=== UPDATED 4/19/13 with info on 'carry on your person ===
So, here are the State level knife laws.
As noted, there is no state pre-emption here
- local jurisdictions are free to create their own regs. But further note that cities and counties can create only infractions and misdemeanors. (Government Code 25132(a), 36900).
CONCEALED FIXED BLADE KNIVES on your person
, any length, are ALWAYS ILLEGAL, as ‘dirks or daggers’ – Penal Code 21310
Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section
17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who carries
concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger is punishable by
imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state
In a bag or briefcase that you carry is 'on your person'.
See the CA Court of appeals case Pellecer
4/17/2013 where the court says 'no' to that.
In your car is NOT 'on your person'. Concealed in your car is not 'concealed on your person'.
On-duty LEO seem to be exempt from this:
12020(b)(12) The sale to, possession of, or purchase of any weapon, device, or ammunition, other than a short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun, by any federal, state, county, city and county, or city agency that is charged with the enforcement of any law for use in the discharge of their official duties,
or the possession of any weapon, device, or ammunition, other than a short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun, by peace officers thereof when on duty and the use is authorized by the agency and is within the course and scope of their duties.
UN-CONCEALED FIXED BLADE KNIVES may be legal, depending on where you are.
A NON-LOCKING FOLDING KNIFE, or a closed FOLDING KNIFE, any length, is not a ‘dirk or dagger’ – PC 16470
As used in this part, "dirk" or "dagger" means a knife or
other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready
use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or
death. A nonlocking folding knife, a folding knife that is not
prohibited by Section 21510, or a pocketknife is capable of ready use
as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death
only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.
SWITCH BLADE KNIVES, blade length greater than 2 inches, are ILLEGAL TO CARRY – Penal Code 21510
Every person who does any of the following with a
switchblade knife having a blade two or more inches in length is
guilty of a misdemeanor:
(a) Possesses the knife in the passenger's or driver's area of any
motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public.
(b) Carries the knife upon the person.
(c) Sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or
gives the knife to any other person.
For the purposes of this section, "switchblade knife" means a
knife having the appearance of a pocketknife and includes a
spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, gravity knife or any other
similar type knife, the blade or blades of which are two or more
inches in length and which can be released automatically by a flick
of a button, pressure on the handle, flip of the wrist or other
mechanical device, or is released by the weight of the blade or by
any type of mechanism whatsoever. "Switchblade knife" does not
include 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, provided that the knife has a detent or other mechanism
that provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade,
or that biases the blade back toward its closed position.
For purposes of this section, "passenger's or driver's area" means
that part of a motor vehicle which is designed to carry the driver
and passengers, including any interior compartment or space therein.
In public (government) buildings or at public meetings, fixed or folder with 4"+ blade is a wobbler:
171b. (a) Any person who brings or possesses within any state or
local public building or at any meeting required to be open to the
public ... any of the following is guilty of a public offense
punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one
year, or in the state prison:
(3) Any knife with a blade length in excess of four inches, the
blade of which is fixed or is capable of being fixed in an unguarded
position by the use of one or two hands.
On K-12 school grounds, it is illegal to bring most knives: PC 626.10
(a) Any person, … who brings or possesses any dirk, dagger, ice pick,
knife having a blade longer than 2 1/2 inches,
folding knife with a blade that locks into place,
a razor with an unguarded blade,
upon the grounds of, or within, any public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive,
is guilty of a public offense, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.
NON-LOCKING FOLDERS with a blade 2 ½ inches or smaller are not illegal.
Colleges and universities restrict fixed-blades, but not folders, and impose no length limit on folders PC 626.10:
(b) Any person, … who brings or possesses any dirk, dagger, ice pick, or
knife having a fixed blade longer than 2 1/2 inches
upon the grounds of, or within,
any private university, the University of California, the California State University, or the California Community Colleges
is guilty of a public offense, punishable by imprisonment in a
county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state
EXCEPT University of California, which is now like K-12 for non-students/employees – 5 CCR § 100015
[[5 CCR § 100000]] Violation of regulations promulgated under section 92440.5 is punishable as a misdemeanor. Pursuant to section 92440.5, these regulations do not apply to the conduct of students, officers, or employees of the University; their conduct is governed by other University regulations.
[[Misdemeanor to carry or possess]]
B. Any knife having a blade two and one-half inches or more in length.
C. Any folding knife with a blade that locks into place.
EXCEPTIONS from PC 626.10
(c) Subdivisions (a) and (b) do not apply to any person who brings
or possesses a knife having a blade longer than 2 1/2 inches or a
razor with an unguarded blade upon the grounds of, or within,
a public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any
of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, or
any private university, state university, or community college
at the direction of a faculty member
of the private university, state university, or community college,
or a certificated or classified employee of the school
for use in a private university, state university, community college, or
school-sponsored activity or class.
(d) Subdivisions (a) and (b) do not apply to any person who brings
or possesses an ice pick, a knife having a blade longer than 21/2
inches, or a razor with an unguarded blade upon the grounds of, or
a public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive,
or any private university, state university, or community college
for a lawful purpose within the scope of the person's employment.
(e) Subdivision (b) does not apply to any person who brings or
possesses an ice pick or a knife having a fixed blade longer than
21/2 inches upon the grounds of, or within, any private university,
state university, or community college
for lawful use in or around a residence or residential facility located upon those grounds or
for lawful use in food preparation or consumption.
I'll leave out the prohibition of dirks/daggers from those in prison ...
new member wrdavis, in this thread
adds a link to http://handgunlaw.us/documents/USKnife.pdf
Some nice person has produced a list, with links to the municipal or county codes, of the local knife restrictions he/she could find.
For example, Marin County actually does prohibit some blades concealed in vehicles:
6.52.010 - Carrying prohibited—Penalty—Exceptions.
Every person who within the unincorporated territory of the county of Marin carries concealed upon his person, or concealed within any vehicle which is under his control or direction, any knife with a blade three inches or more in length; and snap-blade knife, regardless of the length of the blade; any springblade knife, regardless of the length of the blade; any ice pick or similar sharp stabbing tool; any straight-edge razor; any razor blade fitted to a handle; or any cutting, stabbing or bludgeoning weapon or device capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm, is guilty of a misdemeanor ...
and they make no distinctions between fixed or folder. Open carry evidently is OK.
City of Oakland has a three-inch limit at Code of Ordinances 9.36.010.
=== Social Engineering and Enforcement ===
The bulk of anecdotes suggests that enforcement is more like 'arrest for something, find something to charge, oh, look, a knife!'.
We don't regularly hear about hikers arrested for "dirk or dagger", nor picnickers, nor cooking school students with a roll of chef's knives.
ETA 8/28/12 In fact, People v Mitchell
, COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION ONE (Super. Ct. No. SCD229968) 2012 says
In addition to incorporating a knowledge element, the California Supreme Court has generally recognized that when a defendant is charged with an offense that penalizes possession of an instrument that is ordinarily usable for peaceful purposes, the defendant may justify the possession by showing the possession was "in accordance with [the instrument's] ordinary legitimate design." (People v. Grubb (1965) 63 Cal.2d 614, 621, fn. 9; see Rubalcava, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 329 ["the surrounding circumstances of possession—including defendant's intended use—were relevant to the issue of whether the [object] was a prohibited weapon"].) Consistent with this principle, the standard CALCRIM instruction for the offense of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger directs that when the instrument may have innocent uses, the jury should be given an instruction stating: "When deciding whether the defendant knew the object . . . could be used as a
stabbing weapon, consider all the surrounding circumstances, including the time and place of possession. Consider also the destination of the defendant, the alteration of the object from standard form, and other facts, if any." (CALCRIM No. 2501, parentheses and bracketed punctuation omitted; see also CALJIC 12.41 [the "mental state with which a knife or other instrument is carried may be inferred from the evidence, including the attendant circumstances, the time, place, destination of the possessor . . . and any other relevant facts established by the evidence"].)
In Rubalcava, supra, 23 Cal.4th at page 333, the California Supreme Court acknowledged that the statute "may seem overbroad as a matter of common sense" if it was applied to such innocuous circumstances as a tailor who places a pair of scissors in his jacket, a shopper who walks out of a store with a recently purchased steak knife in his pocket, or a parent who wraps a sharp knife in a paper towel and places it in his coat to take to a PTA potluck dinner. (Id. at pp. 331, 333.) However, the court concluded that it would not find the statute "unconstitutionally overbroad without some concrete impairment of constitutionally protected conduct." (Id. at p. 333.)
Last edited by Librarian; 04-19-2013 at 7:34 PM..
Reason: update PC references