California Knife Laws
California’s knife laws are among the toughest in the country.
Broadly speaking, California law places knives into three (3) general categories:
1. Knives that may be worn openly, but may not be concealed
California’s law prohibits carrying concealed “dirks” and “daggers.” Dirks and daggers are knives capable of causing serious injury by stabbing. They may not be carried on one’s person if they are concealed in any way. Nor may they be carried in a purse, briefcase or other container.
California has an “open-carry” knife law, however. It allows you to carry a dirk or dagger openly in a sheath suspended from your waist.
The law applies to any knife capable of being used as a stabbing weapon. This is true even if such knives are normally used for lawful purposes. Thus, under California law, “dirks and daggers” include such items as:
- chef’s knives,
- ice picks, and
- other functional blades.
2. Knives that may be carried either openly or concealed.
Folding knives (other than switchblades) may be carried concealed on your person if closed.
They may also be carried openly…unless…the blade is exposed and locked into position. Then the knife becomes a “dirk” or “dagger” and to be carried openly must be worn in a sheath suspended from your waist.
Pocket knives, box cutters and other “utility” knives generally fall into this category.
3. Knives that are always illegal to carry in California.
Illegal gravity knife
Certain other knives may not be carried either openly or concealed. In other words, these knives are always illegal to carry in California. Illegal knives include:
- ballistic knives, and
- “novelty” knives, such as belt buckle knives and cane swords.
There are additional restrictions on carrying knives into schools and other public buildings. And you may not carry knives onto certain property owned by the United States government.
The knife statutes are full of nuances and technicalities. In some cases, they are even poorly written and difficult to understand.
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