CAUTION – We are advising New York State residents and travelers in the state, and especially in New York City, to be very cautious with your knives. In order to protect yourself effectively, it is best to not have your knife ever showing (not even its clip). Also, to be conservative, you should only carry a knife within a legal environment and a knife that you are sure is legal.

Retailer Alert – For any retailers out there, if law enforcement has contacted you regarding the knives you sell, don’t make a deal with them.

New York State has a very complex and verbose law on “Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons.” It is in the New York State Penal Law, Article 265. Within New York city’s metropolitan area, these laws are enforced proactively. Great caution and care should be used when choosing a knife if you are traveling to live within the Empire State. The Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons laws, Article 265 has a definitional section which has five definitions for specific edged weapons or knives, including the following:

Article 265 Definitions.

As used in article 265 as well as article 400, the following terms shall include and mean:

(4) Switchblade knife refers to any knife that has a blade that automatically opens by hand when pressure is applied to a spring, button or another type of device on the knife’s handle.

(5) Gravity knife refers to any knife with a blade that is released from the sheath or handle through either applying centrifugal force or the force of gravity which, when it is released, get locked into place by means of a lever, spring, button or another type of device.

5-a. A Pilum ballistic knife is any knife with a blade that can be protected through the handle by hand when pressure is applied to a spring, lever, button or another type of device in the knife’s handle.

5-b. A metal knuckle knife is a weapon that, when it is closed, is unable to function as metal knuckles set or as a knife. However, when it is open, it can function as a knife as well as a set of metal knuckles.

13. A Cane Sword is a swagger stick or cane that has a blade concealed inside of it that can be used as a stiletto or sword.

Simply possessing any of these five described knives is a crime without any regard to unlawful intent. In addition, it is a crime as well to possess certain other knives, including a stiletto, dirk, dagger and/or “dangerous knife” – with none being defined – and with lawful intent.

Article 265.01 Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree

An individual is found guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree in the following circumstances:

(1) She or he possesses any Kung Fu star, shuriken wrist-brace type slugshot or slingshot, sandclub, sand bag, chuka stick, metal knuckles, plastic knuckles, bludgeon, blackjack, billy, cane sword, metal knuckle knife, pilum ballistic knife, switchblade knife, gravity knife, electronic stun gun, electronic dark gun or any firearm; or

(2) He or she possesses any imitation pistol, stiletto, razor, dirk, dangerous knife dagger or any other deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument with intent for unlawfully using the same against another; or

In simple language, it is a crime to possess a gravity knife of switchblade without intent. It is not a crime to possess a stiletto, dirk or dagger without intent, with respect to Article 265.01 at least. However, Article 265.15, which is entitled Presumptions of Possession, Unlawful Intent, and Defacement, does state that possessing certain knives offers presumptive evidence of intent for using the same against another unlawfully.

4. The possession by any individual of any stiletto, dirk, dagger or any dangerous knife or any other substance, appliance, instrument or weapon that has been adapted, made or designed for use as a weapon primarily, is considered to be presumptive evidence of intent to use the same against another unlawfully. Article 260.15(4).

In section 265.1(2) of the New York Weapons Statute, it states that one may possess a stiletto, dirk, dangerous knife or dagger, as long as the individual has no intent of using the same unlawfully against one another. However, in a related section, it provides that if an individual possesses this type of knife, possessing it is presumptive evidence that the person has unlawful intent. So in effect, the possessor, who is otherwise innocent, must present evidence that either overcomes or rebuts this presumption.

The problem is complicated even further by the fact that although razor, dirk, and dagger may offer some minimal guidance in terms of what needs to be avoided, when it comes to “dangerous knife,” that it could mean practically anything.

Judicial guidelines have been established by New York’s Court of Appeals in terms of what exactly constitutes a dangerous knife. First of all, it can be any knife, which through its design or any other characteristics, is intended to be primarily used as a weapon. Second, of all, it can be a common utilitarian utensil that has to be converted into a weapon. Third, it can be an unmodified utilitarian knife or one that has not been designed to be a weapon, but through the context of activity and/or reason of the circumstances of the possession. For instance, in this case re Jamie D., 59 N.Y., 2d 589 (1983) it was determined that a steak knife was a dangerous weapon.

A dissenting judge observed that in regards to the dangerous knife that the terms was so undefined as to be nearly beyond salvage through judicial construction due to all knives being dangerous.

Despite the dissent, the standard test for New York appears to be re Jamie D. in terms of whether a specific knife or another similar utensil might be ruled to be a “dangerous knife.” For thirty years this has endured. The test is applied by the fact finder, whether it is a judge or jury.

Applying the law is no less problematic when it comes to “gravity knife,” which is statutorily defined. A gravity knife, as a practical matter, can be any knife that folds and that can be kinetically opened.

In addition, under New York law it is reasonable suspicion simply seeing then end of a knife that is clipped onto a pocket, that the person is in possession of an unlawful gravity knife. In the opinion of the case People v. Brannon, 16 N.Y. 3d 596 (2011), a situation was described that involved a police officer observing an individual, who stated that he was the head of a knife sticking out of the person’s pocket. He explained further that over his four-year police officer career that he had made around three arrests that involved gravity knives.

There wasn’t any indication that this particular police officer’s experience with gravity knives, was atypical or somehow unique. If this was a typical officer, then seventy-five arrests a year is the norm for a New York state police officer. Unfortunately, anecdotal reports suggest that in New York City’s metropolitan area, prosecutions and arrests for possessing a gravity knife are very common.

Individuals under sixteen years of age are forbidden to possess a dangerous knife. Article 265.05

Weapons may not be possessed while on school grounds. Article 265.06

Majority Cities that have a Knife Ordinance:
New York City

Critical Dimensions
Under the New York City Ordinance, there is a four-inch maximum blade length

Concealed Carry:
Both unconcealed and concealed are applied equally under New York Weapons Law

This information that is presented as a brief description of the laws and not as any kind of legal advice. aStraightArrow will not and cannot be a legal service provider. The use of the site does not create any sort of client/lawyer relationship. The knife laws are interpreted differently by prosecuting attorneys, enforcement officers, and judges. aStraightArrow suggests you consult legal counsel for further guidance.