NY Knife Law


A Carter Cutlery damascus Bowie style blade
A Carter Cutlery damascus Bowie style blade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I frequently get asked questions about the legality of carrying a knife in NY. The following is a response  I wrote on one occasion:

The legal definition of the crime of Criminal Possession of a Weapon 4th is:

Section 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 possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, 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

Some weapons are illegal to simply possess. You can’t be carrying one PERIOD, while some are illegal to possess only if you intend to use it unlawfully against another, otherwise they are not illegal. The difference is very important in terms of my probable cause to arrest. But oddly enough NOT so different at the same time….read on.

The “any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another;” part covers using just about any object as a weapon as long as you are using it unlawfully.

What is a “dangerous knife”?

Matter of Jamie D., 59 NY2d 589 (1983). Whether a “knife” is a “dangerous” knife may be determined on the basis of three alternative considerations: one, its own characteristics which show that it is primarily intended for use as a weapon; second, a modification, which converts what would otherwise be a utensil into a weapon; and third, the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool.

In other words “its not what it does that’s important…its how it looks thats important”. If it looks like a weapon instead of a tool/pocket knife it will be treated as a weapon. Something to keep in mind.

That last sentence there is an eyeopener too isnt it? The “the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool. ” one?

There are no specific limits on blade length in NYS Law. NYC has a city code on carrying blades longer than 4″. But that’s local law.

To throw another thorny legal issue into the mix (in NY) is the fact that PL 265.15(4) dictates that simple possession constitutes presumptive evidence that the possessor intends to use the instrument unlawfully against another.

4. The possession by any person of the substance as specified in section 265.04 is presumptive evidence of possessing such substance with intent to use the same unlawfully against the person or property of another if such person is not licensed or otherwise authorized to possess such substance. The possession by any person of any dagger, dirk, stiletto, dangerous knife or any other weapon, instrument, appliance or substance designed, made or adapted for use primarily as a weapon, is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another.

So what that means is that if an officer has some reason to be dealing with you and discovers a dagger on you he can “presume” (in the eyes of the law) that you intended to use it unlawfully on another and arrest you for it. To be honest, if you were a decent person/victim/or otherwise respectful and with no “history” of criminality, you probably wouldnt be charged. You may have the blade confiscated. It is sort of circular reasoning. The statute says that a “dangerous knife” is legal to own and only illegal if carried with intent to use against another, but then another statute states that simple possession is enough to prove “intent”.

What it means is…if you carry a knife stay out of situations where the cops would be likely to search/detain/ or otherwise “deal” with you.i.e. “STAY OUT OF TROUBLE” and people places and situations that attract trouble.

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62 thoughts on “NY Knife Law”

  1. A lot of verbiage to say be very careful what you carry on your body and equally if not more careful how you identify that object if questioned by a police officer. Obviously, any object that you have used in an altercation with another person is going to be viewed as a “weapon”.

  2. The wording gives an officer a lot of leeway for interpretation as well, so how you conduct yourself will matter as much as what you carry as long has you aren’t doing anything wrong to begin with.

    1. So if your polite and treat the officer kinda like a judge. I find that seems to help. Always remember when dealing with a police officer, you are dealing with a very fragile and insecure person, so if somehow you can exalt them way above yourself, kinda think like your addressing a Supreme Court Judge, just pretend in your imagination, don’t resort to any hint of begging or desperation. That response seems to be a trigger for that controlling personality, and sometimes they can be harder on you.
      Supreme Court Judge works well, dont say “your honor”, that can back fire. Remember your not dealing with an extremely intelligent person. Follow my advice and everyone will leave the scene happy. Hope this helps.

      1. I tend to find that people with your sort of attitude (snide, rude, sarcastic and combative) typically have more experience with the police than others….and usualy for good reason. If you want to discuss what I wrote Im more than willing.

      2. you will be first in line to get on the “train”, you don’t have a clue, you would be considered a classic definition of “sheeple”. Just follow the pack, never question anyone, just do what your told, part of the “mass”. About a year from now, let me know how being polite is workin for ya?

      3. Like to make baseless assumptions often Frank? Take off the anger glasses for a moment and re-read the post.

        Where in it do I say anything about the “rightness or wrongness” of these statutes? Im simply showing what the letter of the law states. Im more than happy to discuss the topic without resorting to name calling.

      4. I understand what your doing, why are you threatened by my freedom of speech, believe me, I didnt call you a name, I responded to your response to my sarcasm. If my sarcasm offended you, which it did, by your comment about my type of attitude. My point is many, many, many people have the same attitude, and its coming to ahead. If you dont know that than that would make you clueless. If you did know and understand than I apologize. The majority of everyday folks have not a clue that they are being boiled alive with Government laws and regulations. I am opposed to” crossing the line”, as trivial as it may seem to most people, knife laws in NY, to me its not trivial, its corruption and abuse and one step closer. Angry you bet I am, at myself and everyone for allowing it to get this far. To get back to knives, I have a folding buck hunting knife, have had it for 30 years. If I was pulled over in my vehicle, that knife could put me in jail for the night. That is abuse of power, remember we are supposed to be protected from government this way, if you are pro Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights..etc.

      5. You misunderstand the law. Many people carry knives..we don’t arrest people simply for having a folder clipped to their pocket on a car stop. If I catch you breaking into a car and you have that knife I “could” charge you..by the letter of the law. It’s all about the situation and the intent with which the person has the weapon.

        As to your claims that “your freedom of speech” threatens me..please. Your long post insulting the intelligence and character of police officers had no other point than to be rude and insulting. Comment away on the law but the shots at people you have no clue about only shows your lack of civility..which you would complain about if it was directed back at you.

      6. frank,your a tool, not a psychiatrist, u sound like a i guess “sheeple”?that’s really impressive,fantabulous right??You whine conformity,yet you sound like everyone else!!Kinda like the goth kid who likes 2 be themselves and not conform 2 dressing like everyone else,..so they dress like all other goth kids instead!!!Good one,U individual,Ha,Give me a break!!!!!

    2. I’ve found LEOs to be very much like mirrors. What you bring to the conversation generally tends to be reflected back at you. Something to consider. If only we were all so secure to cast aspersions at an entire group of people (in this case Police) in a massive logical fallacy based on one person’s opinion. I don’t know if “frank” understands how this makes him look and sound.

      As far as free speech goes, yeah you can say what you like. However, just because you say something doesn’t automatically mean that anyone is required to agree or even take you seriously. Harlan Ellison sums it up elegantly: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

      Also, the Constitution (specifically the Bill of Rights and First Amendment) doesn’t protect your speech absolutely, it does however prohibit the making of any law abridging the freedom of speech. A common mistake and one usually not picked up on by many people except people like, oh, Police who are trained specifically in the application, protection and limitations of Constitutional Law.

      “frank Says:

      April 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      tgace, Are you in law enforcement?”

      Ha! Classic.

      1. The “freedom of speech” thing is in the same family as the “you didn’t read me my rights!” misunderstanding of Miranda…..

      2. I agree Rich. That’s like saying ‘all Teachers only care about summer vacation’ or ‘all Doctors only practice for the money’ or ‘all internet commenters are basement losers with nothing better to do’

    1. I think the ‘common thread’ in most states/districts seems to be reasonably demonstrated ‘intent’ that meets a checklist of ‘behaviors’ that officers are trained to recognize. I know all three of us, as civilians learned the importance of the same awareness skills for personal defense/safety as well. I think about passing through the airport as an everyday analogy to how the ‘letter of the law’ will play out based on your attitude/behavior (which will give clues to ‘intent’). If you have a butterfly knife and walk through the metal detector (or put it in the buckets for metal objects) it will probably only be confiscated as long as you demonstrate a ‘normal’ range of behavior and don’t dress, act, talk, move, like a threat (or have another 20 knives, guns, bats with nails, and bombs on you too)…. If you are an argumentative, irritating, self righteous, pompous, angry person who decides to spout ‘civil liberties’ and preaching law/politics… I’m sure that you will bring a hail of consequences on your head.

  3. would it be legal in New York State to carry a brick in my pocket? I cant seem to find any pants to accommodate the size of a brick, and it takes so much time remove it to be useful as a weapon ? I guess what I will do is call 911 and patiently wait for the police to come to my aide, hopefully my attacker has the gift of patience as well, that should work. I can take comfort that our law enforcement are lightning fast and always have my best interest. Awesome! Problem solved. Wait a minute, after reading the list of illegal weapons in NY, it mentions sand bags, what if my brick became crumbled in my pocket, I am going to forget the brick thing altogether. I will wait for the peace officer. Thank you site has really been a tremendous help, thanks again.

    1. Frank basically the law says you are at the mercy of the officer!!!
      There should have been a clear cut definition however my understanding is that there is non!! So if the officer that day has had a fight with his wife may lord help you defending your good intentions!!.

      1. You are right Bill, but what most people don’t realize is that when it comes to the practical enforcement of Law that’s the way it’s ALWAYS been. While there are certainly some issues with our system, IMO what you would get if officers had strict “zero discretion” enforcement policies would be MUCH worse…..

  4. You said “we don’t arrest people for having a folder clipped to their pocket..”. This is EXACTLY why my buddy was arrested walking down the street minding his own business in NY City. He lives in Texas and is a teacher who was there visiting. A plain clothes policeman walking past him saw his pocket knife clipped to his pocket( the knife was inside the pocket, the clip was showing) an the next thing my friend knows, he is face first into a wall and being handcuffed. He now faces possible jail time and the end of his career in teaching as well as lost money and time and something on his permanent record. So before you say “we” don’t do such and such, maybe you ought to open your eyes and see what your over zealous comrades are really doing in that liberal, overpriced turd of a city you live and work in. Now you can get back to arresting and ticketing people and businesses who sell sodas over 32oz or restaurants that have too much sodium in their food or forcing mothers to breast feed their kids.
    Nate

    1. Slow down there hoss..what makes you think Im an NYPD cop? Im on the other end of the STATE.

      NY is a STATE you know…not just a city.

      I clearly stated that NYC (as in the CITY not the STATE) has city code regarding knives. What they do there is not indicitive of how the rest of the STATE does things.

      HERE…as in not in NY CITY, we dont typicaly arrest people for pocket folders. Plenty of people carry them.

      Maybe you should have that conclusion jumper checked out.

      1. To be fair, in the comment that “hoss” was responding to, you said “You misunderstand the law. Many people carry knives..we don’t arrest people simply for having a folder clipped to their pocket on a car stop” in response to frank’s rant about the knife laws in your post. Even though frank talked about “NY knife laws,” considering that your post focused on NYC knife laws, made minimal reference to NY state knife laws, and most people from other states refer to New York, the city, as simply “New York” (though I imagine it’s different for people who live in New York state), it doesn’t take a huge “conclusion jumper” to infer that frank was talking about NYC knife laws and that your use of “we” implied that you were one of the ones enforcing those same laws.

        And nathan, before you make another moronic rant about the “liberal, overpriced turd of a city,” you should keep a few things in mind: 1) New York is “overpriced” because of the whole free market thing. In case you’re too young to remember, the free market is an economic system that made this country great. If you want every city to have “fair prices and fair wages,” you should vote Socialist. 2) Liberals are much less afraid to hold police accountable when they abuse their authority or violate someone’s civil rights. It’s one of the few things I like about them. 3) If you’re from Texas like your friend, your complaint about “overzealous police” in New York is even more laughably hypocritical. Yes, New York City has some ridiculous, draconian laws when it comes to carrying any sort of concealed weapon, but at least the police there are, for the most part, trying to enforce the law in a fair way. I’ve spent probably twice as much time in New York city as I have in Texas (Dallas/Ft Worth area and Houston, mostly.) In New York, I’ve had many friends, usually other southerners, complain about the whole hand gun registration deal, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about intrusive cops. In Texas, many of my friends have complained about blatant speed traps and abusive cops making traffic stops. I’ve too many friends complain about being pulled over for driving while brown for me to be able to dismiss it as a few guys being overly sensitive about race. Texas was the most recent state to have cops arrest someone for being homo in the privacy of his own home. Oh, and the great liberal Texas gun laws? Sure, you can keep a class-III automatic weapon in your own home to protect your family, but when the Texas cops are executing a no-knock warrant at 3 am with the wrong address, that Constitutionally-protected instrument of self-defense becomes an excuse to put 40 rounds into you before youcan say, “What, you’re cops?”

      2. The only part of my post that referenced NYC was the part where I mentioned that they have local ordinance regarding knife length. I don’t believe that I made any reference to NYC other than that.

      3. In law enforcement community we are well aware of the wide range of personalities and styles of enforcement. The law gives a lot of play to the officer in situ. Problem is in the hiring and supervision process. Misbehavior by the cop is tolerated and generally kept in-house.

  5. Criminals could care less about all this verbage. John Q. Citizen pays the price because of the concentration of crime in NYC. So check everyone with a weapon and evaluate as best as possible. Law Enforcement are not mind readers on the spot. They rely on there professionalism and gut instinct. They did not legislate the local penal codes. On the other hand, when seconds count, the police are minutes away. An old saying goes; a knifeless man is a lifeless man. We are like sheep here in NYC waiting to slaughtered…….

  6. Well, in NYC, anyway, about 20 percent of policepersons are severely overweight. Also one has the sense they are more concerned with knives because their ballistic vests don’t stop ‘em….

  7. Well ill tell you from experience that cops will bother you in NYC if they see a knife clipped to your pocket. I work for the city, dress pretty preppy and was arrested for a knife clipped to my pocket. They said the clip being in plain sight was brandishing. It was dropped in court the next day but I spent the night in jail. The way the law is written gives cops way too much leeway.

    1. If you are in your kitchen thats one thing. If you are walking the street with one in your pocket you come up against that… “circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool”…thing.

  8. Ok where to start NYC you can have a knife but the actual wording in the code is the the knife must be plainly visible I.e. on a belt or outside of pocket if the can only see the clip that’s considered an effort to conceal. As a person who does have a record, yes I made mistakes, I know I’ll never get a concealed carry even though none are felonies so I carry knives I find that if an officer has PC to search me the best thing to do is tell them I have a knife allow them to remove it and get it back. it’s fine to let a cop that you know your rights but there’s no need to cause a scene. even with my record and the fact that I tend to carry “tactical” knives I have never been charged with one as a weapon and only ever had one taken. just don’t be stupid if a cop asks why I have a knife I say protection, not because I’m allowed to if I want to. my experience for the most part is act respectfully and you’ll be treated the same.

    1. I always show respect towards officers of the law although it has been my experience a significant percentage do not deserve it. I am truly confused that people who consider themselves men are so submissive towards cops..better lubricate your self real good for that jamming you are preparing for.

  9. This may be a bit of a loaded question. Tactically, I favor a dagger for self defense. That seems to be in that circular reasoning category. Are there knives, which in and of themselves, are likely to cause an officer to look very hard.

    1. In my experience the odds of you actually being charged for carrying a dagger are low but you will most likely lose the knife, daggers fall under intent and that’s up to the officers opinion really. I used to like a balisong (butterfly) knife and have several pieces of case law proving they don’t fall under a gravity knife but that’s only useful if I want to spend the time and money to go to court and try to get the knife back it’s easier to lose it. As for the submission comment, in my opinion being submissive is a good way to raise suspicion, there’s a huge difference between showing respect and being submissive.

  10. I think ny state is getting out of control with guns and knifes law in this state. Taking our rights way because some people and other cant protect them selves because state and government what happen to amendment rights

    1. It is the entire US, we have just been the first to notice in NY?. I would direct you to a Youtube video about Robert Leone in Towanda Pennsylvania, That will open your eyes to the Constitution.

  11. That really sucks because it gives officers a lot more power than they should have. No officer should be able to make an “assumption” when it comes to weather the knife is being used as a weapon or not. Any knife is a tool plain and simple and any officer arresting someone for simply having a knife based on a cosmetic feature is a socialist idiot. US military uses knives but almost every single soldier also uses it as a tool and is a last resort. Most knives used by our military will never be used as a weapon. But if the knife has the look of a weapon a cop can arrest you. That is a blatant disregard for the Constitution period.

    Same with guns any officer arresting someone for a cosmetic feature on a gun is a coward and violates his own Law Enforcement Oath and the Constitution. By having laws that are completely unconstitutional and law enforcement upholding those laws know full well they are wrong and violates someones basic human rights…..well all I have to say is don’t cry about it when someone finally protects their own rights with force.

    What Law Enforcement seem to not get is a basic civil right is a right we are all born with. They are rights that cannot be removed no matter how scared you are of a big bad knife or gun. Under the supremacy clause which states the US CONSTITUTION as the supreme law of the law and NOT dumb NY laws then it is completely treasonous for a normal citizen to not protect and preserve the constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that anyone who is face with an unconstitutional law it is their patriotic duty to IGNORE said law. This ruling came about when Virgina tried to tax African Americans before they could vote. The courts struck down the law stating it was unconstitutional because it turns a basic civil right into a privilege.

    Rights are rights this is why we have a Bill of Rights and not a Bill of Privileges. The power tripping cops (not every cop) need to take a long hard look in the mirror. Because if you are in law enforcement and your enforcing laws like these then it makes you a socialist sociopath. You enforce law you know are wrong all the while saying things like we are here to “serve and protect”

    WRONG !!!!!!!!!! Supreme court ruled a cop does not have to defend anyone. Although most cops will do it they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

    Self preservation is the right and responsibility of each individual and not the job of the cop. Meaning just like you wouldn’t go to McDonalds and start making burgers you don’t get to take the job of self preservation away from the people you swore to serve. I sure as shit don’t come to the police station and start doing their job either I expect the same in return stop trying to do our job of self defense because unlike you when a crime happens in our house then we are actually at the scene and we are the first to respond so it makes sense that we are the ones to defend our life and property.

    So basically to sum it up. If you want to enforce unconstitutional laws than so be it. However, the people are larger in mass and numbers and anyone attempting to disarm me or any of my fellow Americans has then become an enemy of the state guilty of treason and will perish at the hands of “A well regulated Militia”

    1. “Treasonous” may have been an incorrect word. Unpatriotic at best. Treason in the U.S. is defined as aiding a foreign entity to harm the U.S., whether it is by giving information, sanctuary, or physical aid. Any action made by a citizen directly against the U.S. is not treason. FOr instance, if a U.S. citizen murdered a government official, they can certainly be charged for murder of whatever degree, but they couldn’t be charged with treason, as there was no foreign entity. Now, if a citizen knowingly gave a foreign terrorist sanctuary, or built them a bomb, or sold/gave them a weapon, or gave them access to somewhere they would not normally have access to in order for them to be able to commit the same crime, THEN the citizen would be charged with treason.

    2. But other than that, I agree, the laws are ridiculous, and if I carry a knife for self-defense or to use as a tool should I need to open a box or cut fishing line, cord, rope… I should be able to do that without being arrested.

  12. Could you give me any legal info about knives with clips? I wear it in my pocket with the clip showing. Strictly utilitarian and I’m a good citizen. I live in central NY. Thanks

    1. Well Mr. Ryan, I unfortunately cannot give you a universal answer. Many people do not realize it, but Law Enforcement is not uniform in it’s policies and approaches across a single County, much less a State or the Nation. What some PD’s overlook others may arrest for…and vice versa.

      In general, if you are simply about in public and the knife is not a huge “combat pocket folder” you will likely not be bothered with. Many people carry them around here and unless they are caught up to no good we don’t look twice.

      To be safe..you are always better off carrying something that appears more “utilitarian” than “weaponlike”.

  13. Not sure why the police are getting so much hate from people here (especially Frank). Every single time I’ve interacted with a police officer the officer has been polite and professional. I believe it is one’s own attitude that really colors one’s encounter with law enforcement officials.

    1. A fraction of police whose conduct is improper whose style is that of a bully create animosity for the rest. More self-policing would help.

  14. frank,your a tool, not a psychiatrist, u sound like a i guess “sheeple”?that’s really impressive,fantabulous right??You whine conformity,yet you sound like everyone else!!Kinda like the goth kid who likes 2 be themselves and not conform 2 dressing like everyone else,..so they dress like all other goth kids instead!!!Good one,U individual,Ha,Give me a break!!!!!

  15. thanks for the article.
    today, while i was quietly sitting on a stationary L train and reading my phone, an undercover officer asked me to step outside onto the platform. he directed me to stand over by a wall and then asked “what’s this, flashlight?” pointing at the flashlight clipped in my jeans pocket. i confirmed that it was, and he goes “sorry, thought it was a knife” and sends me on my way.
    my knife was clipped on my other pocket, just as visible. what a retard! haha.
    But in all seriousness, from some of the other comments here, it sounds like i may have just barely dodged a night in jail depending on that officer’s mood, despite having researched the law and purchased an appropriately short (less than 4″) non-assisted folder for EDC. From now on I guess I’ll be fully concealing it, I recommend other new york city people do the same.

    1. Yup…I don’t understand what the NYPD is up to in regards to pocket folders. Charging criminal possession for a run of the mill pocket knife seems excessive to me. What it boils down to is most people just take pleas to dispose of their case without fighting the charge….which is understandable considering the costs of attorneys. All I can say is that police actions in one place are seldom indicative of what cops elsewhere may do. You really have to figure out what you need to know to swim in your local waters.

  16. NYC has been steadily lowering their hiring while pushing “productivity.” This translates into police who are less likely to use good judgment, exercise discretion in favor of collars and compensate for bosses’ harsh supervision by bully tactics on the street.

  17. Hey, I have ab idea, instead of all the complaining about the ambiguous and unfavorable knife laws, why not start a petition to change the law? This is a government by of and for the people, correct? Make the calls to your local and state representatives, but don’t rest on that. Start up a petition and get more than enough signatures and work towards putting the law change on the ballot if representatives won’t take it up.

    The American way, no?

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