Updated for 2021
As the most populous state in the country and with a wide range of political viewpoints the knife laws in California can be difficult to interpret. That is why we have created this handy guide to better understand the specifics of the law when it comes to understanding under what circumstances it is legal to carry a knife in the state of CA.
With that being said, when carrying a knife – you’re at an increased risk for trouble with law enforcement and if you get detained, having a knife on you can potentially exacerbate the situation unless you have a very specific reason you’re carrying the knife and can easily explain that to the detaining or arresting officer.
What knives are explicitly illegal in California
California’s laws generally are restricted when it comes to knives that are easily to disguise, hide, or designed to be undetectable. There are explicit provisions in the California penal code outlawing the ownership and carry of the following types of knives:
- Ballistic knives
- Belt buckle knives
- Pen knives
- Cane swords or knives
- Switchblades/balisongs with blades longer than 2 inches
- OTF/Out the front knives with blades longer than 2 inches
Knife Size regulations in California
There are not currently an knife size restrictions in California, meaning you can carry a knife which is any length so long as it is not one of the length restricted knives explicitly mentioned in the California penal code.
You are limited to a maximum of 2” blades under the following circumstances:
- Switchblades must be under 2 in
- Balisongs must be under 2 in
- Automatic/OTF knives must be under 2 in
- On school grounds you are restricted to knives under 2.5 in
- On college campuses you are restricted to all types of knives under 2.5 in
- In the city of Los Angeles it is illegal to carry any knife longer than 3 in
Local Municipality Knife Laws in California
Individual cities and municipalities within California have their own local laws that pertain to knife laws within that specific city. Below are specific laws related to each individual city in the state of California
Los Angeles Specific Knife Laws
Knives and daggers are explicitly banned from being open carried in “plain view” any way when in the Los Angeles city limits. This is outlined in section 13.62.020 of the Los Angeles City Code.
Any knife longer than 3 inches, including kitchen and chefs knives are illegal to be shown in public regardless of the purpose when in Los Angeles, CA.
Sacramento Knife Laws
In Sacramento, CA it is illegal to sell or own any sort of push button or spring assisted knife. This includes switch blades, automatic knives and out the front knives.
It is also illegal for any dangerous or deadly weapon (knife) to be carried in an automobile.
San Francisco Knife Laws
San Francisco, CA the most restrictive knife laws in the state of California and explicitly prohibits certain knives that are legal throughout the rest of the state.
SF Police Code Article 17, § 1291(a) states the following knives are illegal within the city limits:
- Any blade longer than 3 inches in length
- Any spring assisted knife
- Any ice pick or sharpened stabbing tool
- Any straight edge razor
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Karambits Legal in California?
Karambits are legal to carry in the state of California provided they do not have a double edged blade and they are not concealed while carrying. If the karambit is sharpened on either side it can be considered a dagger or dirk, which is legal to own and open carry, but not legal to conceal.
Are throwing knives legal in California?
Due to the nature of the doubled edged blade on throwing stars, throwing knives, they are considered daggers, which can be legally open carried in a sheath or on your belt but not concealed in a pouch, purse or bag. This makes them legal to use and practice with in your own home assuming it is done so in private.
Are balisongs legal in California?
Balisong knives are legal in the state of California if they have a blade length which is under 2 in. If the blade is over 2 in, they are illegal to carry, sell, or buy – however, they are legal to own one if kept in your house. Meaning they need to be purchased outside of the state and kept at home.
Are Swords legal in California?
Yes, swords are currently legal to carry while sheathed in California. In fact, if you have a sword and it is unsheathed, it can be considered a dagger and would at that point be illegal. However, assuming the sword is open carried in plain sight and sheathed within a scabbard or some equivalent method it is legal to possess and carry a sword. However, concealed swords, such as cane swords, are always illegal.
Is it legal to carry a knife on school grounds or college campuses?
California Penal code 626.10 states that it is illegal to carry any knife longer than 2.5 in on any K-12 school grounds or on any college campus in the state of California.
Can a minor carry a knife in California
It is currently legal for a minor to carry a knife in California so long as that knife follows the other laws in the state. No part of the California penal code explicitly prevents minors (people under the age of 18) from carrying a knife.