California Knife laws are notoriously confusing, which is why it’s important to learn more about what knives are and are not illegal in the state and your local area so you never find yourself in trouble for carrying an illegal knife. If you do get charged with carrying an illegal weapon though, weapons crime lawyer Peter M. Liss can help.
California Knife Laws
Knife laws in California define different rules for different types of knives. When it comes to fixed blade knives, which legally fall under the state’s “dirk or dagger” laws, there are very few restrictions. In fact, they can be any size or shape, you just have to carry them openly, rather than concealing them. In other words, you could carry a sword around with you in most of California as long as it wasn’t hidden somehow, which is why cane swords and writing pen knives are illegal. Carrying a concealed knife of any size can be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a felony punishable by up to three years prison. Similarly, exotic swords and knives like a belt buckle knife, cane sword, air gauge knife, lipstick case knife, shobi-zue are illegal and also can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Folding knives are subject to most of the same “dirk or dagger” rules when opened, but they can generally be carried while folded in a concealed manner. Some forms of folding knives are banned though. That’s where the California’s switchblade laws come in.
Switchblade Laws in California
Whereas people tend to think only of switchblades as being spring-loaded knives that open with the push of a button though, California knife law codes defines a switchblade as a knife that can be opened automatically with a button, flip of the wrist, pressure on the handle, the weight of the blade or other mechanism. This means butterfly knives are considered switchblades under the law. Switchblades are technically legal, but only if they are under two inches long, which most are not. Also, while you cannot carry a switchblade, bring it with you in the passenger area of your vehicle or give the weapon to someone else, you can legally have a switchblade in your home. Violating California’s switchblade laws is a misdemeanor, punishable by $1000 in fines and up to six months in jail.
A flip knife can actually open easily and still be legal under California knife laws, but it must either have some resistance to opening or be biased to the closed position. Sometimes people are wrongly accused of possessing a switchblade simply because their legal pocket knives have become worn down from use and open without much resistance. A San Diego dirk or dagger attorney can often have charges dropped in these cases.
If you’re wondering why are switchblades illegal in California, the short answer is that they are illegal in California simply because they are illegal federally. The long answer requires a history lesson that while interesting isn’t really something that fits into our discussion on the legality of the weapon. Still, it’s worth a read if you have the time.
City-Specific Knife Laws
It’s worth noting that counties and cities within California may create their own, more restrictive knife laws. While San Diego does not have any such laws, other counties and cities may. For example, in Oakland, you cannot carry, even openly, a knife with a blade three inches or longer; a snap- or spring-loaded knife of any length; an ice pick or similar tool; a dirk, dagger or bludgeon as defined by the state law; or any cutting, stabbing, or bludgeoning weapon or device capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm. In other words, you can pretty much only carry a pocket knife in most circumstances.
That’s why while your lawyer will usually tell you that though you may be able to carry a wide variety of knives in San Diego, it’s important to look up rules for other cities and counties before traveling with a knife. There are also more restrictive rules at schools, parks, government buildings, airports, and similar locations, so unless you have a good reason to carry a knife at these locations, it is advisable to leave your knives at home. If you do have a good reason to bring your knife to one of these places, look up the specific laws ahead of time.
If you have any questions about the many California knife laws, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by James Case