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A quick summary of what is and isn't legal in Los Angeles County, California

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by brancron, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. brancron


    Dec 14, 2011
    Just to clear up any confusion, here is a summary of what's OK and not OK to carry in LA County, taking into account state law as well:

    Concealed carry fixed blade*: not allowed

    Open carry fixed blade: OK if under 3"

    Concealed carry folder: OK

    Open carry folder: OK if under 3"

    Concealed carry switchblade: OK if under 2"

    Open carry switchblade: not allowed

    Sources: CA Penal Code § 21310, § 16470, § 21510; LA County Code of Ordinances § 13.62.010-020.

    *Actually, it's "dirks and daggers" that are disallowed, but they are defined as knives "capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death." (Pen. Code, § 16470.) Most fixed blades will be considered by courts as being a dirk/dagger, so it's best to be conservative. There are exceptions, though. One court determined that a bread knife with a rounded tip did not constitute a dirk/dagger under the statute. (People v. Barrios (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 501, 506.)
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
    slakercruster likes this.
  2. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    Both Los Angeles county and municipality have exemptions on their open-carry blade length restrictions if the knife is being carried for use in ones lawful occupation or for legitimate recreational purposes. That means if a person is carrying a knife for work or fishing/camping/etc, and can prove it, that they can openly carry a knife of any size, fixed or folder.

    These exceptions in the Los Angeles municipal code are under Section 55.10c

    In the Los Angeles county code it's 13.62.030

    Here is a link to the LA municipal codes- http://www.amlegal.com/library/ca/losangeles.shtml

    To find LA's knife laws using that link click on "Municipal Code", then type "knife" into the search box at the top of the screen. Then click on "Article 5 Firearms- Dangerous Weapons".

    Here is a link to the LA county codes- http://www.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/lac/government/public/

    To find the LA county knife laws using that link place your cursor over the word "Government" to bring the drop menu down. Then click on "Public Information & Records". Then click on "County Code". Then type the word "knife" into the search box in the upper right hand corner.

    All of LA's knife laws are that easy to find. And from their official sources.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2016
  3. alinla


    Feb 23, 2016
    It should be pointed out that there are also LA municipal codes restricting certain knives in government buildings and CA laws restricting most knives on school campuses which supersede the above.
    JSutter likes this.
  4. brancron


    Dec 14, 2011
    That is absolutely true, thank you for pointing that out. Schools, government buildings, even public parks--all these places can have more restrictive rules regarding knives. My summary above just applies to the person walking down the sidewalk.
  5. alinla


    Feb 23, 2016
    Oh I didn't know that about public parks. I'll keep an eye out for that.
  6. MorePie


    Mar 29, 2016
    So I found that pocket clips can count as open carry because it's technically in plain view of the officer who notices. However, how about a knife lanyard with no other part of the knife showing?
  7. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    Pocket-clip showing as a way to "open carry" is not reliably legal. Read this post that was just made in another thread. The cops if they don't like you can claim it's not fully visible, and they only noticed it because they are cops and have "special training and experience" to look for weapons. The knife fully out of view with only a lanyard showing is undoubtedly going to be considered concealed because no one can tell it's a knife. The only reason it would be a good idea is that a fully concealed knife won't be noticed by the cops and thereby invite them to make an interpretation in the first place. I'm not fond of carrying illegal knives, but unless I break the law or act like a tool, the cops are never going to search me.
  8. brancron


    Dec 14, 2011
    In California, concealed carry of folders is totally legal. Concealed carry of fixed blades, however, isn't. Courts have interpreted "concealed" to mean "substantially concealed," meaning that if most of the knife is concealed (even if some of it is sticking out), then it counts as concealed. It's a factual question that depends on the circumstances. [Sources: People v. Wharton (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 72, 75; People v. Fuentes (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 953, 955.]
  9. ribstabsheart

    ribstabsheart Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2015
    Hey all,

    I'm looking to buy a graduation gift for my brother who's moving to somewhere in LA County (might be Los Angeles proper, trying to figure out the exact location). I'm wondering if he could carry a folder with a 3.75" blade in public without it being considered "illegal," or if I should stick to 2.90 blades to appease his mom and keep him out of needless trouble.

    Also looking for suggestions for a 30-$60 "dress knife," if you have any. If I was made of money I'd just get him a CF Sebenza and be done with it ;)
  10. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    If he carries a folding knife with a blade 3.75" completely concealed then it's perfectly legal. But both the Los Angeles city (municipal) codes and county codes are clear- it is illegal to openly carry any knife with a blade 3" or longer, unless it is carried for legitimate work, recreational, or religious reasons, and you can prove it.
  11. ribstabsheart

    ribstabsheart Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2015
    Gotcha, and the occifer can claim he is openly carrying if he sees the clip and wants to give him guff, right? Sounds like sub-3 is the way to go.
  12. NathanXC1999


    Feb 7, 2019
    Hey, quick question, are you sure about the 2in or under autos being legal. Ive been reading up about LA County knife laws and they are very vague about that topic.
  13. brancron


    Dec 14, 2011
    Hey there! You're right, this one is a bit more vague than the other aspects. Let me hash it out a bit further:

    Under state law, it’s fairly clear that there’s no prohibition on carrying a switchblade with a sub-2” blade. Under PC § 21310 it’s illegal to conceal carry a “dirk or dagger,” and under § 16470 “dirk or dagger” is defined as any knife “capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death.” The case law has been fairly clear that this includes pretty much any knife that is physically capable of causing great bodily injury or death, without regard to the intent of the carrier, so it is very broad. However, § 16470 expressly exempts the following from the definition of “dirk or dagger”: “A nonlocking folding knife, a folding knife that is not prohibited by Section 21510, or a pocketknife is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.”

    § 21510 in turn places certain prohibitions on switchblades with blades 2” or greater. So this means that sub-2” switchblades are part of the defined exception to the “dirk or dagger” definition quoted at the end of the last paragraph. The conclusion is that there’s no state law prohibition on concealed carry of sub-2” switchblades. (And there’s absolutely no open carry prohibitions under state law.)

    Now, turning to the local laws:

    LA City Municipal Code § 55.10 prohibits plain view carry of knives 3” or more. There is no mention of switchblades so there is no confusion.

    Then we get to the main point, the one you mention. Under the LA County Code, §§ 13.62.010-020, there’s no plain view carry of “any knife having a blade of three inches or more in length; any spring-blade, switch-blade or snap-blade knife; any knife any blade of which is automatically released by a spring mechanism or other mechanical device.” So the County Code appears on its face to prohibit plain view carry of ANY switchblade. However, this particular code section has been deemed invalid and in conflict with state law. See People v. Gerardo (1985) 174 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1, 5.

    That case involved a 3” switchblade so the deemed invalidity of the local ordinance did not avail the defendant (he was still in violation of state law), but I think the reasoning behind the decision is sound. And I have found no published cases involving prosecution for “plain view” carry of sub-2” switchblades in LA County.

    There has been a bit of case law trying to grapple with the difference between “plain view” and “concealed,” and that creates its own headaches. It seems like whenever a law prohibits “plain view” carry, then the merest sliver of a pocket clip showing can count as “plain view,” and conversely, when a law prohibits “concealed” carry, then even “partial” concealment can count.
  14. Testpilot


    Feb 14, 2019
    This thread is super old. Has there been any new major changes/updates to the knife law in California?

    And just to clarify..... If a person has a "folding" knife 3.5" concealed in their pocket, it's perfectly legal? But, if it's clipped up their pocket, which is considered open carry, it's illegal?
  15. SW-EDC

    SW-EDC Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Dec 4, 2015
    I've lived in Los Angeles County almost my entire life. Rarely do I travel to Los Angeles City in fact, I avoid it as much as possible. I have carried a concealed non auto folder for the past 25 years with zero problems (different blade lengths). In fact, most of the Sheriffs I know and talk to, can really care less what you carry. I see a regular customer in my local Walmart almost every time I go there with an open carry fixed on his hip. Perfectly legal as well.
    brancron likes this.
  16. brancron


    Dec 14, 2011
    No updates since this post that I have come across. And your statement about the 3.5” knife is correct; that’s technically the law. But as also mentioned by others, from a practical standpoint, if you’re minding your own business and not breaking other laws, there is not much to worry about carrying a 3” or greater folding knife clipped inside your pocket.
  17. Ravv29


    Jun 3, 2019
    I live in Los Angeles County and work as a firefighter. I am also a soldier in the Army Reserve. I would like to know if I can legally wear a 3.5 inch auto folding knife while on duty? Thank you

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