New York Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English)

Last updated on October 21st, 2023 at 02:58 am

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.

If you’re a knife enthusiast living in New York, understanding the laws and regulations surrounding knives is an indispensable part of being able to responsibly own and carry them.

To aid you in better comprehending your rights as a knife owner in New York State, this article will delineate an overview of New York knife law, including the types of knives that are permitted or prohibited, age restrictions for ownership, and carrying laws.

We’ll also delve into potential penalties for violations as well as defenses that may be available if charges are brought against someone accused of violating these laws. To conclude, we’ll provide some resources on where to learn more about Knife Laws in New York State.

Our Top Rated “50-State-Legal” Knives

*These knives are listed based on their broad legality across states, but always consult your local laws before making a purchase.

Does New York Have A Statewide Preemption For Knife Laws?

As of the current data, New York does not have a statewide preemption for knife laws. This implies that while the state has its own set of knife laws, local municipalities and cities within the state can enact and enforce their own knife ordinances as well. As a result, it’s conceivable to legally carry a knife under state law but still be in violation of a local ordinance.

This lack of preemption accentuates the importance of acquainting oneself with both state and local knife laws to evade inadvertent legal issues. It is advisable to consult with local law enforcement or legal professionals to grasp the specific knife regulations in your area.

Owning & Carrying Knives In New York State

What Knives Are Legal In New York?

In New York, many types of pocket knives are legal, provided the blade is less than four inches in length. This encompasses folding knives, pen knives, and utility knives. Since 2019, gravity knives have also become legal to own and carry.

The critical factor in determining the legality of a knife often lies not only in the type of knife but also in the way it is used or intended to be used. For instance, even a legal knife can become an illegal weapon if it’s used with unlawful intentions or in a threatening manner.

What Knives Are Illegal In New York?

Certain types of knives are outright illegal in New York. These include switchblades, ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, and cane swords. Disguised knives, such as belt buckle knives or lipstick knives, are also prohibited.

Despite the legality of most pocket knives, the interpretation of the law can sometimes vary with local law enforcement, so it’s always crucial to use knives responsibly and to be cognizant of how the law may be applied in different circumstances.

Carrying Laws in New York State

Open Carry Laws in New York State

In New York, it is generally legal to openly carry a pocket knife with a blade length of less than four inches. However, some types of knives such as switchblades are prohibited from being carried in public places. Since 2019, gravity knives, previously deemed illegal, are now permitted. Different municipalities may have their own laws regarding open carry of pocket knives, so it’s advisable to check local regulations before carrying any type of knife.

Concealed Carry Knife Laws In New York

The laws surrounding the concealed carry of knives in New York are somewhat more complex. While there is no statewide prohibition on carrying concealed knives, the knife must still meet the legal requirements mentioned above, and the carrier must not have any unlawful or threatening intent.

Age Restrictions For Owning & Carrying Knives

In New York, there are specific age restrictions tied to the ownership and carrying of knives. The law prohibits the sale of any dangerous knife to anyone under the age of 16. In this context, a dangerous knife refers to any knife that can cause serious harm or death, such as switchblades, metal knuckle knives, and other similar types of knives.

Penalties for Violating Knife Laws in New York State

Civil Penalties for Violating Knife Laws in New York State

Violations of knife laws in New York can result in civil penalties, which may include fines, court costs, and other associated fees. It’s vital to note that these penalties can be subject to change, so keeping updated with the latest legal provisions is recommended.

Criminal Penalties for Violating Knife Laws in New York State

In more grave cases, violations of knife laws can result in criminal charges. These offenses range from misdemeanors such as unlawful possession or sale of certain types of knives to felonies such as possession with intent to use unlawfully against another person. The severity of the sentence depends on the nature of the offense, prior convictions, and other aggravating factors.

Defenses to Charges of Violating Knife Laws in New York State

Several potential defenses can be used when facing charges related to violating knife laws in New York. These defenses often hinge on the defendant’s knowledge or intent. For instance, if the defendant was unaware that they were breaking the law, they might not be held liable for their actions.

The “defense of necessity” could apply if the knife was used for self-defense or protection from harm. The “choice of evils” defense might apply if the individual had no other option but to use their pocket knife due to an imminent threat or danger.

The “lawful possession” defense could apply if the pocket knife was legally obtained and is not being used unlawfully or in violation of other laws.

FAQs in Relation to New York Knife Law

What size knife is legal to carry in NY?

In New York, it is generally permissible to carry a knife with a blade length of less than four inches. However, the legality of a knife can also hinge on the manner and intent with which it is used, not merely the type of knife and its size.

Is it legal to carry a knife in New York?

Carrying a pocket knife in New York is legal, provided the blade is less than four inches long. However, the handle length is not specified in the law. The knife must not be a switchblade, ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, or another type of prohibited weapon. Local laws may vary, so it’s imperative to check with your local police department for specific regulations.

Can I own a switchblade in New York?

No, you cannot own a switchblade in New York unless you belong to one of the exempted classes of individuals such as state and local employees, active-duty U.S. Military, as well as licensed hunters, fur trappers, and fishermen. Switchblades, along with ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, and disguised knives such as belt buckle knives or cane swords, are generally illegal in New York.

What are the penalties for carrying an illegal knife in New York?

The penalties for carrying an illegal knife in New York can be severe. Violations can result in both civil and criminal charges. Civil penalties may include fines, while criminal charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the type of knife and the circumstances, potentially leading to imprisonment of several months to years.

Can I carry a knife for self-defense in New York?

While it is legal to carry a knife in New York, your intent matters significantly. Carrying a knife for self-defense can be legal, as long as the knife is within legal limits and isn’t used in a threatening or unlawful manner. However, if you use it in a way that causes alarm or distress to others, you may face charges.

Are butterfly knives legal in New York?

The legality of butterfly knives in New York is a grey area. They may be considered gravity knives, which have been legalized since 2019. Nonetheless, it’s prudent to exercise caution and consult with legal professionals or local law enforcement to understand the precise legal standing of butterfly knives in your locality.

Are there any locations where I can’t carry a knife in New York?

Yes, there are several locations where carrying a knife is strictly prohibited in New York, regardless of its size or type. These include schools, government buildings, public transportation systems, and any establishment that serves alcohol. Additionally, carrying knives is restricted in court facilities, correctional facilities, and some airports.

New York State Knife Law References

Official Sources of New York’s Knife Laws

  • New York Penal Law Sections:
    • § 265.00: Definitions.
    • § 265.01: Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.
    • § 265.02: Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree.
    • § 265.01-A: Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds.
    • § 265.05: Unlawful Possession of Weapons by Persons Under Sixteen.
    • § 265.06: Unlawful Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds.
    • § 265.10: Manufacture, transport, disposition and defacement of weapons and dangerous instruments and appliances.
    • § 265.15: Presumptions of possession, unlawful intent and defacement.
    • § 265.20: Exemptions.
  • New York Criminal Procedure Law Sections:
    • § 1.20: Definitions of terms of general use in this chapter.
    • § 2.10: Persons designated as peace officers.

Significant Court Cases

Case Name/TitleSummary
Copeland v. VanceThe gravity knife law in New York was not overly vague.
In re: Alicia PVague knife laws cannot be enforced against juveniles carrying a knife.
Knife Rights’ NYC Gravity Knife CaseNY Court of Special Sessions categorized gravity knives with switchblades, convicting a salesperson.

Timeline of Major Changes

  • February 1958: New York Court of Special Sessions categorized gravity knives with switch-blades.
  • January 27, 1982: Ruling in In re: Alicia P stating vague knife laws can’t be enforced against juveniles carrying a knife.
  • January 27, 2017: Ruling in Copeland v. Vance confirming the gravity knife law in New York was not overly vague.
  • May 30, 2019: New York State repealed the ban on gravity knives, making it legal to possess them.
  • June 17, 2019: New York approved a bill allowing certain non-U.S. citizens more rights regarding knife possession.
  • June 23, 2022: U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen Decision welcomed by the knife community for confirming limitations on government restrictions regarding knives.


Understanding and complying with knife laws in New York State is important for anyone who enjoys owning or carrying a pocket knife. It’s important to know the types of knives allowed, age restrictions, carrying laws, and potential penalties for violating these laws. With this knowledge, you can be sure that you are staying within the boundaries of the law when it comes to New York knife law.

The laws governing knives in New York are complex and often confusing. Too much so in my opinion. Going forward we must work together to create clear, sensible knife legislation that balances public safety with the rights of responsible citizens who use pocket knives for everyday tasks.

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