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Spring-Assist Knives in California: Legal or Not in 2024?

In California, the legality of spring-assisted knives (also known as assisted-opening knives) is generally permissible under state law. These knives are designed such that after the blade is partially opened by manual pressure on a thumb stud or flipper, a spring mechanism completes the opening action.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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What is a Spring-Assisted Knife?

According to Wikipedia, an assisted-opening knife is a variant of the folding knife that incorporates an internal mechanism to complete the blade’s deployment once the user initiates the opening process using a thumb stud or flipper attached to the blade [1].

When the knife is in the closed position, the blade is held in place by means of torsion springs and an additional blade lock (optional). As the user applies manual pressure to the thumb stud to open the knife, a mechanism such as a torsion spring moves along a track in the liner and rapidly rotates the blade into the open and locked position.

Spring-Assisted Knife vs Switchblade

According to Frontline Action, the “switchblade” emerged as a distinct type of knife in the early 20th century, characterized by its unique mechanism and design. The blade of a switchblade is always under tension due to a spring mechanism, secured in the closed position by a latch or lever [2].

Around the 1950’s they gained a bad reputation as a “gangster’s weapon” partially due to their role in different movies. These knives were very deserving of their reputation.

Upon pressing a button, the blade swiftly deploys. Typically, the natural state of a switchblade is open, meaning when closed, it is under constant pressure. This can pose a risk of accidental deployment, potentially leading to injury, such as unintentional cuts during the opening action.

Conversely, a “spring-assisted” knife, also known as an “assisted-opening” knife, features a spring mechanism that only engages to complete the blade’s opening after the user has started the process manually. These knives are equipped with a “flipper” or “thumb stud” to initiate opening.

A flipper is located at the back of the handle and is pulled down to open the knife, whereas a thumb stud positioned on the blade is pushed with the thumb. In the case of spring-assisted knives, the blade remains unstressed and securely closed without any applied force, ensuring safer handling and storage.

California Laws Governing Spring-Assisted Knives

In California, a spring-assisted knife is considered legal if it can be opened with one hand by applying thumb pressure to the blade or a thumb stud, as long as the knife includes a detent or other mechanism that adds resistance that must be overcome to open the blade or biases the blade back toward its closed position. This is outlined under Penal Code 21510 PC, which regulates switchblade knives in the state.

This specific code makes it unlawful to engage in any of the following activities with a switchblade knife:

  • Possess the knife within any motor vehicle’s passenger or driver’s area in a public place or any area open to the public,
  • Carry the switchblade on one’s person, or
  • Sell, offer for sale, loan, transfer, or give the knife to another person.

According to Penal Code 17235, a “switchblade knife” is defined as a knife resembling a pocketknife that includes any spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, gravity knife, or similar types, with blade(s) two inches or longer that can be released automatically by a button press.

Based on this definition, a “spring-assisted knife” often does not meet the criteria of a switchblade under California law.

Violations of California’s switchblade regulations are misdemeanors and can result in penalties including probation, up to six months in county jail, and/or fines up to $1,000.

What is Considered ‘Brandishing a Weapon’?

According to California Penal Code 417, it is against the law to brandish a knife in a threatening, aggressive, or angry manner during a physical altercation. This offense of brandishing a knife can lead to further legal complications if you are facing other knife-related charges.

If found guilty of brandishing a weapon, the consequences can vary significantly, with potential penalties including a minimum of 30 days in county jail to a maximum of 3 years in state prison. This provision underscores the serious nature of handling knives improperly in public and during confrontations.

What Should I Do if I’m Accused of Violating California’s Knife Laws?

If you are facing charges related to a knife crime, it is crucial to seek the advice of a skilled criminal defense attorney at once. Discussing your case details with an experienced lawyer is essential to formulating a strong defense strategy.

An aggressive and knowledgeable attorney is vital in defending your rights and striving to protect your innocence and freedom. Prompt action in securing legal representation can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

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