Is it Illegal to Carry a Knife?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 10, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

After Freddie Gray died, there was a lot of focus on his knife.

The police argued that Gray was illegally carrying a switchblade knife. Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby claimed that the knife was not a switchblade and legal under Maryland law.

So, is it illegal to carry a knife in public?

It Depends

As with most answers to legal questions, it depends. Knife laws vary among states and cities. Whether you can legally carry a knife depends not only on the type of knife you have, but also where you are.


In California, you can't carry an air gauge knife, belt buckle knife, cane sword, lipstick case knife, shobi-zue, writing pen knife, undetectable knife, ballistic knife, dirk or dagger. You can carry a switchblade knife that is shorter than two inches, but anything longer is a misdemeanor.

In Los Angeles, California, you can't carry any blade three inches or longer in any public place. But, if you're wearing the knife for a lawful occupation or recreational purpose, then you're not breaking any laws.


In Texas, you can carry a knife, but you can't carry an illegal knife. Texas defines an illegal knife as a "knife with a blade over five and one-half inches, a hand instrument designated to cut or stab another by being thrown, a dagger such as a dirk, stiletto, or poniard, a bowie knife, a sword, or a spear." Notice that a switchblade is not included in the definition of illegal knife.

New York

In New York, you can't have a gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, or Kung Fu star for any reasons. However, you can carry a dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, or stiletto as long as you don't have any intent to use it unlawfully against another person.

Having a prohibited knife or carrying a dangerous knife for an unlawful purpose is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and three years probation.

Here's an interesting tidbit. In New York, it is illegal for you to possess a dangerous or deadly weapon if you are not a U.S. citizen, even if you had no intent to use it unlawfully.

Is it illegal to carry a knife? The answer really depends on the knife you have, where you are, how you carry it, and what you intend to do with it.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard