California Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English)

This article was created to be a brief synopsis of the law according to my understanding and is not legal advice. Knifeade is not a legal service provider. Using this site does not create a client/lawyer relationship. Because knife laws can be interpreted differently by different people and entities it is recommended that you consult legal counsel for specific information and guidance.

California knife laws can be a confusing and intimidating topic to research, but it is important for anyone who owns or plans on owning a pocket knife in the state of California.

Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a responsible owner will ensure you stay within legal boundaries when carrying or using your pocketknife.

This guide will provide an overview of the different types of knives that are legal in California, prohibited types, age restrictions for ownership, concealed carry regulations, open carry rules, and penalties for violating any related laws.

Additionally, we’ll cover preemption statutes regarding local knife regulations so you know what’s allowed where you live. Make sure to read up on California knife law before heading out with your blade so that you don’t end up running into trouble with the law.

Types of Knives Legal in California

Folding Pocket Knives:

Folding pocket knives are legal to own and carry in California. These types of knives have a blade that can be folded into the handle when not in use, making them easy to store and transport.

Examples of folding pocket knives include slip joint, lockback, linerlock, frame lock, and button lock models.

Fixed Blade Knives:

Fixed-blade knives are also legal to own and carry in California. These types of knives have a blade that is permanently attached to the handle so it cannot be folded or retracted for storage or transportation purposes. Common examples of fixed blades include hunting knives, tactical combat knives, Bowie-style blades, daggers, machetes, kukris and swords.

Balisong (Butterfly) Knives:

Balisong (butterfly) style pocketknives are also legal to own and carry in California as long as they meet certain criteria such as having a non-locking mechanism that prevents accidental opening while being carried or stored away from its owner’s immediate control. A balisong knife typically has two handles connected by a pivot pin which allows the user to quickly open the knife with one hand using an outward flipping motion similar to how a butterfly opens its wings when flying away from danger

While certain types of knives are legal in California, it is important to understand that there are also prohibited knife types in the state. To learn more about these prohibited knives, read on to the next section.

Prohibited Knife Types in California

Switchblades and Automatic Knives:

Switchblade knives, also known as automatic knives, are prohibited in California. These types of pocket knives open automatically with the press of a button or other mechanical device. The blades on these knives can be opened quickly and easily without manual manipulation of the blade itself.

Ballistic (Throwing) Knives:

Ballistic (throwing) knives are illegal to own in California. These pocket knives have a detachable blade that is designed to be thrown at an object or person by releasing it from its handle. Throwing knives can cause serious injury if used improperly and they are not allowed under state law.

Undetectable knives are also prohibited in California due to their potential for harm when used inappropriately. An undetectable knife is any type of knife whose blade cannot be detected by metal detectors or airport security devices such as X-ray machines, including plastic or ceramic blades which could pass through security undetected but still pose a risk to public safety if used maliciously or carelessly.

In California, it is important to be aware of the prohibited knife types that are illegal to own and carry. Additionally, there are age restrictions for knife ownership in the state as well.

Age Restrictions for Knife Ownership in California

In California, the minimum age requirement for purchasing and carrying a knife is 18 years old. This applies to all types of knives, including folding pocket knives, fixed-blade knives, and balisong (butterfly) knives. However, there are exceptions to this rule for certain types of knives.

For example, individuals aged 16 or 17 may purchase and carry a folding pocket knife with a blade length no longer than 2 inches in length. Additionally, individuals aged 16 or 17 may also purchase and carry an undetectable knife as long as it does not contain any type of explosive substance.

It is important to note that switchblades and automatic knives are prohibited in California regardless of age; these include spring-loaded blades that open automatically by pressing a button or other device located on the handle. Similarly, ballistic (throwing) knives are also illegal in California regardless of age; these have large blades designed specifically for throwing at targets from short distances away.

Overall, when it comes to owning and carrying a knife in California it is important to be aware of the state’s laws regarding what types are legal as well as who can legally own them based on their age requirements. It is also important to remember that while some exceptions exist, they should still be used responsibly with caution at all times given their potential danger if mishandled or misused.

In California, knife owners must meet certain age requirements in order to purchase and carry a pocket knife. However, there are exceptions for certain types of knives. Next, we will discuss the concealed carry laws for pocket knives in California.

Concealed Carry Laws for Pocket Knives in California

In the state of California, it is illegal to carry a concealed pocket knife. This means that any pocket knife must be visible and not hidden from view when carried on one’s person or within their personal effects. There are exceptions to this law, however, which will be discussed below.

Definition of Concealed Carry Laws in California

The definition of “concealment” as pertains to carrying a pocket knife is defined by Penal Code Section 12023(a)(4). According to this section, an individual may not carry a concealed dirk or dagger (which includes any type of folding blade) upon his/her person or within any vehicle, they occupy at the time. It should also be noted that even if the blade is folded up and out of sight while being carried on one’s person or within their vehicle, it still counts as concealment under this law.

Exceptions to the Concealed Carry Law for Pocket Knives in California

There are certain exceptions to the concealed carry laws regarding pocket knives in California; these include individuals who have obtained written permission from their local police department; those who are participating in hunting activities; members of military organizations such as ROTC programs; and individuals who possess antique weapons (defined as those manufactured before 1900).

Additionally, some cities have enacted ordinances allowing for the open-carrying of knives with blades shorter than two inches long without fear of prosecution. However, these ordinances vary greatly between jurisdictions so it is important for anyone considering carrying a pocketknife openly to check with their local authorities first before doing so.

It is important to be aware of the concealed carry laws for pocket knives in California, as they can vary depending on certain circumstances. Now let’s look at open carry laws for pocket knives in California and what exceptions may apply.

Open Carry Laws for Pocket Knives in California

Open carry laws for pocket knives in California are set by the state legislature and enforced by local law enforcement. Open carry is defined as the carrying of a knife, concealed or unconcealed, on one’s person or in a vehicle.

In California, it is legal to openly carry any folding pocket knife with a blade less than three inches long. This includes the traditional slip joint folders, lock-back folders, and even balisong (butterfly) knives that meet this length requirement.

However, there are exceptions to this rule which must be taken into consideration when open carrying a pocket knife in California.

For example, it is illegal to open carry any type of switchblade or automatic knife regardless of its size or configuration. Additionally, it is illegal to openly carry any ballistic (throwing) knives or undetectable knives such as those made from plastic materials like polymers and resins.

It’s also worth noting that some cities have enacted their own ordinances regarding open carry laws for pocket knives which may differ from the state-wide regulations outlined above; therefore it is important to check your local city ordinances before engaging in any type of open-carrying activity with your pocketknife within city limits

Open carry laws for pocket knives in California are generally straightforward and easy to understand, but it is important to be aware of the exceptions. Moving on, let’s take a look at the potential penalties for violating knife laws in California.

Penalties for Violating Knife Laws in California

Criminal Penalties for Violating Knife Laws

In California, violating knife laws can result in criminal penalties. Depending on the severity of the offense, these penalties may include fines and/or jail time.

For example, possessing a switchblade or automatic knife is considered a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of six months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Possessing an undetectable knife is also considered a misdemeanor with similar punishments as above.

Additionally, if someone uses any type of prohibited knife during the commission of another crime (e.g., assault), they could face additional charges that carry harsher penalties than those listed above.

Civil Penalties for Violating Knife Laws

In addition to criminal penalties, individuals who violate California’s knife laws may also be subject to civil liability if their actions cause injury or property damage to another person or entity.

This means that anyone injured by an individual using an illegal type of pocketknife may have grounds for filing a lawsuit against them seeking monetary damages for medical bills, lost wages due to missed work days, pain and suffering caused by the incident, etc.

Furthermore, if it can be proven that the defendant acted recklessly when using their pocketknife then punitive damages might also be awarded which are designed to punish defendants who act with disregard for public safety or engage in malicious behavior towards others.

Preemption Statutes Regarding Local Knife Regulations in California

Preemption Statutes Regarding Local Knife Regulations in California is a law that prevents local governments from creating their own knife laws. This means that any regulations or restrictions on knives must be consistent with state law, and no additional rules can be added by local authorities.

Definition of Preemption Statutes Regarding Local Knife Regulations: Preemption statutes are designed to prevent cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions from enacting laws or ordinances that conflict with the state’s laws regarding knives. These statutes ensure uniformity across the state so that people who travel between different areas do not have to worry about whether they are violating any local knife regulations.

In California, for example, there is a preemption statute that states “No city…shall make or enforce any ordinance…which prohibits the possession…of any pocketknife having a blade three inches or less in length” (Cal Pen Code § 12023).

This means that even if a city has its own knife laws which restrict pocketknives with blades longer than three inches, those laws cannot supersede the state law allowing them. Similarly, some states have preemption statutes prohibiting cities from making their own concealed carry laws for knives; this ensures uniformity throughout the entire state regardless of where one travels within it.

FAQs in Relation to California Knife Law

What size of knife is legal to carry in California?

In California, it is legal to carry a pocket knife with a blade length of less than 2.5 inches in most areas. However, some cities and counties may have ordinances that restrict the size or type of knives allowed. It is important to check local laws before carrying any kind of knife as they can vary from place to place. Additionally, certain types of knives such as switchblades are illegal throughout the state regardless of blade length.

What kinds of knives are illegal in California?

In California, it is illegal to possess certain types of knives. These include switchblades, butterfly knives (also known as balisongs), and undetectable blades. It is also illegal to carry a concealed dirk or dagger on your person without a valid permit.

Additionally, any knife with a blade longer than two inches in length may not be carried openly in public places such as schools or government buildings.

Finally, some cities have additional restrictions on the possession and carrying of pocket knives; check local laws for more information.

What knives are legal in California?

In California, folding pocket knives with blades less than 2.5 inches in length are legal to own and carry without a permit. Switchblades, dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other double-edged knives are illegal to possess or sell within the state of California. It is also illegal to conceal any knife on your person while in public unless it meets the criteria mentioned above. Furthermore, it is illegal for anyone under 18 years old to purchase or possess any type of knife in California regardless of blade length.


In conclusion, understanding the knife laws in California is important for anyone who owns or carries a pocket knife.

It is essential to be aware of what types of knives are legal and illegal in the state, as well as any age restrictions that may apply. Additionally, it is important to know the concealed carry and open carry laws for pocket knives in California, as well as any potential penalties for violating California knife law.

Individuals should also familiarize themselves with preemption statutes regarding local regulations on knives within the state of California.

We need to take action and ensure that knife laws in California are updated, simplified, and enforced.

With the right policies in place, we can create a safer environment for everyone while protecting our rights as citizens of this state.

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