New Yorkers Can Still Be Arrested for Carrying Pocket Knives

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 25, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

At the start of the year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have relaxed the knife laws in New York. The current laws, which are outdated, according to critics, unfairly targets trade workers. If you carry a pocket knife in New York, and in many other states and cities across the country, you may be breaking the law without even knowing it.

In addition to the federal ban on switchblades, certain types of knives, including switchblades, gravity knives, and large or exceptionally dangerous knives, are illegal in New York, and other states as well.

What Qualifies as a Gravity Knife or Switchblade?

While Crocodile Dundee may not think that a switchblade is a knife, or at least not anything to be afraid of, lawmakers think a little differently. Generally, switchblades are defined as any knife that opens automatically either with a switch, button, inertia, gravity, or a combination of these.

Switchblades were outlawed in the 1950s following the growing concern over their use by street gangs, pretty much as illustrated in the Crocodile Dundee clip linked above. The popular knife was essentially treated as a gateway to violence, and a judge allegedly claimed that "It's only a short step from carrying a switchblade to gang warfare."

Knife Laws

While the federal ban on switchblades affects every state, most states have additional laws pertaining to size and type of knives people can own and carry. Most of the laws are geared toward prohibiting people from carrying knives that are generally used as weapons, rather than tools. For example, many states prohibit the following types of knives, in addition to switchblades:

  • Daggers
  • Ninja stars
  • Throwing knives
  • Knives over a certain length (usually between 2 to 6 inches)
  • Butterfly knives

Some states also place restrictions on who can own certain types of knives, such as restrictions on convicted felons and minors. Also, commonly, states have laws regarding carrying a concealed knife over a certain length, or of a certain type.

If you've been arrested or charge with a violation of any knife laws, beware that federal penalties can include up to $2,000 and 5 years in jail. These charges can be very serious, and consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney could be what keeps you out of jail.

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