Laws Against Throwing Knives in California

By Teo Spengler - Updated March 15, 2018
knife in sheath

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Nothing in the California constitution says that all knives must be treated equally, and state laws don't. Some knives can be only carried openly, some can be carried openly or concealed and some are illegal to carry at all. And, you have even stricter city ordinances. If you have a throwing knife, figure out which category it falls into before carrying it with you.

Tip

Throwing knives are classified as “dirks” or “daggers” in California. Under state law, they can be carried openly in a sheath, but not concealed in any way, including tucked into a purse. But city laws can prohibit them altogether.

Throwing Knives

Knife throwing at targets is a sport, but throwing knives can also be dangerous weapons. The practice of throwing knives started way back in history, perhaps as early as prehistoric times. The knives and similar devices were used by Native Americans, African tribes and Japanese warriors. Generally, throwing knives can be distinguished from other types of knives by the fact that they are made of one piece of metal. One half of the knife is sharpened into a blade; the other is not sharpened and is used as the handle.

California State Laws About Knives

Some knives are legal to carry in California, including pocket knives, folding knives that do not have blades that lock into place, and other folding knives that are not switchblades. Obviously, throwing knives do not fit into this category.

Knives that do not fold up are termed "dirks" or "daggers" in California and are considered knives capable of inflicting serious injury by stabbing. State law defines them as knives without a hand guard that can be used as a stabbing weapon and that are capable of inflicting great injury or death. Throwing knives would seem to fit into this category. It's a crime to carry these types of knives if they are concealed. You can carry one of these in a sheath that hangs from your belt, but you cannot conceal the knife in any way. That means you cannot carry a dirk or a dagger in a backpack or purse. If you own a folding knife that has a locking blade, carrying it with the blade locked open turns it into a dirk or dagger in the eyes of the law.

Some knives are completely illegal to carry in California. In fact, these knives are illegal to own, possess, import, sell or buy anywhere in the state. These include switchblades, ballistic knives, butterfly knives and knives that are hidden in items like belt buckles, lipstick containers, pens and walking canes.

Other Applicable Laws

Note that the length of the knife's blade can make your throwing knife illegal to carry on a campus or on university grounds. If the fixed blade is longer than 2.5 inches, it is prohibited. And check local knife laws before you take your throwing knife to big cities. For example, Los Angeles ordinances make it illegal to openly carry any knife with a blade longer than 3 inches.

Penalties for Carrying Concealed Dirks or Daggers

If you get arrested for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger in California, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, but you could also be charged with a felony. This is known as a “wobbler” offense, and it is left to the prosecutor's discretion to charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to county jail for up to one year, be fined up to $1,000, or both. If you get hit with the felony charge, you can get up to three years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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