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

Till now, you may have known that knife is just used for important purposes like chopping vegetables or meats, cutting woods or ropes, defensive acts, etc. But a few people have knowledge about using knives following the legal rules of the United States. As an urbanite country, crime and corruption are the vital parts there. So, some legal limitations in using knives have been introduced by State Government for the common citizens and migrants of the place. As per California Knife Law, every citizen has to follow the rules.

There are different legislation for respective states of the United States. If you don’t know about the legal rules then understand the Federal Knife Law before buying, selling, or carrying knives. Remember, the violation of the legal rules of different states in the U.S may put you behind the bar or charge a monetary penalty.

State Knife Law in California

California (CA) is one of the popular metropolitan and famous states covering the third-largest area in America. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the Crime Violence Rate has increased up to 1.5% from the year 2017. So, the California Knife Law is relatively made strict in restricting the use of knives, in comparison to other states in the country. There are three general categories of the legislation according to Switchblade Knife Act in California:

  1. Carry Law – Legal knives can be carried openly
  2. Concealment Law – Some knives cannot be carried by concealing in a misleading way
  3. Ownership Law – Illegal knives are restricted to use or buy

Federal Law

It is the fundamental right of every citizen to bear arms for defense, but he or she needs to follow some legal limitations. It is prohibited to sell a knife to minors under 18 years old. Moreover, a minor cannot buy or carry a knife. Breaching the law may be punishable in terms of financial penalty or imprisonment as per the Switchblade Knife Act.


As per California Penal Code – Section 17235, folded knives and pocket knives are not restricted to be carried by the minor, but they can be carried with legal permission. The knife length must not be more than 2-3 inches long.

Types of Legal Knives in California

As a citizen or new migrant to California, you can buy, carry and sell knives according to the legal limitations because it is your solemn duty to obey the federal rules of California Law. However, you also have the right to use these knives:

  1. Bowie Knives – A Bowie Knife is a fixed-blade knife that is double-edged and longer in size. This sharp-bladed knife is often used to slice fishes and meat. Moreover, you can use it to cut ropes, clothes, and wood. Some people use this knife for their defense also, but you need to carry it openly, attached to your waist with permission of the Federal Government, otherwise this will be the breach of Concealment Law in California.
  2. Chef’s Knives – Chef’s knives are commonly used to cut vegetables, fruits, meats, and fishes. Generally, it is used for kitchen purpose. As it is larger in size, you need to show the proof to be a chef or you need a special license to use it at the kitchen of your house. The rectangular-bladed hatchet or the carving of the knife is slender and sharp. You can often use it for self-defense if required.

Blade Length Rules of California Knife Law

California has specific restrictions in terms of blade length of the knives, and you need to obey the legal rules as a citizen or visitor to the state. Whether you are using folded or open knives, the length of the blade should not be more than 2-3 inches, as per Switchblade Act.

Violating the blade length legislation can put you behind the lock-up for 3 years or can charge you $500 compensation.

People in the armed forces, hunters, fishermen, and butchers can only use long knives during their duty hours. They have to show license and ID proof for keeping different types of knives.

Types of Illegal knives in California

Some knives are prohibited to buy, manufacture, sell and carry, as per California Knife Law. As a citizen of the state, you need to know about the legal restrictions because violation of rules may compensate you. Have a look at every illegal knife as per the California Penal Code:

  1. Belt-Buckle Knife – The Belt-Buckle Knife is a concealed knife that is attached with the buckle of the belt in a hidden way. Some people use this for self-defense, but it is often misused by some people for vicious felony to harm others. According to Section 20410 of California Knife Law, Belt-Buckle knife is highly prohibited by the Federal Government because it is against Concealment Law of California. You cannot use these knives with misdemeanor as per state rules.
  2. Cane Sword – A Cane Sword or Sword Stick is a type of cane that contains a hidden blade covering with a stick. This is an old weapon commonly used for self-defense since many years. This deceptive weapon can harm people. So, as per the Section 20510 of Concealment Act in California, you cannot carry this deadly weapon that can be the source of a felony.    
  3. Pen Knife – It is a small folding knife in the style of a pen, which does not look like a blade or knife from outside. Using this misleading knife is violation of Section 20910 – California Knife Law that falls under Concealment Law.   
  4. Lipstick Knife – The Lipstick Knife is hidden weapon, looks like a lipstick but concealed with a sharp and slender knife, used for self-defense that can be carried in pocket or bag. However, according to Section 20610 of California Penal Code, Lipstick Knife is a misleading weapon, so this blade is restricted to use and carry in public places, except your own property.
  5. Ballistic (Throwing) Knife – This knife has a detachable bade which can be easily ejected to a distance by possessing an operating trigger or switch in the handle. This knife can be thrown for attack or self-defense. This is a deadly and harmful weapon, so as per, Section 21110 of California Knife Law, it is prohibited to carry this throwing knife or blade.   
  6. Stiletto Knife – This is an automatic or switch-blade knife that has a pointed needle-like point. The sharp and slender blades are generally used for slashing or cutting meat and other hard things. But these are a high-pointed knife and deadly, so it is legally not allowed to use.     
  7. Daggers/Dirks – Dirk is a long thrusting dagger that is often used by people in the military department during the hours of their duty. According to California Penal Code 16470, dirk or dagger is a dangerous weapon which can be used to stab someone. So, as per Section 21310, dirk is prohibited to use or carry.  
  8. Shobi-Zue Knife – The other name of Shobi-Zue Knife is Air Gauge Knife that is sharp, foldable and you can hold it with a concealing pole, crutch or rod. However, as per California Penal Code 17160, Section 20710 the Shobi-Zue Knife is restricted to use in California.
  9. Knuckle Knife – There are different kinds of Knuckle Knives such as Brass Knuckles, Knuckle-Busters, Gun-Shaped Knuckle Knife, etc. These types of knives can really act as a dangerous tool to attack or harm someone. So, according to Section 21810 of California Knife Law, Knuckle Knife is legally restricted to be used in the state. 
  10. Blackjack Knife – These are the fixed-bladed and hard-handled knife, often used for defense. These knives are highly-edged, so it’s dangerous. Therefore, as per Section 22210 of California Knife Law, you cannot buy or use Blackjack Knife in California.
  11. Ice Picks – This is a tool to break the ice or pick up ice from icing-tray. It is generally used for restaurants and home, but legally you cannot use it as a citizen of California without ID proof. People often misuse Ice Picks to attack others by throwing or stabbing them with an attack. 

Moreover, you cannot manufacture, sell and carry the aforesaid dangerous blades or weapons as per California Penal Code – Section 16590 PC. As a manufacturer or seller, you have to ask for the license before manufacturing or exporting the above-mentioned prohibited knives from California. You also cannot brandish knives as per, Penal Code – Section 417 in public.

If you assault someone with a deadly weapon then you will be punished under California Penal Code – Section 245(a)(1) PC.

Penalties for Breaching the California Knife Law

Violating the above-mentioned legislation will be punishable for both the citizens and migrants in California in the following ways:

  • Selling and manufacturing the deadly weapon by breaching the California Penal Code – Section 16590 PC is a great offense. You may be convicted to prison for 1-3 years for this felony.
  • If you breach the Concealment LawOwnership Law and Carrying Law under Switchblade Act, and buy or carry the illegal knives then you have to compensate financially, and you will be jailed in state’s or country’s prison for 3 years under Misdemeanor Probation or Misleading Act.
  • Brandishing the knives and breaching California Penal Code – Section 417, by threatening someone can be legally punishable. You will be behind the bar for 3 years or have to economically compensate.
  • Attacking or assaulting with a deadly knife is a ‘wobbler’ offense and violation of the California Penal Code – Section 245(a)(1) PC, which can be convicted as a misdemeanor felony. If an innocent is injured or harmed physically then the assaulter will be under 4 years imprisonment or a maximum $10,000 have to be compensated by him or her.

Restricted Places to Carry Knife as per California Law

There are many places where weapons and deadly blades are highly prohibited and you cannot carry knives at those places without legal permission. Get aware of these restricted places before you carry knives:

  1. Government Building: As per California Penal Code – Section 171b, illegal knives are restricted to be carried in government, state or local public buildings like court and municipality. Violation of this legislation is a felony and you will be punished for a misdemeanor from 1 to 3 years in California State Prison. 
  2. Educational Institute: According to the California Penal Code – Section 626.10, it’s illegal to carry knives to the school, colleges, and university. Moreover, razor blades are also prohibited in educational institutions. For doing this act of misdemeanor and breaching the penal code; you can be convicted to jail for 1 year, and you may have to work for the state.   
  3. Federal Properties: In the federal properties like airports, post offices, and banks, you cannot carry knives, as per 15 USC 1241-44 and 18 USC 1716 under Federal Switchblade Law. If you violate this legal rule then you will be fined $2,000 or imprisoned for 5 years.
  4. Public Vehicles and Public Places: It is highly restricted to carry or sell deadly knives or weapons in the public transports like bus, shuttle, metro, etc. Moreover, you also cannot carry illegal knives in public places like markets, streets or fair in a concealed way. Performing such acts is the violation of the rules of the California Penal Code – Section 21510. For this misdemeanor or misleading felony, you will be fined $1000 or sentence to 1 year in the country jail.

Final Note

If you make proper use of knives then the knife is a sharp-edged tool that helps you in cutting, and defending yourself when required, but misuse of blades can harm others. As a citizen of the state, you have to obey the legislation of California Knife Law. So, if you want to use, buy, carry or sell a knife then follow the Federal Limitations of the state to get rid of unnecessary penalties.

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