You used to be able to walk the streets of California without having to worry about whether or not you would get arrested for carrying a weapon for self-defense. Now, you can get into some serious legal trouble for not only carrying a small weapon on you, like a pocket knife but for using that weapon to defend yourself.
These new state laws for knives can be quite confusing to know and understand. Yet it is important that you learn them in order to avoid getting arrested or to build a good defense case if you have already been caught up in legal woes.
California state law outlines three main types of knives that are legal to buy, own, transport, and carry. These three classes of knives include:
- Folding knives
- Fixed blade knives (dirks and daggers)
Switchblades, including pushbutton knives or ejector knives, have a blade that is located in the handle and opens automatically through the push of a button. As long as the blade is smaller than two inches, they are perfectly legal. Folding knives, including pocket knives, swiss army knives, and box cutters, as detailed by California Penal Code Section 17235, pertain to any knives that require the user to force the blade out manually. These knives are also legal, and they have no restriction on their blade length.
Fixed-blade knives, including butcher knives found in most kitchens, are knives that have a blade that cannot be manually taken out or automatically ejected. These knives are legal to carry and transport and there is no restriction on their length. However, they must be visible when carrying the knife. Otherwise, you could be arrested.
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When it comes to the types of knives that are illegal to buy, own, transport, and carry, there are actually quite a few. These illegal knives include:
- Air Gauge
- Belt buckle
- Writing pen
- Switchblades longer than 2 inches
These knives were made illegal by California state law for a variety of reasons. It could be because they are too big, such as cane knives and switchblades that are over 2 inches. Another reason could be because they were designed to look like something other than a weapon, like lipstick knives, belt buckles knives, writing pen knives, and air gauge knives.
Places Where You Can Carry a Knife
According to the FBI and its Criminal Justice information services division, there were an estimated 280 knife-related murders in the latest reporting year for California. Since there has been an abundance of these crimes, the state has cracked down on where you can bring your knives.
It is highly illegal to have any knives (except fixed-blade knives) on you when you are in a school building. This includes public universities, private universities, and especially schools with ages K-12.
It is also illegal to have a knife on you when you are in a state or local government building. Folding knives and fixed-blade knives with the appropriate blade length are the exceptions to this rule.
Having an illegal knife on you when you are in a federal building is cause for being prosecuted at the federal level.
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Penalties for Violating These Knife Laws
The punishments for failing to adhere to California’s new knife laws closely can be quite harsh. A misdemeanor charge can land you anywhere from six months to one year in jail, plus $1,000 in fines. A felony charge can land you 16 months to three years in jail, plus $10,000 in fines.
These are just the penalties for when you carry or possess an illegal knife. Brandishing a knife and using a knife to harm someone, not for self-defense, can land you far more severe penalties. You can always reach out to a criminal defense attorney at the Simmrin Law Group if you feel you have been wrongly accused of a knife-related crime. However, the best way to avoid suffering these penalties is to not violate the state’s knife laws in the first place.
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What About Self-Defense?
The number one reason someone would carry around a switchblade or a folding knife is for their own protection. Obtaining a knife is much easier than purchasing a gun, especially in the Golden State, so people opt for small knives as their weapon of choice for self-defense. Knives are also easier to conceal and carry around with you.
California still allows for conceal and carry laws like many other US states. However, there are certain restrictions. You must conceal your legally approved knife in a sheath worn around your waist. This helps prevent surprise attacks because other people can see that you have a sheath for your knife. Also, you must be openly carrying and not concealing any fixed-blade knife.
Since California has stricter knife laws, one might assume that you could even get in serious legal trouble for using your small knife in an act of self-defense. This is not true because you are always allowed to protect yourself when in immediate danger. Yet, you might still find yourself dealing with a lawsuit against you, in which case it would be wise to hire a seasoned criminal defense lawyer from the Simmrin Law Group.
Being wrongly accused of a crime is nothing new. It is an unfortunate and potentially life-altering event that can happen to you or your loved one. Yet it is vital that you hire a criminal defense attorney to clear your name and uphold your constitutional rights. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer from the Simmrin Law Group can help formulate strong defenses for your case.
One of the air-tight legal defenses we can provide you with is arguing that the knife in question is not actually violating California’s state laws. You could be accused of carrying a ballistic knife when it was actually a standard fixed-blade dagger, which is legal. Or your knife’s blade can actually be less than 2 inches long, yet the police officer arrested you for having a blade longer than 2 inches.
There are a handful of other strong legal defenses that we can examine. These include arguing that you did not know that you were carrying around a prohibited knife, you were complying with open carry laws, or the police conducted an illegal search and seizure to find the knife. Reach out to us today to receive a free case evaluation and learn more about your legal options.
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