in California. Therefore, it is illegal to possess, purchase, or carry any knife that is longer than 2 inches.

Legal Types of Knives In California

Knives that are legal according to California law include the following:

  • Bowie knives.
  • Large knives.
  • Box cutters.
  • Pocket knives.
  • Knives with switchblades of 2 inches or less.

Illegal Types of Knives in California

Prohibited knives in california include the following:

  • Air-gauge knives
  • Switchblade with a blade of 2” or longer
  • Disguised pen knife
  • Disguised lipstick knife
  • Billies
  • Blackjacks
  • Sandbags
  • Saps
  • Slungshots
  • Nunchaku
  • Air gauge knife
  • Ballistic knife
  • Belt buckle knife
  • Sword cane
  • Shobi-zue
  • Undetectable knives
  • Shuriken

California Knife Ownership Law

It is legal to purchase, own, sell and transfer only knives that are non-restricted and legal in California.

California Knife Carry Laws

The possession of a knife and how you carry the knife are very important in California.

California Knife Open Carry Laws

Open carry of Knives in California is allowed for all legal knives. However, there are restrictions for open carry in places regarded as out-of-zone areas, and local restrictions may apply to open carry too.

California Concealed Carry Laws

It is a prohibition to conceal carry knives like daggers and dirk and this includes knives with fixable blades, knives that can fold, knives that retract, and knives with blades that lock.

California Laws for Different Types of Knives

California defines various types of knives in the state and the laws governing each one of them. They include the following:

California Switchblade Knife Laws

The law refers to a switchblade knife as any type of knife that looks like a pocket knife, spring-blade knife, gravity knife, or any other similar knives that has one or more blades, with a length of 2 or more inches, and the blade can be set free automatically by flicking a button, applying pressure to a handle, flipping the knife’s wrist or any automatic device, the blade’s weight or any other automated method.

The law also explains that a switchblade knife is not a knife that can be released with the application of pressure to the blade or the stud feature on the blade, as long as the knife has other types of device that will hinder the release or opening of its blade, or one that retracts the blade into its closed form.

California Dirk and Dagger Knife Laws

California knife laws define dirk and dagger knives as non locking and folding knives that are not unlawful for possession, purchase, transfer, loan, and sale according to the state laws, or any type of pocket knife that can be used to stab or heavily inflict injury or death only when the blade is released and locked.

California Cane Sword Knife Laws

According to California knife laws, cane sword knives refer to canes, poles, rods, staffs, sticks, umbrellas, or any similar type of device that houses hides, or concealed blades that can serve as stiletto or swords.

California Knife Law by Size

The length accepted for knives like pocket knives is a maximum of 2 inches’ blade length. This means that legal knives with blade lengths 2 inches or shorter are allowed in California. Therefore, it is illegal to possess, purchase, or carry any knife that is longer than 2 inches.

Relevant California Knife Law Statutes & Penal Codes

Some of the relevant knife law statutes and penal codes, concerning legal and illegal knives, ownership, possession, carry and use of knives include the following:

  • CPC/PEN 16470
  • CPC/PEN 16590
  • CPC/PEN 17235
  • CPC/PEN 20200
  • CPC/PEN 21110
  • CPC/PEN 21190
  • CPC/PEN21310
  • CPC/PEN 21510
  • CPC/PEN 21590

California Knife Offenses, Defenses, Restrictions & Penalties

They include the following:

Legal Defenses for Knife Charges

The legal defenses allowed for someone in possession of illegal knives or someone guilty of carrying offenses should prove the following:

  • That the person was not aware of their possession of a knife.
  • That the person did not effectively conceal the knife on their person.
  • That the person, in reality, does not possess an illegal knife.
  • That the person did not know that the knife in their possession can be used maliciously.

Exceptions for Law Enforcement and Military

California knife laws allow an exception to the restriction of a knife on school grounds, for law enforcement officers and military members that are within the premises to carry out official duties. This exception also extends to other types of weapons aside from knives, in out-of-zone regions such as airports, state properties, public transports, etc. as long as the peace officer is carrying out official duties while on the ground.

Restrictions

California knife laws provide restrictions for all types of knives except for non-locking locking folding knives that have blades not longer than the required 2 inches.

  • It is a prohibition to possess knives in any public or private school building, including universities and community colleges
  • It is a prohibition to possess knives in California local public buildings and meetings.
  • It is a prohibition to possess knives in passenger terminals of airports.
  • It is a prohibition to possess knives in any public transit facility.

In California, there is no preemption law for knives. Therefore, possession, carry and restriction of knives are not the same in all parts of the state. Municipalities and counties have various restrictive ordinances.

Penalties for Offenses

Some of the common penalties of violating California knife laws include the following:

  • Violation of Switchblade law: Up to 6 months imprisonment or a payable fine of $1000 or both.
  • Possession of a knife in airports: Up to 6 months imprisonment or a payable fine of $1000 or both.
  • Possession of a knife in public transport terminals: Up to 6 months imprisonment or a payable fine of $1000 or both.
  • Possession of an undetectable knife: Up to 6 months imprisonment or a payable fine of $1000 or both.
  • Possession of illegal dirk or dagger: Up to 1-year imprisonment.
  • Possession of any other illegal knife: Up to 1-year imprisonment.
  • Possession of a knife in school properties: Up to 1-year imprisonment.
  • Possession of a knife in a local public building: Up to 1-year imprisonment.
  • Repeated offenders of knife law in California will face enhanced penalties.

California Knife Law FAQs

Some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about California gun laws include the following:

  • How Long Can a Knife Be in California?

The required length for a legal knife in California must not be more than 2 inches’ longs.

  • What types of knives are legal to carry in California?

Most knives with blades 2 inches or shorter are legal in California. Knives that fall under the classification of dirks and daggers are also legal, but they must be carried openly in a sheath hung around the waist.

  • What types of knives are illegal to carry in California?

California knife law prohibits a lot of knives in the state. Some of them are, but not limited to, ballistic knives, cane swords, billies, blackjacks, sandbags, sand clubs, saps, slungshots, and nunchaku.

  • What about legislative and/or constitutional issues?

California does not have a statewide promotion for knife laws. So ordinances will differ in some municipalities such as LA and San Francisco.

  • Can I sell or transfer ownership of a knife in California?

California knife law prohibits the manufacturing, transfer, and ownership of knives classified as illegal in the state. However, legal knives can be transferred.

  • Is it Illegal to scare someone with (brandish) a knife in California?

It is a prohibition to brandish a knife at anyone in a dangerous, threatening, annoying or aggressive manner, including during a fight.

  • Can a minor carry a knife in California?

It is not unlawful for a minor to carry a knife in California, as long as it is a legal knife.

  • Are swords legal in California?

It is not entirely illegal to carry swords in California. But the sword must be sheathed and hanging from the waist level.

  • Are switchblades legal in California?

Switchblades are not entirely illegal in California. However, switchblades longer than 2 inches are prohibited

  • Are folding knives legal in California?

Folding knives are legal in California as long as they have the required blade length.

  • Are fixed blade knives legal in California?

Fixed blades are also legal, but they must be carried openly in a sheath hung around the waist.

  • Are butterfly knives legal in California?

No, butterfly knives are illegal in California.

  • Are automatic knives legal in California?

Automatic knives are legal in California, as long as the blade is within the required length.

  • Are spring-assisted knives legal in California?

Spring-assisted opening knives are legal in California, as long as they can be released with one hand by applying thumb pressure to the blade or a stud feature of the blade.

  • Are throwing knives legal in California?

Throwing knives classified as dirks or daggers are not illegal in California. But they must be sheathed and hung around the waist.

  • Are karambits Legal in California?

Karambits knives are legal in California, as long as they are closed and the blade is within the required length.

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