California Knife Laws

California knife lawsKnife laws in California are not that friendly as the previous ones. There are different kind of knives which are illegal to carry, conceal or even own. There remain many rules and regulations in California when it is about knives.

California knife laws can sometimes be confusing and quite inconsistent. The laws have been changed several times.

To make all these clear to you, this article may help a lot.

We have divided the laws into three sections on behalf of its legality. In California, there are knives that are never legal, knives that may be carried openly but not concealed and the rest is knives that may be carried openly or concealed.


Knives that are always Illegal in California

Forever illegal knives are,

  • Gravity knives
  • Spring-loaded knives
  • Switchblades (more than 2 inches)
  • Ballistic knives
  • Cane Swords
  • Belt buckle knives, lipstick knives, pen knives, air gauge knives and all kind of misleading knives
  • Undetectable knives


Switchblades are legal if it is less than 2 inches. As well as Balisong or butterfly knives are one kind of switchblade. But you can buy a Balisong or butterfly knives over 2 inches. In case of that, do not carry it anywhere; leave it in your home as your collection, that would be fine.

Penalties when you break the rules

When you carry those illegal knives, you will go through these penalties below:

Carrying a switchblade over 2 inches (California Penal Code 21510) is illegal.

Code 21510. “Every person who does any of the following with a switchblade knife having a blade two or more inches in length is guilty of a misdemeanor: (a) possesses the knife in the passenger’s or driver’s area of any motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public. (b) Carries the knife upon the person. (c) Sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or gives the knife to any other person.”

There you will be charged,

  • up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Undetectable knives cannot be detected by metal detectors or magnetometers. Carrying, owning, selling, manufacturing or importing of an undetectable knife is also illegal and you will be punished by,

  • not more than one (1) year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.


Knives that may be carried openly but not concealed

According to the California knife laws; there are some knives that can be carried openly legally but cannot be concealed, that would be illegal.

  • You can carry dirks, daggers, and stilettos openly anywhere you want and for this, you won’t be punished. But if you conceal this sort of knives, that would be illegal because these knives are very dangerous.
  • Chef’s knives, ice picks, knitting needles, and scissors are also included in Dirks and Daggers. These knives can cause serious injuries by stabbing. So, these knives are illegal when you carry those concealed. But you can carry openly on your hip or waist. Because then, you won’t be charged for attempting any crime.

Penalties when you break the rules

If you are charged with carrying a concealed dirk, dagger or stiletto then you will receive,

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 fine.


*In fact, carrying or breaking the rules of California knife laws, up to 36 months that is 3 years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000 are the main punishment unless it ends at only small wrongdoing charges

Knives that may be carried openly or concealed and Legal

There are some knives that can be carried either openly or concealed. These knives are legal.

  • Pocket knives
  • Box cutters
  • Other utility knives
  • Folding knives other than switchblades
  • Bowie knives

Blade Size Limits:

In California, there are no length limits of blades. But 2 and 2.5 inches are the length limits of blades when it is about the switchblades.

You can carry knives (that are legal) of any blade size you want.

Some Restricted Places to carry a knife:


Schools & Universities

California’s school grounds and campuses or buildings and universities are weapons as well as knives free zone. But you can take knives that are less than 2.5 inches in blade size.


It is written in the California penal code section 626.10, you cannot bring any ice picks, box cutters, razor blades, dirk or daggers and overall are dangerous to carry and in use.


“…who brings or possesses a razor blade or a box cutter upon the grounds of, or within, any public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, is guilty of a public offense, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.”


In Public Buildings

It is illegal to bring or possess a knife in any public or state local buildings. In the penal code 171b, it is strictly mentioned as a crime and therefore you will be punished. Switchblades, knives that are over four inches of the blade and any illegal knives in California knife laws are prohibited in public or state buildings.


What to do when you are charged?

If your knife is less than 2.5 inches and if your knives such as dirk or dagger are not ready to use as a stabbing weapon or a deadly weapon, you will not be charged even after carrying or concealing one. You will have to meet the legal definitions of prohibited knives.

You are not knowingly carrying a deadly weapon or knife that is prohibited in California’s knife laws. So, when you violate the knife laws, you already know about the illegal ones.

But if you are not aware of your knives if those are illegal or not, or if you do not know you are carrying one or if you do not know the characteristics of your knife, then you can have the defense if you are charged.


So, What Do We Learn About The California Knife Laws

Knife laws in California are not that friendly as Alaska’s or Arizona’s but not that tricky either. A decent law has been set considering the advantages of the citizens of California.

So, if you attempt doing any wrong or crime, you are going to get punished.


Hi this is Patricia Smith! I am a 30 year old mom blessed with two Beautiful children! I love cooking & this blog is a small effort of mine to guide others on a healthy cooking habit.

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