Below you will find the actual text of the New York State Penal Code and the New York City Municipal Code related to knives. Included are some notes to clarify how the laws are interpreted.
The key issue is that until such time as Knife Rights prevails in its federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Vance, it doesn’t matter that nobody except them believe that common folding knives with a bias towards closure are illegal Gravity Knives, that is how the state penal code is being enforced in New York City and being also interpreted by most lower courts in the city. As currently enforced, almost any locking blade folder could be potentially deemed an illegal Gravitry Knife and result in your arrest. The test used is that if any one person is, or might be, able to “wrist flick” the knife open, even if it requires multiple tries and use of exaggerated arm thrust or motion, and the knife blade locks open, that knife is deemed an illegal Gravity Knife.
Note, also, that New York City municipal code has an under-4-inch length limit and requires knives be carried concealed. Knife Rights recommends that you never carry your knife clipped to your pocket in New York City. Even when covered by a jacket, simply moving the jacket aside to get to a wallet has been enough to get folks arrested. Always ensure your knife is completely concealed at all times, including not “printing” on the outside of your clothing.
If you are arrested for possession of an “illegal knife” in New York, please contact Knife Rights at: nycity@KnifeRights.org
New York Penal Code § 265.00 Definitions
§ 265.00 Definitions. As used in this article and in article four hundred, the following terms shall mean and include: 4. “Switchblade knife” means any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife. 5. “Gravity knife” means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device. 5-a. “Pilum ballistic knife” means any knife which has a blade which can be projected from the handle by hand pressure applied to a button, lever, spring or other device in the handle of the knife. 5-b. “Metal knuckle knife” means a weapon that, when closed, cannot function as a set of plastic knuckles or metal knuckles, nor as a knife and when open, can function as both a set of plastic knuckles or metal knuckles as well as a knife. 5-c. “Automatic knife” includes a stiletto, a switchblade knife, a gravity knife, a cane sword, a pilum ballistic knife, and a metal knuckle knife.
New York Penal Code
§ 265.01 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 (5) He possesses any dangerous or deadly weapon and is not a citizen of the United States… NOTE: Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor and is potentially punishable by up to one year in jail, three years probation, or a combination of jail time (up to 60 days) and three years’ probation (see below). If you are convicted of any misdemeanor offense, you have been convicted of a crime. A misdemeanor conviction becomes part of a person’s permanent criminal record, which can be accessed by law enforcement, government agencies and civilian employers. While you may choose to represent yourself, and that may be acceptible to you if the issue is a violation and not a crime, Knife Rights recommends that you ALWAYS consult a lawyer when charged with a violation or a crime, and especially so if arrested and charged with a crime.
§ 70.15 Sentences of imprisonment for misdemeanors and violation. 1. Class A misdemeanor. A sentence of imprisonment for a class A misdemeanor shall be a definite sentence. When such a sentence is imposed the term shall be fixed by the court, and shall not exceed one year; provided, however, that a sentence of imprisonment imposed upon a conviction of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree as defined in subdivision one of section 265.01 must be for a period of no less than one year when the conviction was the result of a plea of guilty entered in satisfaction of an indictment or any count thereof charging the defendant with the class D violent felony offense of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree as defined in subdivision four of section 265.02, except that the court may impose any other sentence authorized by law upon a person who has not been previously convicted in the five years immediately preceding the commission of the offense for a felony or a class A misdemeanor defined in this chapter, if the court having regard to the nature and circumstances of the crime and to the history and character of the defendant, finds on the record that such sentence would be unduly harsh and that the alternative sentence would be consistent with public safety and does not deprecate the seriousness of the crime.
§ 265.04. It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of sixteen to possess any… dangerous knife… A person who violates the provisions of this section shall be adjudged a juvenile delinquent. [Found unconstitutionally vague by Superior Court, 1982; finding reversed by Court of Appeals, 1983] § Section 265.10… 1. Any person who manufactures or causes to be manufactured… any switchblade knife, gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife… is guilty of a class A misdemeanor… 4. Any person who disposes of any of the weapons, instruments or appliances specified in subdivision one of section 265.01, except a firearm, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor, and he is guilty of a class D felony if he has been previously convicted of any crime. § Section 265.15 Presumption of possession, unlawful intent, and defacement… 2. The presence in any stolen vehicle of any weapon… specified in sections 265.01… is presumptive evidence of its possession by all persons occupying such vehicle… 3. The presence in an automobile, other than a stolen one or a public omnibus, of any firearm… gravity knife, switchblade knife… is presumptive evidence of its possession by all persons occupying such vehicle… except… (a) if such weapon… is found upon the person of one of the occupants therein; b) is such weapon… is found in an automobile which is being operated for hire by a duly licensed driver… then such presumption shall not apply to the driver… 4… 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. § 265.20 Exemptions. a. Sections 265.01, 265.02, 265.03, 265.04, 265.05, 265.10, 265.11, 265.12, 265.13, 265.15 and 270.05 shall not apply to: 1. Possession of any of the weapons, instruments, appliances or substances specified in sections 265.01, 265.02, 265.03, 265.04, 265.05 and 270.05 by the following: (a) Persons in the military service of the state of New York when duly authorized by regulations issued by the adjutant general to possess the same. (b) Police officers as defined in subdivision thirty-four of section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law. (c) Peace officers as defined by section 2.10 of the criminal procedure law. (d) Persons in the military or other service of the United States, in pursuit of official duty or when duly authorized by federal law, regulation or order to possess the same. (e) Persons employed in fulfilling defense contracts with the government of the United States or agencies thereof when possession of the same is necessary for manufacture, transport, installation and testing under the requirements of such contract. (f) A person voluntarily surrendering such weapon, instrument, appliance or substance, provided that such surrender shall be made to the superintendent of the division of state police or a member thereof designated by such superintendent, or to the sheriff of the county in which such person resides, or in the county of Nassau or in the towns of Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip and Smithtown in the county of Suffolk to the commissioner of police or a member of the police department thereof designated by such commissioner, or if such person resides in a city, town other than one named in this subparagraph, or village to the police commissioner or head of the police force or department thereof or to a member of the force or department designated by such commissioner or head; and provided, further, that the same shall be surrendered by such person in accordance with such terms and conditions as may be established by such superintendent, sheriff, police force or department. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as granting immunity from prosecution for any crime or offense except that of unlawful possession of such weapons, instruments, appliances or substances surrendered as herein provided. A person who possesses any such weapon, instrument, appliance or substance as an executor or administrator or any other lawful possessor of such property of a decedent may continue to possess such property for a period not over fifteen days. If such property is not lawfully disposed of within such period the possessor shall deliver it to an appropriate official described in this paragraph or such property may be delivered to the superintendent of state police. Such officer shall hold it and shall thereafter deliver it on the written request of such executor, administrator or other lawful possessor of such property to a named person, provided such named person is licensed to or is otherwise lawfully permitted to possess the same. If no request to deliver the property is received by such official within two years of the delivery of such property, such official shall dispose of it in accordance with the provisions of section 400.05 of this chapter. 2. Possession of a machine-gun, large capacity ammunition feeding device, firearm, switchblade knife, gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife, billy or blackjack by a warden, superintendent, headkeeper or deputy of a state prison, penitentiary, workhouse, county jail or other institution for the detention of persons convicted or accused of crime or detained as witnesses in criminal cases, in pursuit of official duty or when duly authorized by regulation or order to possess the same… 6. Possession of a switchblade or gravity knife for use while hunting, trapping or fishing by a person carrying a valid license issued to him pursuant to section 11-0713 of the environmental conservation law… 8. The manufacturer of machine-guns, assault weapons, large capacity ammunition feeding devices, disguised guns, pilum ballistic knives, switchblade or gravity knives, billies or blackjacks as merchandise and the disposal and shipment thereof direct to a regularly constituted or appointed state or municipal police department, sheriff, policeman or other peace officer, or to a state prison, penitentiary, workhouse, county jail or other institution for the detention of persons convicted or accused of crime or held as witnesses in criminal cases, or to the military service of this state or of the United States…
New York City Administrative Code
§ 10-133 Possession of knives or instruments. a. Legislative findings. It is hereby declared and found that the possession in public places, streets and parks of the city, of large knives is a menace to the public health, peace, safety and welfare of the people of the city; that the possession in public places, streets and parks of such knives has resulted in the commission of many homicides, robberies, maimings and assaults of and upon the people of the city; that this condition encourages and fosters the commission of crimes, and contributes to juvenile delinquency, youth crime and gangsterism; that unless the possession or carrying in public places, streets and parks of the city of such knives without a lawful purpose is prohibited, there is danger of an increase in crimes of violence and other conditions detrimental to public peace, safety and welfare. It is further declared and found that the wearing or carrying of knives in open view in public places while such knives are not being used for a lawful purpose is unnecessary and threatening to the public and should be prohibited. b. It shall be unlawful for any person to carry on his or her person or have in such person’s possession, in any public place, street, or park any knife which has a blade length of four inches or more. c. It shall be unlawful for any person in a public place, street or park, to wear outside of his or her clothing or carry in open view any knife with an exposed or unexposed blade unless such person is actually using such knife for a lawful purpose as set forth in subdivision d of this section. d. The provisions of subdivisions b and c of this section shall not apply to (1) persons in the military service of the state of New York when duly authorized to carry or display knives pursuant to regulations issued by the chief of staff to the governor; (2) police officers and peace officers as defined in the criminal procedure law; (3) participants in special events when authorized by the police commissioner; (4) persons in the military or other service of the United States, in pursuit of official duty authorized by federal law; (5) emergency medical technicians or voluntary or paid ambulance drivers while engaged in the performance of their duties; or (6) any person displaying or in possession of a knife otherwise in violation of this section when such knife (a) is being used for or transported immediately to or from a place where it is used for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking or any employment, trade or occupation customarily requiring the use of such knife; or (b) is displayed or carried by a member of a theatrical group, drill team, military or para-military unit or veterans organization, to, from, or during a meeting, parade or other performance or practice for such event, which customarily requires the carrying of such knife; or (c) is being transported directly to or from a place of purchase, sharpening or repair, packaged in such a manner as not to allow easy access to such knife while it is transported; or (d) is displayed or carried by a duly enrolled member of the Boy or Girl Scouts of America or a similar organization or society and such display or possession is necessary to participate in the activities of such organization or society. e. Violation of this section shall be an offense punishable by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars or by imprisonment not exceeding fifteen days or by both such fine and imprisonment. § 10-134 Prohibition on sale of certain knives. a. Legislative findings. It is hereby declared and found that the possession in public places, streets and parks of the city, of folding knives which lock upon opening, is a menace to the public health, peace, safety and welfare of the people of the city; that the possession in public places, streets and parks of such knives has resulted in the commission of many homicides, robberies, maimings and assaults of and upon the people of the city, that this condition encourages and fosters the commission of crimes, and contributes to juvenile delinquency, youth crime and gangsterism; that if this situation is not addressed, then there is a danger of an increase in crimes of violence, and other conditions detrimental to public peace, safety and welfare. It has been found that folding knives with a blade of four (4) inches or more that locks in an open position are designed and used almost exclusively for the purpose of stabbing or the threat thereof. Therefore for the safety of the city, such weapons should be prohibited from sale within the jurisdiction of the city of New York. b. It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, or offer for sale within the jurisdiction of the city of New York, any folding knife with a blade length of four or more inches which is so constructed that when it is opened it is locked in an open position and cannot be closed without depressing or moving a release mechanism. c. Exempt from this section are importers and exporters or merchants who ship or receive locking folding knives, with a blade length of four or more inches, in bulk, which knives are scheduled to travel or have travelled in the course of international, interstate, or intrastate commerce to a point outside the city. Such bulk shipments shall remain in their original shipping package, unopened, except for inspection and possible subdivision for further movement in interstate or intrastate commerce to a point outside the city. d. Violation of this section shall be an offense punishable by a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or by imprisonment not exceeding fifteen days (15) or both such fine and imprisonment. Any person violating this section shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars for each violation.