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.


  • 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.)


  1. A bit more restrictive in New York City

    Blade Length

    The laws of New York City prohibit individuals from possessing any knife with a blade of four inches or more. Pocketknives with smaller blades are legal to own and carry.

    Open Carrying

    The city prohibits people from carrying a knife in plain view or wearing a knife outside of one’s clothing unless they are using the knife for a legally permissible purpose.


    Persons in the military service of New York State or the federal government, police and peace officers, participants in special events who have permission from the police commissioner, emergency medical technicians or ambulance drivers performing their duties, and members of a theatrical group, military group, veterans organization, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts or similar groups who are participating in an activity that usually requires carrying a knife are all allowed to possess and carry knives that would normally violate the law.

    In addition, if someone is traveling directly to or from an activity that requires a knife, such as hunting, camping or picnicking, carrying a knife is permitted.

    1. I better where a girl scout uniform. When carrying my knif in NYC..I’ll tell um I’m Katlin Jenner

  2. This is great. At times I’d walk with a sheathed (hanging from belt) bowie and BEFORE doing it I asked a cop if I were looking for trouble. His answer was, “So long as you don’t take it out. Brandishing it could be interpreted as menacing.” He further explained that if I were to be involved in an altercation or crime that having it on my possession would NOT be a good thing. Therefore, use caution, Maybe even better, leave the big stuff at home unless it’s boxed and being transported for an explainable reason. Once you’re viewed as a “perp” then I’d guess anything on you can be viewed as a weapon with intent to cause harm. Just my take on this guys.

  3. I was ticketed in NYC subway system for carrying a legal knife, under 3″ in blade length, not assisted open, just a regular fold out pocket knife requiring 2 hands to open. The pocket clip was in view, as the knife was inside my pocket.

    Police officer illegally seized the knife by sneaking up on me from behind and removing it from my pocket without my permission while asking, “what’s this?” I calmly responded to her that it’s a pocket knife, and inquired if it was illegal. She told me initially that having a blade over 3″ is illegal, and I pointed out that it was not. She then said that carrying a knife in plain view is against the law, and asked me why I had it. I told her I use it for work, and she asked me if I was in “the union”. Puzzled, I responded No, not understanding what bearing any union affiliation would have with my having a knife for work. She wrote me a ticket, and when I asked her for the knife back, she would not return it.

    I went to court, and the judge told me that while it was technically illegal, it sounded arcane and unnecessary to have charged me. But rather than throwing it out, he forced me to plead. Not Guilty would have required a trial, and Guilty was a $100 fine. I pled guilty.

    Bottom line, everything is a racket in NYC. Just conceal your knife and they’ll never know you have it. Unless you get stopped and frisked.

    1. yeah I noticed nyc laws are vastly different from the rest of the state. I walk around with a kbar on my belt all the time. I live in Rochester. I have it in plane view too. havnt been stopped yet, (knock on wood). but ny state doesn’t have a length limit on blades. and I take it every where, the mall, the grocery store, theres hardly a time I don’t have it.

  4. In New York State, are we allowed to carry in open (on key chain) a small (2 or 3 inch) swiss army knife tool? My son had his taken away and we don’t believe this had legal standing.

    1. I don’t know your sons AGE?..,but They probably had no legal grounds to confiscate.your sons knife ,but they pretty much do what they want & interpret the law How they want ! They know ….what are you going to DO about it? Hire a lawyer & spend thousands of $$$$ to get back a $15-$25 knife??? They know they can abuse the law & You will be happy that your son wasn’t arrested!!

  5. In NYS in general, it should not be illegal to open carry a 2-3 inch Swiss army knife tool, as long as the blade does not “lock” into position. In NYC, however, even if the blade does not lock, any police officer can arrest you or issue a summons, which you would then have to fight in court. So, bottom line, don’t open carry any knife. If you get stopped and frisked, though, again, you’ll be busted. So, any time you carry any knife in NYC, you’re risking arrest and a criminal record which will follow you around for the rest of your life, even if you’re eventually found “not guilty” after trial.

  6. In NYC practically all locking pocket knives are considered (incorrectly) “gravity knives”. If a police officer can open it by repeatedly flicking it with all his strength, you will be arrested. This has been SO prevalent lately, that defense lawyers specialize in this area. I am a law abiding citizen with no prior arrests, and was recently arrested and jailed for 7 hours for carrying a pocket knife with a less than 3in blade (small sebenza 21) which was ofcourse confiscated. I now have to go back to NYC in February to appear in court.. I had no idea I was violating any laws. If you’re going to NYC, leave your knife at home or beware. -I still can’t believe what this is costing me. (Look up gravity knife and NYC)

    1. NYC the worst. I carry a tiny Swiss army keychain knife 1″ blade

    2. Not to a Nazi , grammar or otherwise. I can say from lots of personal experience that 7 hours is barley jailed by NYC standard. That was more of a delay or layover. I was in the tombs (center st. holding to see the judge) Friday-Sun, they run Judges all night on the weekends they’re so backed up. Anyway, not the point. I met a man parked in a Red Zone (high crime area) He was in his company van (rug installer) had a folding razor on his took tool belt aka A FUKIN RUG CUTTER and the police officer deemed it a gravity knife.
      It gets worse… Since this man had a felloney 9 YEARS PRIOR the arrest held up and we shared a bus to Rikers that evening. Had I not been in the court room and heard this explained to the Judge with my own 2 ears, I don’t think I really would have believed the man that their wasn’t more to the story. Also company van towed, job lost and from the tears I saw on the phone call home a very unhappy wife.
      Bottom line the first thing I do before putting my foot on the bus is unclip mine and put in down into my pocket. And for the ones that say just leave it home, I say take a look.

    1. If walking in NYC (Nazi land) with. 4 or 5 get caught going to jail

    2. What about in places like upstate New York or on Long Island, are there any length restrictions there?

    3. I’m not sure but a officer complemented me on my hip mounted fixed blade when I took it out to cut open a box of 12 gauge shells. I assume as long as you stay within reason and the more common laws you can carry mostly anything.

      I personally run a 4 inch Spyderco folder and a fixed blade everyday here on LI. I’ve never had a problem…But I really don’t know…I just carry what I want within reason. I don’t go around with a KA-BAR on my hip but I do pack steel, mostly partially concealed or fully concealed carry. I sometimes even carry the comically large Cold Steel Voyager XL 12 inch folding knife…I think that’s pushing it a little though. Imo the Ontario RAT is a perfect NYC knife. 3.5inch blade (imo anything under 3.5 isnt really a tactical blade unless its a karambit or has a long handle.), solid lockup that will never fail the the stupid flick test (tested), and its around 25 dollars on Amazon so you wont care that much if its confiscated. One of the highest value knives around.

  7. yep 3 years ago i got harassed and jailed in NYC for possession of a weapon they attempted to give me a (D) felony for it, claimed it was a gravity knife, it was a regular tactical folder. alas i took them to the grand jury they lose i win. plus i got an apology from the Judge for the inconvenience. They must of thought i was just some cheep street chump who could not read. just do like they say keep ya knife in ya pocket, and hope u don’t get illegally searched. i will not go with out a knife i have 1 for every pair of shoes i own they match em n i love knives. Getting my knife back is a whole other story it took months and the jailhouse lawyers manual. but it was mine and i was innocent so it was worth every “fn” bit

    1. You definitely type like some CHEAP (not “cheep”) street chump who can not read.

    2. Ohhh, you’re obviously so much better than him because you use perfect grammar on the Internet. It’s called being a “Grammar Nazi,” just in case you old timers aren’t “in with the times.”

    3. I suppose you are the “Pope,” and boss of all those that use the English language. You should find something to do with yourself, as it is obvious you have a predisposition for power, and control.

    4. People find the stupidest things to argue about on the internet.

    5. I used to be an arrogant, AP English grammar Nazi. Then I grew up and realized that whether or not someone conforms to every rule of the English language isn’t nencessarily related to their intelligence.

      Like NYC PIZZA RAT said, he won his case and got his property back.

    6. exactly. comments are typed in a hurry and unlike somebody writing a book or a print article, we don’t have an army of proofreaders editing us. as long as the point is clear.

    7. GlaD you won ,but must have cost you legal fees ,time ,& HASSLE… NYC is Nazi town.
      Ashame in this day & AGE we must deal with this ..2nd amend& Bill of Rights was supposed to protect us against this tyranny..

  8. Thanks for the warning Russell, NYPD has gone absolutely nuts, I guess I’ll leave my S&W lock-back at home when I go…Argh, I feel naked without it.

  9. Good to read all these warnings about NYC. I’ll be traveling there recently and didn’t realize they were quite this strict. I usually carry a decent sized knife with a pocket clip as well as one on my keychain, both of which have locking blades of 3″ or more. Gonna have to find something smaller and not locking to carry with me, I guess.

    1. Actually, it needs to be locking. Not the other way around. The fact that the blade was manually locked, was the only way that the guy with the “butterfly knife” was able to beat the charges. If you go get something that doesn’t lock, your asking for trouble.

    2. I carry when I visit NYC a small 1-1/2 inch old timer. In my pocket..&,tiny key chain Swiss army 1″ with scisors ,toothpick Etc……small mace 10% allowed..(supposed to be bought in a pharmacy,but I tell them bought 2 years ago don’t have receipt)

  10. I was wondering if anyone knows if it’s legal to own a karambit in nyc. I wouldn’t know what knife they would classify it as.

    1. yes it is illegal, the ones with a finger hole are considered “Metal Knuckle Knives”. the definition is if it can be used as a brass knuckle and a knife at the same time. When closed it is just considered brass knuckles which also are a felony. This law is NYS penal code and not just NYC

    1. I believe that I read a blade less than 4 inches unless a smaller blade is carried “open carry”. There is even a photo showing a smaller blade clipped to the outside of pants pocket. I also read that the blade does not have to show. Just the clip is grounds for arrest I believe? Please correct me if I read wrong.

    2. You are right Denis! Its freaking unbealievable in NYC you can be arrested for your pocket knife clip showing!! NYC. First letter stands for Nazi!! Few years back Blooming Idiot(Bloomberg) had his Nazi thuggs raid Home Depots & hardware stores in the 5 burroghs & confiscate all one handed opening. Knives …even the ones with utility blades !! I thought the 2nd amend states ARMS which are guns & knives protected!!this country becoming Nazi state

    1. yes it is. Sorry Mr. Pootis, i am going through this now. It is considered a metal knuckle knife because of the finger hole. It is an absurd interpretation of the law.

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