New York Knife Laws

Seal-of-New-YorkNew York knife laws are confusing and at times appear to be contradicting. This article shows you what the laws actually say, and ties them all together with the relevant Court decisions, in order to give you an easy to understand run down of knife laws, and what is legal in New York.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own a hunting knife
  • It is legal to own a dirk or dagger
  • It is legal to own a stiletto

What is Illegal to Own

  • It is illegal to own a pilum ballistic knife
  • It is illegal to own a metal knuckle knife
  • It is illegal to own a cane sword
  • It is illegal to own throwing stars
  • It is illegal to own any knife if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • It is illegal to own any knife adapted for use primarily as a weapon
  • It may be illegal to own a gravity knife, without a valid hunting and/or fishing license
  • It may be illegal to own a switchblade knife, without a valid hunting and/or fishing license

What the Law States

§ 265.01.  Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree

A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when:

(1) He or she possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, plastic knuckles, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star”; or

(2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another; or…..

Restrictions on Carry

It is illegal to carry a dirk, dagger, or stiletto with the intent to use it as a weapon against another.
New York does not have concealed carry laws, therefore it is legal to open or conceal carry any knife that is legal to own and that the carrier does not intend to use unlawfully against another.

The law provides that when a person is found in possession of a dirk, dagger, or stiletto, there is a presumption that the possessor intended to use it as a weapon against another. This presumption can be rebutted in Court; however, a person can still be arrested and charged with a crime, even if he or she did not intend to use the weapon unlawfully against another.

The determination of whether a person intended to use a knife against another may be left up to a jury, and a person still arrested and charged with crime, even though he or she did not intend to use the weapon unlawfully. In People v. Richards, the Court found that because Mr. Richards had not brandished the knife he was carrying, nor had he threatened to use it for any unlawful purpose, but told the arresting officer he had the knife for self-defense, he could not be said to have the intention of unlawfully using the knife. Because self-defense is a justifiable reason to use a weapon, it is therefore not an unlawful one, and Mr. Richards conviction for criminal possession of a weapon was reversed.

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

Switchblade Knife

The New York legislature defines a switchblade knife as any knife with a blade that opens automatically by pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife. A gravity knife is defined as any knife with a blade that is released from the handle by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and when released, is locked in place by a button, spring, lever or other device.

Pilum Ballistic Knife

A pilum ballistic knife is defined as any knife with a blade that can be projected from the handle by pushing a button, spring, or other apparatus on the handle of the knife.

Cane Sword

A cane sword is defined as a cane or swagger stick having concealed within it a blade that may be used as a sword or stiletto.

Automatic Knife

The code also provides that an “automatic knife” includes a stiletto, switchblade, gravity knife, cane sword, pilum ballistic knife, or metal knuckle knife.

Gravity & Balisong (Butterfly) Knives

In People v. Dolson, the Court found that the knife carried by Mr. Dolson was a gravity knife, because it had a hinge on one end connecting 2 narrow handles with a blade concealed between the handles, and the blade became exposed either by force of gravity or centrifugal force (spinning the knife). The Dolson Court also ruled that a knife whose blade does not lock into position when released is not a gravity knife. In 2003, in People v Zuniga, the Court followed this ruling, dismissing the indictment against Mr. Zuniga, because the ‘butterfly’ knife he was carrying had a blade that had to be locked into place manually, and therefore was not a gravity knife under the New York law.

Dirk Knife

In the case of In re Jesse QQ, the Court found that the defendant’s weapon was a dirk knife under the dangerous weapons statute. The knife had an over-all length of 23/4 inches, a blade the size and shape of arrowhead, with one edge sharpened and serrated, and the handle was designed so that it fit into the palm of the hand with the blade protruding between the middle fingers.

Exceptions to Illegal Ownership or Carry

It is legal to possess a switchblade or gravity knife, while hunting, trapping, or fishing with a valid hunting and/or fishing license.

Knives Found in a Vehicle

When a gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, dagger, dirk, or stiletto is found in a vehicle is presumed to be possessed by all of the occupants of that vehicle, unless it is found on one of the occupants. If the vehicle is one for hire, such as a cab, then the weapon is not presumed to be possessed by the hired driver. While the presumption is rebuttable, meaning a defendant can prove in Court that he or she did not intend to use the instrument as a weapon against another. However, you may still be arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, even if the weapon is one that is legal to own.

Conclusion on New York Knife Laws

It is illegal to own a gravity knife, switchblade, pilum ballistic knife, cane sword, or metal knuckle knife in New York.

It is legal to possess a switchblade or gravity knife, if using it for hunting, fishing, or trapping, as long as the person possessing it has a valid hunting and/or fishing license.

It is illegal to carry a dirk, dagger, or stiletto with the intent of using it unlawfully against another.

New York does not have conceal carry laws, and therefore it is legal to open or conceal carry any legal knife.

Sources

  • NY CLS Penal § 265.00 (2013)
  • NY CLS Penal § 265.01 (2013)
  • NY CLS Penal § 265.15 (2013)
  • People v. Dolson, 530 NYS2d 427 (1987, City Ct)
  • People v Zuniga, 759 NYS2d 86 (2003, App Div, 2d Dept)
  • In re Jesse QQ., 662 NYS2d 851 (1997, 3d Dept)
  • People v. Richards, 869 N.Y.S.2d 731 (2008 N.Y. Misc.)

Comments

  1. Recently ticketed for “possession of knife” by NYPD in Manhattan and wondering if anyone can help me out. The knife in question is less than three inches; a folding pocket knife.

    I was walking home, with the knife clipped on my pocket (only the clip was visible) when an officer yelled at me to stop and proceeded to harass me about the knife until taking it from me and ticketing me. When he asked why I was carrying a knife I told him I’d recently moved and have been using it mostly to open boxes. He got in my face about first the “problematic” neighborhood I live in (Harlem) and then being unemployed, neither or which have anything to do with guilt or innocence. I have to appear in court next month and while I’m not pleased with NYPD right now, I’m looking for advice on getting through court.

    The cop told me I could just mail the ticket in and pay the fine, but that’s not true, the back of ticket says I have to appear either way. I just want to get through court without going to jail for this but I don’t know how to plead, I’ve never been to court before. Is it better to just plead guilty and pay the fine or will I be given a chance to explain? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Ok so I have a katana, or like 3 it doesn’t go into specifics about swords which is what I am looking for. Me and my friends are looking to dress up for Halloween and some parties they are all sharp and ready to use, we will be carrying them open and in plain sight but I’m afraid of having them seized. Can anyone give me either a reference page or confirm if it’s legal to open carry?

  3. Can i carry an OTF on me while hunting? This is in upstate on private land with a valid hunting licence. It says switchblades are illegal to own but also says they can be carried with a valid hunting licence. Which is it?

  4. I got ticketed for a gravity knife in Manhattan, your going to have to go to court over it for months and it will eventually get thrown out. The cops are looking to arrest people, and your lucky number got picked. I had to do community service in Harlem for two weekends, but nothing on my record for a weapons charge. NYC is weird, I always feel like I’m in a meat grinder when I do anything having to do with civil service employees.

  5. How about a tomahawk? I’ve been carrying it since there are no true definitions against or for it

  6. It’s illegalto carry a sword, or katana, around as oart of your Holloween costume, pursuant to New York STATE law:

    D. The provisions of subdivisions b and c of this sections shall not apply to (1) persons in the military service on the state of New York when duly authorized to carry or display knives pursuant to regulations issued by the chief of stall to the governor; (2) police officers and peace officers as defined in the criminal procedure law; (3) participants in special events when authorized by the police commissioner (4) persons on the military or other service of the United States, in pursuit of official duty authorized by federal law; or (5) any person displaying or in possession of a knife otherwise in violation of this section when such a knife (a) is being used for or transported immediately to or from a place where it is used for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking or any employment, trade or occupation customarily requiring the use of such knife; or (b) is displayed or carried by a member of a theatrical group, drill team, military or para military unit or veterans organization, to from or during a meeting, parade or other performance or practice for such event, which customarily requires the carrying of suck knife or (c) is being transported directly to or from a place of purchase in such a manner as not to allow easy access to such knife while it is transported; or (d) is displayed or carried by a duly enrolled member of the Boy or Girl scouts of America or similar organization or society and such display or possession is necessary to participate in the activities of such organization or society.

  7. Is it legal to own a 5 1/4 inch blade dagger? I saw it on Amazon and I just wondering if it’s ok to carry it around in New York?

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