California Knife Laws

California Knife Laws: Everything There Is To Know

With a vast number of popular attractions, California is an important state in the US and is extra careful when it comes to knives. The California knife laws are extra detailed compared to other states.

As a result, if you need to carry a knife for whatever reason, then knowing every element of it is key.

The most important aspects here in California are the length of the knife, the type of knife, and the places where a legal knife becomes illegal.

Surprisingly, the Bear Flag State supports self-defense with a knife. You will remain unfined and have no jail time.

However, that doesn’t mean California is allowing you to stab someone. You can’t do that but surely brandish a knife. There’s a lot to learn today so let’s get started.


Here are the laws if you just want to look them over:

  • Switchblades up to a 2 inches blade size are legal.
  • You cannot do concealed carry with any knife except a foldable one.
  • A knife that has a blade length of up to inches and is foldable is allowed in schools and universities.
  • There is no cap for the knife length in legal knives.
  • Lenient on self-defense unless someone stabs with it.
  • $1000 and up to a year jail time penalty if he/she is considered a misdemeanor.
  • $10000 and up to 3 years jail time penalty if he/she is considered a felony.

Illegal Knives In California

The list of illegal knives for most states is the same. They are the ones that are capable of deep cuts and are dangerous to own. Here are the knives that you don’t want to carry with you;

  • Switchblade Knives
  • Ballistic knives
  • Belt Buckle Knives
  • Machete
  • Disguised Knife
  • Gravity knife
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The highlighting knife here is the switchblade one. It is backed up by the federal law itself. The U.S. Code Chapter 29 is entirely based on switchblades.

The Penal Code Section 17235 clearly states switchblade;

Penal Code

What is federal law? Well, it’s the head of all laws that must be followed in every state in the United States. The law says that any knife that opens up with the mechanism of push, spring, or button is considered a switchblade knife.

15 U.S. Code § 1243

As per 15 U.S. Code § 1243, switchblades are not allowed for any kind of transportation, manufacturing, or selling.

Thus, in most states, switchblades are forbidden. However, the knife laws in California say something else. You will know why further on.

Legal Knives In California

The Golden State believes that anyone has the right to carry a knife for their own useful and non-harming purposes. Therefore, any knife that looks safe is safe to carry.

Some great examples would be:

  • Pocket Knives
  • Daggers
  • Hunting Knives
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Kitchen Knife

All things aside, there is a mechanism that the knives must have to redeem themselves as legal. It should be a normal knife or a foldable one.

Additionally, if it’s a foldable one, then it must have a feature that has a small resistance working when opening it.

What Is The Legal Knife Length In California?

As mentioned before in the illegal knives section that there’s a twist in the switchblade knives; here it is.

According to the laws, the knife length is measured from the point to the bolster section of the knife. In a nutshell, it’s the size of the blade.

Overall, there is no cap on the legal knife length in California. You can carry a regular knife or a foldable one without any worry about the blade size.

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However, it should not fall under the illegal knife category, for example, a machete.

On the other hand, while most states neglect switchblades, the Golden State allows you 2 inches on these knives. That means you can certainly carry a switchblade that has the point-to bolster size of 2inch or less.

Restrictions On Concealed Carry

Now that you know what size knife is legal to carry in California, let’s check out some concealed carry restrictions. When it comes to concealed carry, the regulations are very tight.

You don’t need to sweat if it’s a foldable knife. As mentioned before, the rules almost don’t exist for the foldable ones.

As a result, it doesn’t matter what size the knife is and if you are doing an open carry or a concealed carry. However, the blade cannot remain exposed when in concealed carry.

Contrarily, the problem arises with all the other knives in place. Especially the dirks and daggers. California Penal Code Section 21310 conveys that dirks and daggers must be carried openly.

Additionally, the blade must be covered with a sheath.

Restricted Areas

There are certain areas that the laws of California emphasize and have forbidden the use of a dangerous knife.

Schools, universities, and public property have laws that are strict with knives but not as strict as in other states.

As discussed, California regulations are more detailed than the others. Thus, while most of them banned knives, California allows one but with special rules. It is mostly due to the knives that one might need in a school or university kitchen.

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Firstly, the 626.10 PC suggests that only foldable knives are allowed in schools and universities. Secondly, the blade size cannot be more than two inches.

On the other hand, for public properties, everything remains the same, but the blade size goes up to four inches.

Fines And Jail Time For Violating California Knife Laws

When you break a law of the Golden State, you are chosen by the judge to either be a misdemeanor or a felony. It entirely depends on the violations and how you violated them.

Nevertheless, for a misdemeanor, the punishment can go up to a thousand dollars and a year of jail time. On the other hand, a felony will get fined up to $10000.

Additionally, a jail time that is dependent on the crime and has the potential to go up to 3 years.

However, when it comes to self-defense, the law will certainly support you. Unless you stab someone with a knife, you have government support.

If you can prove that it was used only to protect yourself from someone trying to harm you, then you can go free.


Overall, the California knife laws are very reasonable and well thought out. If it’s a foldable knife, then you will get away with a lot of the regulations that others need to follow.

You can do both open-carry and conceal carry with it. On the other hand, dirks and daggers require a sheath and cannot be concealed carry.

Apart from schools, universities, and public properties, you can carry legal knives. So yes, you can carry a knife in car in California if you ever want to.

But make sure that its length is less than two inches if it’s a switchblade.

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