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Are Butterfly Knives Illegal in California?
And Why Are so Dangerous

Carrying, possessing, selling, or otherwise transferring a butterfly knife is illegal in California under Penal Code 21510 PC.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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What is a Butterfly Knife?

Also known as a balisong or fan knife, a butterfly knife is a type of folding pocketknife that originated in the Philippines. The knife features 2 handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles.

What is the Purpose of a Butterfly Knife?

Butterfly knives can be opened quickly with one hand and are easily used as a weapon. They are commonly used for self-defense and utility purposes.

Why are Butterfly Knives Illegal in California?

Butterfly knives are illegal in California because of their potential for use as a threatening weapon. A person with experience can deploy butterfly knives with immense speed, which may be the knife's most dangerous quality.

Why are Butterfly Knives So Dangerous?

Butterfly knives can be extremely dangerous because one edge of the blade is sharp and will cut the user if they are not careful, especially when flipping the knife.

Penalties for Carrying a Butterfly Knife in California

Possessing a butterfly knife in California is a misdemeanor crime. Convictions can result in up to 6 months in county prison and/or $1,000 in fines.

However, many of these instances result in misdemeanor probation, also known as summary probation, which means the accused will not have to serve any time in prison. The sentence would instead be spent under community supervision.

Related Article: Is Drinking in Public Illegal in California?

Are Butterfly Knives Illegal in All 50 States?

The only federal law pertaining to butterfly knives is US Code Title 15, Chapter 29, which controls the importation of the knives into the United States, and the sale over state lines. It has no effect on buying, owning, or carrying butterfly knives. Such is left to the states.

Related Article: Open Carry in California

What Other Knives are Illegal in California?

Generally speaking, knives that are illegal in California are those which are most commonly used to commit crimes and do not have an obvious use as a tool or look like knives. In addition to butterfly knives, knives that are illegal to possess in California include:

  • Cane knives
  • Air gauge knives
  • Lipstick knives
  • Belt buckle knives
  • Writing pen knives
  • Switchblades with a blade longer than 2”
  • Ballistic knives

A folding knife is a knife that can be opened by applying pressure to the blade, and which features a mechanism that provides resistance when the blade is opened. Common examples of folding knives include pocket knives, Swiss Army knives, box cutters, and utility knives. Per California Penal Code Section 17235, all folding knives are legal in the state and can be concealed when they are in the folded position. There is no restriction on the blade length of a folding knife in California.

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