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. So I am a hunter trapper and fisher and I have all the required licenses does that make it legal to carry a gravity knife all the time or just when I’m in the woods. Also why is the law this way

  2. i got a sword. not a cane sword. its a walking stick sword. it comes a black bag. i want to know will the cops hall me in jail i walking around with is for self defense only. if i do talk to the judge, i will say say to him its only for self defense and in new york law no cane sword. its a walking stick sword

    1. Sorry Mel if you caught in NY. Essecialy walking around the street With,that your going to jail! For sure. I’ll chipp in for the vaseline though..hey..just carry a regular walking stick-cane. Great for self defence .the hooked came great for trapping moves ..also hook perps.leg pull out from under him..cold steel makes some nice walking self D sticks !! One looks like a sheleighlie. They demo it smashing a water melon to bits…

    2. my best bet is a short sword. i hate carry little blade. am that good with a swords.

    3. so that means i can have it but i cant walk around with it. if i do walk around with it me going to the store and come back home, it have to be in my book bag.

    4. No can’t even have in your book bag..not in your car….keep it in your home that’s about it bring it out of your home ..caught YouR busted..fine & jail time…..

    5. Mel…Buddy. Do we honestly have to tell you that you cant walk around the city with a Zatoichi sword?! Please don’t.
      I’ve have that same sword for many years. There is no doubt it is a weapon to anyone that see’s it. This isnt 1835 Tokyo, this in NY man. Maybe you could get away with it during Comic Con week but even then your pushing your luck.

    6. I’ll just say it Mel. You sound like a complete moron. No shit you can’t walk around with a fucking katana

  3. I spent many years riding a full dress Harley Davidson until a hit and run accident broke my back in two places and limited my riding to local only.
    I have had numerous opportunities to observe the Hells Angels, Pagans, Banditos and Outlaws motorcycle clubs in action. Being that many of them are convicted felons both guns and knives are out of the question as defensive weapons for these guys. I wonder how New York City handles these guys weapon of choice? A hefty ball hammer “open carried” is probably considered a tool and not a weapon??? One thing for sure, it can do some serious damage when you most need it. Does anyone know the local law on this one???

    1. As far as I know, a hammer can be considered a bludgeoning weapon if there is intent to use it as such. A lot of law enforcement in NYC is based on profiling so I think motorcycle clubs might not get the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Bottom line is stay out of the “Rotten Apple’ spend your money elsewhere . NYC is an over priced socialist hole that is an aging corporate file cabinet . The computer has made the city redundant . Online shopping, decentralized computer systems and rapid delivery systems have made NYC a candidate in the “Who wants to end up like Detroit contest”. I don’t even fly over the place.

    1. As a lifelong New Yorker, I totally agree. New York City sucks.

    2. Yes, indeed NYC is gone! The land is here. But, it’s no longer New York City. I was born and bred in Manhattan since 1968, the 1980’s were my Heyday. I loved the illicit freedom we once had. I liked the holes in various buildings that you could put $3 in and out came a Tre’ Bag of weed. I loved that the cops didn’t care if you walked down the street with an open bottle of beer. Not, NYC is sterilized, commercialized and Disney like. It blows chunks! Back in the 80’s, every time I left my apartment, there was always some sort of adventure. Now, NYC is beat! It’s like copping a dummy.

  5. Questions
    1. I live in ny and I want a knife only for pure self defence since I live alone with my mom. Planning on getting a knife but is 3 in blade legal? Overall length is 9’5 including like screwdriver and etc ( kind of all in one tatical utility tool )
    2. It has something called ” blade flipper ” is that legal also??

    1. If its a multitool its probably fine. If its in your home, its probably fine. If you keep it hidden in your pocket, its probably fine. Just don’t clip it to your pants. If the blade is over 3″ its technically illegal but stop and frisk was banned by DeBlasio so just keep it in your pocket, out of sight. Just don’t put it in a bag, those are subject to search (and I see searches all the time)

      My knife had a nub on the back of the blade that made it easier to open. When I was ticketed for open carry, the cop wasn’t bothered by that at all despite spending thirty minutes trying to flick it open to see if it was a gravity knife so he could arrest me. If thats a flipper then its definitely fine.

    2. i also live in ny w my mother & alsl interested in carrying a legal knife for protection. did you get any good replys to your (knife) question?

  6. This is not accurate. I have been ticketed for having a “knife in public view”. It was actually the kershaw cryo in the link for hunting knives. So no, open carry is not legal. Don’t use a clip. If the knife is too big to stick in your pocket, don’t carry it in NYC. Bags are subject to search at any time and a blade over 3″ long is illegal

    1. Bali Song is completely legal to own. There have been 2 or 3 court cases of case law regarding the centrifugal or centripetal force do not constitute an automatic knife in this case because the blade does not automatically lock upon opening (you hold it then slide the lever to lock. Still, I don’t recommend unless bucking hunting or fishing as police will still consider it an automatic knife and give you the run through with the judges etc.. Also, I would look into the lifetime fishing license to avoid gaps in coverage for the ownership of the knife.

  7. Is it legal to own [not carry, just own] a Cold Steel Marauder in the area around Binghamton, NY?
    Actually, is it legal to own any Cold Steel knives at all in NY?

    1. Yes it is perfectly legal to own a marauder or any cold steel knife as long as it is single edged and not intended for use as a weapon, but for utility use… Though the marauder looks menacing and would advise carrying it, you could easily get away with calling it a displey knife and you would be fine, I live near binghamton and I have read through the laws. You would be fine, legally it is allowed because there is no length limits in NY except NYC

  8. I have a mini balisong that is from blade to handle end less than 3.5 inches think I would get hassled in NYC ?

  9. is a knife over 1 foot over and a 7 inch blade concealed carry illegal? specificly the kabar becker bk7

  10. i grew up in “hells kitchen” 47th st and 10th ave, carrying a knife? hell i had a zip gun at 13 years old, not that i used either my switch blade or the zip gun, which is a 22cal pistol,, after being arrested for some stupid kid stuff at age 15
    (tryed to steal aq six pack “o” budweiser the owner caught me and my friend, christ now that i think of it he could have killed our skinny asse”s he was a “huge german dude an his sausage delivery guy was bigger than him, anyways i believe all of us on the street knew a 3inch blade was it any longer an you could get busted now just for thy record
    i joined the Air Force at age 17 and became an Aircraft Mechanic,ended up running a major Airline.high school ged and all :). to end my story on-line here all i say izz fuk em if they cant take a joke:) adios .bob nyc

  11. Actually the laws should be amended to read that criminal or malicious intent need to be proven, not just the mere fact that you have a knife (folding or otherwise) is cause for arrest. Its one thing to have it clipped to your pocket its another matter if it’s out and open and your brandishing it at someone.

  12. would it be legal to carry a karambit style 4 in fixed blade on your person in NY for self defense?

    1. Yes to the size (cops will still hassle you, know your rights and know when to back down), but the minute you say it’s for “self defense” you’ve admitted its purpose is unlawful intent. I still to non offensive looking blades. An Opinel is my go to EDC, because they don’t look menacing at all.

  13. I am a bladesmith and i would like to know do knife laws also include hand forged knives and would a double edged fixed-blade karambit be legal or no???

  14. so just to recap…. it is legal to own any knife locked in the garage in a metal box secured with a pad lock you don’t have a key to. Or It is legal to own any size knife stuck to the hilt in your kidneys as you bleed out.

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