Are Butterfly Knives Illegal In California? | 2023

Butterfly knife

I always carry a pocket knife on me. If I don’t, I feel defenseless. So do many other people who walk the street with this odd feeling that they aren’t safe. Because of that, some decided to carry a self-defense weapon. That way, they can feel safe and be worry-free.

We’re all familiar with the many instances of women and men getting attacked at nighttime. None of us wants to be the next victim. We want to have the capability of defending ourselves and be as safe as possible. 

I know that it’s difficult to believe that such a situation can occur to you. However, you can never know. For that reason, many people have decided to carry a non-lethal or lethal self-defense weapon.

In the last couple of years, there has been a rising trend in the knife industry. That trend is the rise of butterfly knives. If you haven’t heard of such tools, you may be living under a rock. 

We’ve all seen these videos of fanatics doing unbelievable tricks with them. However, you may not be exposed to the dark side of the butterfly knife. 

It’s an especially deadly tool that has the capability of badly injuring individuals. If you never used a real knife, you won’t understand the sharpness and deadliness such a tool has. In addition, the odds of injuring someone using a butterfly knife are much higher than a regular single blade. 

What is a butterfly knife?

A butterfly knife, also known as a Balisong knife, is a folding pocket knife with two handles. When the knife is folded, the blade is fully concealed. It’s known for the ability of the handles to rotate. 

What is a pocket knife?
Image by SnaXXy from Pixabay

Its origin is from the Philippines. Later on, it came to America and became famous. There were many instances of people cutting their fingers off from using this tool. Still, as time progressed, it didn’t stop increasing in popularity. 

As a result of its popularity, many states banned the usage and dealership of the Balisong knife. Ever since it was less and less famous throughout the world. Not only that, but the number of views on Youtube decreased, making people not want to make videos of it. 

Today, the Balisong knife is illegal for use in most regulated countries. Having that said, many people are constantly using it. As a result, incidents are happening every week from the butterfly knife. In addition, it’s not as beneficial and safe as the regular pocket knife. Therefore, I would not recommend buying it under any circumstance. 

Are Butterfly Knife Illegal In California?

As previously mentioned, butterfly knives are deadly and can threaten people. Therefore, many regulated countries restricted their usage, possession, and distribution. California is one state to do so. 

In California, The possession, distribution, or usage of butterfly knives is illegal. A butterfly knife whose blade exceeds 2 inches is illegal to own. On the other hand, if the knife is less than 2 inches, it’s treated as a single-blade knife, which is legal to own and carry in public.

In California, the punishment of possessing in some way a switchblade knife, which is a pocket knife with a blade longer than 2 inches, is harsh. For such a crime, one can be fined up to $1000 or spend 6 months in county jail. Therefore, it’s treated as a serious felony and only for possessing such a tool. 

Overall, the butterfly knife is a deadly weapon. California has restricted the possession of such weaponry and takes them seriously. There have been a couple of incidents where people got hurt from butterfly knives. Once again, you’re not allowed to possess butterfly knives or switchblade knives in any way imaginable. 

Why are butterfly knives dangerous?

A hand holding a knife
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Knives have existed for a long time now. Throughout the years, new types of knives have flown in the market. There were always change in this industry. Contrary to what you may think, this is no good.

In the United States, in 2020, there were around 2000 incidents of murder with knives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in self-defense weapons. However, there are plenty of incidents of murder and misuse of them. 

Another terrifying statistic is 62,000 aggravated assaults in the United States with knives. Many people use knives as assault tools rather than self-defense lethal weapons. Therefore, many regulated countries banned the possession of them. However, in most of them, if you’re carrying the knife for self-defense purposes, you’re in the clear. 

Lastly, butterfly knives, in particular, can injure people by incidents. For instance, because of its odd mechanic and ability to rotate, many people injure themselves because they weren’t familiar with it. 

There are many other reasons why the butterfly knife is a lethal knife for personal use. It simply gives fewer benefits than the regular single-blade pocket knife. Therefore, California has banned the possession of it.

Are Balisongs Illegal In California?

A Balisong knife is a type of butterfly knife. From the previous paragraph, we know that butterfly knives are illegal. Therefore, Balisong knives are illegal to possess, transfer, and sell in California. 

The unique name is originated from a small town called Brgy, in the province of Taal, in the Philipines. These knives are a symbol of bravery.

To conclude, the Balisong knife is another title for the butterfly knife. Its name originates from the Philippines. Lastly, this knife is a symbol of bravery. Lastly, owning, selling, and distributing such knives are illegal in California. 

What happens if you get caught with a butterfly knife?

Police car
Image by Bao Tseng from Pixabay

In the United States, there are 3 types of crimes. Infraction, misdemeanor, and a felony. Felony is the type of crime most punishable by judges. In our case, the state of California treats it as a misdemeanor. 

Therefore, if you get caught with a butterfly knife, you can get up to 364 days in county jail and be fined $1000 and more. In addition, you can get that if you possess the knife, sell it, or carry the knife. 

In addition, there were a couple of instances where the defendant received much lower punishment than what I described in the previous paragraph. For example, there were a couple of cases where the cop took the knife away and let the offender go. 

It all comes down to your background and what the cop or judge sees. If you had previous crimes to your name, you have a higher chance of receiving more severe punishment. 

On the other hand, if you come out clear and you have a well-rounded reason to carry such a lethal knife, you have a higher chance of being let go. 

However, using the knife illegally may make the crime a felony. Therefore, the punishment will be more severe. You should not be possessing or selling butterfly knives, or else you will get thrown behind bars. 

To sum it up, in the state of California, getting caught with a butterfly knife is a misdemeanor crime. Therefore you can get up to 364 days in jail and be fined $1000 and more. 

Instances of illegal use of knives in California

Today, there are many instances where people are stabbed. We must understand the type of situations that occur to better prepare ourselves. Lastly, this section is a way for me to show you a few examples of the illegal use of knives in California. That way, we can understand the punishments and the different occurrences. 

In September 2021, people in the Mid-City were stabbed. Including a jogger and additional people. This was an assault with a deadly weapon, a knife. As we know, it’s a misdemeanor to own a butterfly knife. However, attacking people with a knife for no reason is clearly a felony. Therefore, the punishment will include a more sincere jail time. 

On April 9th, in Santa Cruz, a man committed a hate crime using a knife. The man stabbed a black man using a deadly weapon while saying racial slurs. Before this attack, the man attacked 4 other black men. Later, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and committing a hate crime. The man will spend 82 months in jail. 

In September 2021, a 65-year-old man slashed another man’s arm with a folding pocket knife. The officers arrested the offender and, he was charged $30,000 and unknown time in county jail. 

From all these instances, we can understand the seriousness of this matter. Knives are no child’s play. Commit crimes with them and, you’ll be severely punished. All were examples of assaults using a knife, which are felonies and will attract severe punishments. 


Butterfly knives are illegal to possess, distribute or own in any way in the state of California. We saw examples of crimes committed in California and the severe punishments they came with. In addition, we went over the types of crimes in the United States and made an order in that matter. 

I would encourage you not to mess with illegal knives or any illegal weapons. Instead, if you want to arm yourself for self-defense purposes, there are plenty of other weapons you can choose from. Some are more lethal than butterfly knives. 


I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

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