Knife Law in California: How to Legally Carry a Knife in California?

Knife law in California is a bit confusing and can be hard to understand since there are too many legal terms that you aren’t aware of. That’s why I have gone through extensive research so that I can understand the California knife laws and make sure you all also understand them with ease. Let’s just admit understanding knife laws are mandatory for all residents of California – that’s because a knife is an essential tool, and we go a single day without knives. Whether it’s for cooking, hunting, fishing, self-defense, and other tasks, the knife is mandatory. But possession and carrying of knives are restricted due to their involvement in various crimes and can be used as weapons. And wielding a knife without knowing all laws and regulations can put you behind bars. Thus, make sure to understand all the laws regarding knives in California.

Definition and Types of Knives Regulated in California

California State Law defines a knife as any instrument with a blade that is capable of cutting and stabbing and causing serious bodily injury. For example, folding knives, switchblades, fixed-blade knives, daggers, and others are the most common types of knives. On the other hand, §16430 defines a deadly weapon, which is a weapon the possession and concealed carrying of which is prohibited by any provision listed in §16590. Now, let’s take a look at which knives are legal and which are prohibited in California:

Which Knives Are Legal in California?

These knives are legal to possess and carry in California:

Which Knives Are Prohibited in California?

As per §16590, knives that are prohibited in California are:
  • Air gauge knife (§20310).
  • Belt buckle knife (§20410).
  • Lipstick case knife (§20610).
  • Writing pen knife (§20910).
  • Undetectable knife (§24610).
  • Shobi-zue (§20710).
  • Cane sword (§20510).
  • Switchblade knife (§17235).
  • Ballistic knife (§21110).
  • Concealed dirk (§21310).
  • Concealed daggers (§21310).
  • Metal knuckles (§21810).
  • Shuriken (§22410).

Possession and Carrying of Knives in California

In California, it is not legal to carry all sorts of knives open and concealed. Let’s take a look at what the knife-carrying restrictions in California are:

Open Carry Regulations for Knives in California

In California, you can open carry all legal knives that are not prohibited by the state as per §21310. However, there are a few things that you have to keep in mind that are; you have to be 18 years or older. In the meantime, the knife should be less than 2.5 inches.

Conceal Carry Regulations for Knives in California

California knife law §21310 also states about the conceal carrying of knives. You, as a knife wielder, can’t conceal carry any dirk or daggers. At the same time, all prohibited knives are illegal to conceal carrying. You can conceal carry pocket knives. And it should be noted that keeping a knife on a sheath that is openly carried is not considered concealed as per §20200.

Prohibited Places for Carrying Knives in California

California knife laws are quite strict. And even if some knives are free to possess and carry within the state, there are few locations where knives and other weapons are strictly prohibited. As per §626.10, it is illegal to carry and possess knives on school grounds that, include public and private schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions. On the other hand, §171b, knives are prohibited from public or local buildings as well as public meetings. §171.5 states that knives are prohibited from airports and passenger vessel terminals. According to §171.7, carrying knives in sterile areas is also prohibited.

Knife Blade Length Restrictions in California

There are no legal statutes in California State Law that regulates the knife blade length. However, as per my research, it is advised to keep the blade length below 2.5 inches. As per §21510, it is illegal to possess and carry switchblades longer than 2 inches.

Age Restrictions for Possessing Knives in California

There is a certain age limit in California that regulates when an individual can lawfully wield a knife, which is 18 years. That means you have to be at least 18 to carry and possess knives. If you are under that age limit, you can carry a pocket knife but only with parental permission.

Consequences and Penalties for Violating California Knife Laws

Violation of California’s knife law can put you in serious trouble. If you are found with a prohibited knife or possessing them in public transport or airport, you will be punished by six months of prison time or/and a $1,000 fine. On the other hand, possessing dirks and daggers concealed will put you behind bars for one year. And possessing knives on school grounds or other prohibited locations will lead you to confinement for up to one year.

Exceptions and Exemptions

Although California knife laws might be a bit strict, these laws won’t be enforced on some personnel. For instance, military officers, law enforcement officers, and National Guards are exempt from these knife laws.

Statewide Preemption Laws in California

There is no statewide preemption in California regarding knife laws. Thus, municipalities and local government can have their own laws regulating knife possession and carrying.

Are Knife Laws in Georgia and California Similar?

Knife laws in georgia and California vary significantly. In Georgia, it is legal to openly carry almost any type of knife, as long as it is not intended for a malicious purpose. However, in California, restrictions are much stricter, with certain types of knives considered illegal altogether. It is important to be aware of the laws in each state to avoid any legal issues.


I hope now you guys all get how hard it is to possess a knife in California. But, by obeying all the California knife laws, you can stay away from legal issues. Just don’t possess or carry a knife if you are not 18. Don’t possess a prohibited knife. Keep the blade length below 2.5 inches. And stay away from school grounds and public transport such as airports if you have a knife.


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