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California Knife Laws

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Understanding Knife Laws in California

California’s knife laws regulate the distribution and possession of knives in the state. The laws aim to ensure public safety by controlling the use of these dangerous objects.

The state of California boasts a complex set of laws regarding the possession, sale, and use of knives. California knife laws are governed by state statutes. However, they can be affected by local municipal ordinances, leading to potential confusion.

Knowledge of these laws is crucial for state residents and visitors. If you plan to collect, carry, or own certain knives, you want to make sure that they are legal in the state. You should also know whether you are handling them in a legal manner.

Classification of Knives in California

California law recognizes several different types of knives. Each type has its own set of rules and regulations. Grouped by their legal status, there are three classes of knives in California.

Knives That Are Legal Carried Openly or Concealed

Folding knives are legal in California as long as they are closed and not used in a threatening manner. This includes Swiss army knives, box cutters, pocket knives, etc.

California Penal Code 17235 PC describes a legal folding knife as a knife that opens with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade. Such knives usually have a mechanism that provides resistance in opening the blade or that pushes the blade back toward its closed position.

Knives That Are Only Legal When Carried Openly

In California, fixed-blade knives can only be carried openly. These knives are known as dirks and daggers, and they are classified as knives that can readily be used as stabbing weapons. There are a variety of knives that have no folding mechanism or removable blades, including bowie knives, survival knives, and even kitchen knives.

Fixed-blade knives are only legal if worn openly in a sheath suspended from the waist in public. Knives that are concealed are those that are not visible to others or are disguised to appear as something else. The concealed carrying of a fixed-blade knife can be a felony or misdemeanor.

Illegal Knives

The importation, manufacture, sale, exportation, or distribution of any knife or other instrument capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that a metal detector cannot detect is illegal under the California Penal Code. A violation of this law is a misdemeanor.

Furthermore, certain types of knives are specifically made illegal by California law.

Ballistic Knives

Ballistic knives are defined as any device which launches a knife blade as a projectile. Manufacturing, selling, importing, or possessing them could constitute a misdemeanor or felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, it would attract a maximum of a year in county jail. If charged as a felony, it could attract up to 3 years in prison. A knife charge is more likely to be charged as a felony if it is used in other criminal activities.

Switchblade Knives

Switchblades resemble pocket knives. They include spring-blade knives, snap-blade knives, gravity knives, or any other similar type of knife with a blade that is two or more inches in length. Their blades can be released automatically by a flick of a button, applying pressure on the handle, flipping the wrist, or some other mechanical device. They could also be released by the weight of the blade itself or some other type of mechanism. Such knives are illegal to import, sell, buy, or possess and result in misdemeanor charges.

Other Illegal Knives in California

The following knives are also illegal:

  • Lipstick case knives
  • Shobi-zue knives
  • Air gauge knives
  • Belt buckle knives
  • Cane knives/swords
  • Writing pen knives

Prosecutors can charge violations of these knife laws as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Knife Laws in Schools and Government Buildings

California has strict laws against carrying knives in schools, colleges, and government buildings.

It is illegal to bring a knife with a blade longer than 2.5 inches onto the grounds of any public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any grades 1 to 12, inclusive. These include dirks or daggers, lockable pocket knives, and ice picks.

The Penal Code also prohibits carrying knives with blades longer than 4 inches into state and local government buildings. Knives with fixed blades or blades capable of being fixed are also banned.

California Knife Laws and Self-Defense

People primarily carry knives around for self-defense and not to commit a knife crime. As such, the law allows carrying specific knives to the extent that the general public is reasonably safe. It follows that these knives are allowed to be used in self-defense scenarios.

However, the general caveat is that the force used in defending yourself must be reasonable, given the circumstances. As such, you should be free from a knife charge if your use of force is reasonable while defending yourself. If you do get charged, a criminal defense attorney should be able to defend you successfully.

Remember that using an illegal knife for self-defense can still lead to charges, regardless of force.

Why You Might Need a Criminal Defense Attorney

In addition to state laws, local municipalities may also have their own knife laws. These local laws can be more restrictive than state laws. So, it is helpful to have an attorney who is familiar with the local law of your area.

Furthermore, knife-related crimes involving assault & battery may complicate your case. Where your knife charge involves another crime, the stakes are much higher. You could be looking at more jail time, fines, deportation, etc. Representation by a skilled criminal lawyer may be your only hope in such cases.

Understanding California’s knife laws can help you remain on the right side of the law. However, due to the complexity of the law, consulting with a legal professional provides more personalized guidance.

More Questions? Contact the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney

If you or your loved one is facing knife charges in Los Angeles, CA, we would love to help. From misdemeanors to felonies, our team has the skill, experience, and dedication to take on your case. We can provide you with the aggressive defense you need to overcome your charges.

Our law firm offers services in English, Spanish, and Russian, so language is never a barrier. Furthermore, we offer a free first consultation to our potential clients. Our Los Angeles criminal attorneys are willing, ready, and able to defend you. So hurry now and contact us. Time is of the essence!

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Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.