Knifes Possession In California (FAQ)

What are California's knife laws? (USA)?
I'm going to a knife & gun show and I was wondering what the California state laws say about knife buying and ownership. Please give me all information you have, like: how long does it have to be if it's concealed? are there any lengths/sizes that are just plain illegal? are there certain types of knives that are illegal? (I know the butterfly knife is illegal, for example) Where is it illegal to carry a knife? (schools?)

Penal Code section 653k prohibits the sale or possession in public or in a vehicle of switchblade knives with a blade two or more inches in length, whether or not it is concealed. Penal Code section 12020 prohibits carrying a concealed dirk or dagger on your person, in public or private, no matter what length. Under California law, almost any pointy thing, including steak knives and knitting needles, can be a dirk or dagger. (People v. Rubalcava (2000) 23 Cal.4th 322.)

Beyond these general prohibitions, it is illegal to possess a knife with a fixed blade (or one which can be fixed) of over four inches in any state or local public building without written permission or at any meeting required to be open to the public. (Penal Code section 171b.) A knife with a fixed or fixable blade in excess of four inches is illegal to possess in the "sterile area" of an airport. (Penal Code section 171.5--good luck getting it past security in the first place.)

It is generally unlawful to have a dirk or dagger on a school ground (including colleges), as well as fixed blade knives (which would appear to be dirks or daggers anyway), and any knife with a blade over 2.5 inches. (Penal Code section 626.10.) Note that while it may not be illegal, possession of ANY knife on a school ground may be a basis for expulsion from school. (Education Code section 48915.)

Caveat: This deals only with STATE law. There may be additional local ordinances governing knife possession.

Source(s): Cited statutes and 30 years as a criminal defense attorney.

Are there any California laws prohibiting carrying knives in your car?
I was wondering if I can carry a over 3 inches knife in my glove department without getting in trouble with the cops. Also, I am on PROBATION.

The only knives which regulated by type in California are switch blades having a blade of two or more inches. Switch blade includes, generally, any knife which can be opened automatically (even by a fip of the wrist). Such knives cannot be possessed, openly or concealed, in any public place or in the passenger/driver area of a vehicle. (Penal Code section 653k)

Penal Code section 12020 governs the possession of "dirks or daggers" if concealed on the person. There is no blade length restriction. There is no regulation of concealment in a vehicle. However, "dirk or dagger" is VERY broadly defined, and can include any pointy thing which does not fold (e.g., steak knives, knitting needles), or can be fixed in the open position. (See People v. Rubalcava (2000) 23 Cal.4th 322.)

Consequently, unless your knife is a switch blade, it would not appear to violate State law if you have it in your glove compartment. However, as noted there may be local ordinances involved here as well (though there may be a legal argument since the Rubalcava decision that only the State can regulate knives).

However, as noted, there may be local ordinances involved as well. In the City of Los Angeles, it is illegal to carry a knife (including things like ice picks) with a blade of over three inches openly in a public place, except for work, recreation, or religious purposes. (L.A. Muni Code, 55.10.) Since a knife in a glove compartment is not carried openly, this ordinance would not be violated.

As far as I can tell, if you buy a steak knife with a blade over three inches long in L.A., there is no way you can legally carry it home. If you put it in a bag, you violate Penal Code section 12020, and if you don't you violate LAMC 55.10. (There may be a defense that it was possessed for a peaceful purpose under the case of People v. Grubb (1965) 63 Cal.2d 614, but that is not certain.)

Of course, as a probationer, you may have other restrictions regarding the possession of dangerous weapons beyond those included in state or local laws.