New 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
Important Note About New York CITY
IMPORTANT NOTE: New York CITY has knife laws that are not applicable in the rest of New York State. Over 4,000 people are arrested each year in New York City for possessing a “gravity knife.” The problem is that the New York law says that any law which can be opened by a flick of a wrist is illegal in New York City. For more on this issue, check out this video.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.)