Is Pepper Spray Legal In NYC?

Last Updated on July 12, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

Pepper spray is an affordable, practical, nonlethal form of self-defense, and U.S. states have differing laws when it comes to purchasing and using it.

In the state of New York, it is legal to carry pepper spray, but it can only be purchased in a specific place, and its label must contain information regarding its use.

While civilian use of pepper spray is legal in New York City, the law dictates that only pocket-sized canisters are allowed. State law requires civilians to use pepper spray only in self-defence, and could face criminal charges if used in any other context.

The following is all you need to know about the legality regarding pepper spray in New York City.

What Are The Laws Regarding Pepper Spray In New York City?

Laws regarding pepper spray in NYC are dictated under New York Consolidated Laws & Section 265.20 Exemptions of the Penal Laws. In New York City, you can only carry pepper spray in a pocket-sized canister, and it is legal to carry pepper spray on your person.

Civilians may only purchase two canisters of pepper spray during any transaction. You can only purchase pepper spray from a fully licensed arms dealer or a pharmacist, and the sale will only go through once you have signed a form affirming you are over the age of 18, and that you’ve never been convicted of a felony.

Pepper spray cannot be mailed anywhere in New York. The only type of self defence spray that can be legally mailed to New York is pepper spray for use against animals. Animal pepper sprays are used to humanely stun an animal if you fear it’s causing you danger, but this kind of pepper spray should not be used on humans.

Barring certain conditions and restrictions, pepper spray is legal in every state.


There are a couple of exemptions regarding the use of pepper spray in New York City. Those under 18 years of age are not allowed to own or carry pepper spray, and neither are criminals convicted of felonies or assault, even if these convictions took place outside of New York.

In terms of exemptions regarding New York state law, civilians are not allowed to carry pepper spray on commercial airlines due to the risk that would be involved. Carrying pepper spray on a commercial airline is considered a felony in the eyes of New York state law, a charge which carries a fine of up to $25,000.

It is also illegal to carry pepper spray into secured buildings, like state establishments, or government buildings.

Pepper Spray Packaging In New York

Canisters of pepper spray are required to include directions for use, as well as information regarding how to store them safely, and first-aid instructions. They must also include a toll-free phone number for self-defence training courses. Canisters must state that use of the pepper spray for any other reason than self-defence is illegal in the state of New York.

Using Pepper Spray

If you’ve acquired a pepper spray canister, it’s important to peruse the directions, which may differ depending on the brand. For instance, some brands of pepper spray shoot as far as 12 feet, but others might not reach anywhere near that far.

In most cases where pepper spray is required, it will need to be deployed quickly, so once you’ve acquired pepper spray you should practice deploying it and disarming it. If approached by an attacker, you should stand firm and target their face. Once you’re confident the attacker is stunned, it’s important to leave the vicinity immediately, else feel some of the effects of the pepper spray yourself.

The Effects Of Pepper Spray

When sprayed with pepper spray, the effects on the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth are immediate. You’ll feel extreme pain, your eyes will be forced closed, and you’re also likely to be temporarily blinded. The affected person will produce an abundance of tears and mucus, and their larynx and nerve endings will spasm, which will make it difficult for them to speak.

What Other Self-Defence Weapons Are Legal In New York?

The following will outline the New York state laws regarding other self-defence weapons.


While it’s not strictly illegal to carry guns around New York, permits are only issued for concealed carry. Without a license, it is illegal to carry any kind of firearm. Otherwise, owning a gun in New York, and in New York City, is legal. It’s important to consult an attorney when attempting to buy a gun, in order to avoid any potential legal trouble.


In New York, it is illegal to openly carry knives in public. The law is very strict on this rule; if even a fraction of the knife is visible, this is considered carrying it in public. This is illegal even if the actual blade of the knife is covered. The only people this law doesn’t apply to are those who are authorized to use a knife for work, such as on-duty ambulance drivers, or the military.

Tactical Pen

Tactical pens are a relatively new alternative to guns. While they may look like a functioning pen with pressurized cartridges, they also feature a ballpoint far sharper than that of a regular pen, a blunt end for breaking glass or other barriers, and a steel or aircraft-grade aluminum body that provides the pen extra weight, all of which can be used against attackers. Some also come with other features, like lasers, or lights. Their small size makes them far easier to keep concealed than guns or knives.

Tactical pens are completely legal, not just in New York but nationwide.


Both law enforcement personnel and civilians are allowed by law to carry tasers. However, there are different types of tasers to be aware of. If you’re a civilian buying a taser, be sure to buy one designed for civilian use. This kind of taser holds a shock for roughly 30 seconds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s In Pepper Spray?

The active ingredient in pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum (OC), which is the oil taken from the placenta near a pepper’s stem. The percentage of OC does not indicate how strong a pepper spray will be- it simply indicates how much red pepper is in the spray.

The hotness and pungency of a pepper is down to five major capsaicinoids, and it’s these capsaicinoids that comprise oleoresin capsicum. Rather than the OC percentage, it’s the percentage of total capsaicinoids that determine the strength of any given pepper spray.

Both law enforcement pepper sprays and civilian sprays tend to range from 0.18% to 1.33% Major Capsaicinoids. For bear sprays, the rate ranges from 1.0% to 2.0%.

How Long Does A Canister Of Pepper Spray Last?

As with all aerosol sprays, pepper spray will eventually lose its pressure. This tends to happen roughly two years from their manufacture date.

Can I Use A Canister Of Pepper Spray More Than Once?

It’s recommended that if you are forced to use pepper spray in a confrontation, you replace the canister with a new one. You never know when you might be in a confrontation with multiple attackers, so it’s best to always be fully loaded, so to speak.

Conclusion: Is Pepper Spray Legal In New York City?

Pepper spray is legal in the state of New York, meaning it is indeed legal in New York City. It’s important to know all the facts, though. You cannot use pepper spray on another person if it is not in self-defense, and you can only buy it in specific, authorized places. New York City is very densely populated, so it’s important to be protected at all times, and pepper spray is a popular way to do so.