Understanding California’s Knife Laws and Penalties for Assault With a Deadly Weapon

California maintains strict regulations on the possession and use of knives, especially in cases involving assault with a deadly weapon. It is essential for both residents and visitors to have a thorough understanding of these laws in order to avoid serious legal consequences.

Legal and Illegal Knives: What Can You Carry?

California’s knife laws clearly outline the types of knives that are allowed and those that are strictly prohibited. It is important to understand that there are certain knives that are always illegal to possess, sell, manufacture, or import. These include ballistic knives, belt-buckle knives, lipstick case knives, cane swords/cane knives, shobi-zues, air gauge knives, writing pen knives, switchblades with a blade two inches or longer, and undetectable knives.

Folding knives, which include pocketknives and Swiss Army knives, are permitted to be carried openly or concealed in California as long as they are in the folded position. There is no specific limit on blade length for folding knives according to California Penal Code Section 17235. However, it is important to note that daggers or fixed blade knives must be carried openly and cannot be concealed.

Penalties for Illegal Possession or Use


The penalties imposed for violating these regulations will vary depending on the severity of the offense. If someone is found in possession of a switchblade or an undetectable knife, they can be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a potential sentence of up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In the case of other prohibited knives, the offense may be classified as a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor offenses can result in a punishment of up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, while felony offenses can lead to a sentence of 16 months to three years in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

Carrying Knives in Restricted Areas

Certain areas in California have additional restrictions when it comes to carrying knives. These restrictions apply to public buildings, schools, and specific federal properties. It is important to note that violating these prohibitions can result in serious consequences, including imprisonment.

For instance, Penal Code 171b specifically prohibits carrying certain knives into state or local public buildings or meetings that are open to the public. It is considered a wobbler offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted, individuals could face up to three years in state prison.

It is crucial to be aware of these restrictions and to abide by them to avoid any legal complications.

Self-Defense and Legal Defenses

Carrying a knife for self-defense is still considered a valid reason, but the laws surrounding this can be quite intricate. In California, it is permissible to carry a legally approved knife in a sheath worn around the waist, whether concealed or not. However, if you have a fixed-blade knife, it must be openly carried and not concealed.

If you find yourself accused of illegal knife possession or use, there are a few defenses that can be used. For instance, you can argue that the search and seizure conducted by law enforcement was unlawful. Another defense could be claiming that you were unaware that you were in possession of a prohibited knife. Lastly, you might be able to argue that you were lawfully carrying the knife.


Understanding California’s knife laws is crucial for avoiding legal trouble and the potential consequences of violating them. While certain knives may be legally owned and used for personal purposes, it is important to be aware of the specific restrictions regarding their carry and use in different locations. In order to navigate these intricate regulations successfully and avoid any legal complications, individuals who find themselves facing charges related to knife laws should seek professional legal advice.

Cited Sources:

  1. Shouse Law Group: California Knife Laws – What You Can & Cannot Carry – www.shouselaw.com
  2. Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP: FAQ: California’s Knife Laws – www.lnlegal.com
  3. Chambers Law Firm: California Knife Laws Explained: What Can You Carry, When Can You Carry, and How Can You Carry – www.chamberslawfirmca.com
  4. Simmrin Law Group: What You Need to Know About Knife Laws in California – www.simmrinlawgroup.com
Articles: 1170

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *