Pocket Knife Laws

Pocket Knife Laws

Posted by Ramon Elzinga on

Many of those wanting to purchase or use their pocket knives are confused by laws in their jurisdiction. This page has been put together to answer common questions about pocket knives.

(Laws and legislation is updated and is different in different places. If you have an information regarding law changes please feel free to leave your comments at the base of this blog).

Australia

In the majority of states and territories it is illegal to carry a knife in public without a reasonable excuse. Self defence is not a reasonable excuse in Australia.


Examples of a reasonable excuse include:

  • a person may carry a knife on his or her belt for performing work in primary production
  • a scout may carry a knife on his or her belt as part of the scout uniform
  • a person may carry a knife as an accessory while playing in a pipe band
  • a fisher may carry a knife for use while fishing
  • a person who collects knives may exhibit them at a fete or another public gathering
  • a person may use a knife to prepare or cut food at a restaurant in a public place or when having a picnic in a park, or
  • a person may carry a pen knife or swiss army knife for use for its normal utility purpose.

(taken from https://www.police.qld.gov.au/weapon-licensing/law-and-weapons)

 

Queensland

In February, new laws were passed in Queensland banning the sale of knives to people under the age of 18 after a woman was stabbed at a shopping centre.

The new laws make the sale of knives, replica firearms including gel blasters, and edged weapons such as machetes, axes, and swords to juveniles, an offence.

It is not legal to possess a knife in a public place or school unless a person has a "reasonable excuse".

A person caught carrying a knife in a public place risks a fine of up to $5750 or one year in prison.

Victoria

In Victoria you cannot carry knives in public, apart from utility knives with a blade no longer than 10cm, unless you have a lawful excuse.

A lawful excuse can include carrying a knife for work, for recreation such as fishing, or for display or exhibition. Self-defence is not a lawful excuse.

A person caught carrying a knife can go to jail for one year. Selling a knife to a person under 18 can result in a fine of up to $46,154 or up to two years in jail.

ACT

Under the ACT Crimes Act, it is not legal to possess a knife in a public place or school without a "reasonable excuse".

A reasonable excuse can include a knife being required for work, preparation of food, participation in lawful recreation or sport, exhibiting a knife for trade or exhibition, wearing an official uniform, or for religious purposes.

A person possessing a knife without a reasonable excuse can face a fine of up to 10 penalty units ($1600 for an individual) or six months in prison.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, it is illegal to carry knives in public places unless there is a lawful purpose, such as a tradesman who uses a knife in their work.

People can carry knives for recreational activities such as camping or fishing.

It's illegal to carry a pocket knife or multi-tool in a public place unless it's needed for a specific lawful activity.

A person carrying a knife in a public place could face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to 50 penalty units ($9,750).

South Australia

In South Australia, most types of knives are considered a prohibited weapon and cannot be carried in a school or public place without an exemption.

The maximum penalty is $2500 or six months in prison.

It is also an offence to sell a knife to a person under the age of 16, and the maximum penalty is a fine of up to $20,000 or two years in prison.

Knives that are illegal in South Australia

  • Ballistic knife where the blade is fired by explosion, mechanics or percussion
  • Butterfly knife / Bali knife / Balisong knife
  • Fighting knives - a knife (other than a bayonet or sword) designed for hand to hand fighting, for example, a butterfly knife, dagger, flick-knife, push knife or trench knife
  • Knife belt that conceals or disguises the knife
  • Star knife / shuriken / ninja star / throwing star
  • Whole or part of a knife that cannot be detected by a metal detector or x-ray
  • The above is taken from the SAPol website

The South Australian Summary Offences Act 1953 
In Section 21 states that a person who, without lawful excuse, has possession of a knife in a school or public place is guilty of an offence. The maximum penalty for a first offence is $2500 or imprisonment for 6 months and for each subsequent offence can be fined $5000 or imprisonment for 12 months. 

The full Act can be found here

Western Australia

In Western Australia, most types of knives are classified as either prohibited or controlled weapons and cannot be carried without a lawful excuse.

A person who tries to carry a prohibited weapon, bring one into the state, or manufacture or sell a prohibited weapon, can face a maximum fine of $36,000 or three years in prison.

A person who carries or possesses a controlled weapon can face up to two years in prison or a fine of $24,000.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, it's illegal to possess a sword or knife in a public place without a lawful excuse.

A person found guilty of carrying a prohibited weapon without a reasonable excuse can face a maximum of two years in prison or 400 penalty units ($70,400).

For a controlled weapon, the maximum penalty is one year in prison or 200 penalty units ($35,200).

NSW
Laws in NSW are well written here - https://obriensolicitors.com.au/know-your-knives-a-guide-to-knife-laws-in-new-south-wales/
America

Knives are mostly used for protection, hunting, or handyman work. Even though owning a knife is not illegal in the United States, each state has different regulations on the types of knives that people can have. They also explain how legal knives should be carried and used.

Federal law only prevents switchblades and ballistic knives from being transported or sold on land or property under their jurisdiction. That law does not prevent that action on state land, which must be determined by the state’s government.

Knife Laws By State

Not all state knife laws are created equal. While some states lack any regulation, other states make up in kind. To cover all of those variations, we have a table including the laws and restrictions of each state regarding everything from which knives are banned to how the state handles concealed carry.

The states with the most involved or confusing knife laws include

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Washington

Despite our best efforts to explain and interpret the law for clarity, these can be very confusing, so please do your own research and even go as far as to contact the state or municipality you plan on visiting to save yourself any headaches later.

California Knife Laws

California is known for having rather complicated weapon laws, and knives are no exception. It is completely unlawful to bring a weapon into public spaces like schools, public buildings, and any property owned by the U.S. government. As for knives you cannot own or carry, those include air gauge knives, belt buckle knives, lipstick knives, writing pen knives, undetectable knives, Shobi-zue (a staff or rod containing a blade), cane knives, ballistic knives, and switchblades with a blade longer than 2 inches.

Knives you can carry are, as a result, limited. Any automatic knife (spring-loaded) is unlawful to carry, especially in a concealed manner. Switchblades with blades shorter than 2 inches may be carried.

The only knives that can be concealed carried are ones in a folding position, and there are no restrictions on the blade length. Fixed blade knives, such as dirks, daggers, and other sheathed knives, must be open-carried and cannot be concealed.

Delaware

In Delaware, any knives that are spring-loaded or released by gravity are banned. The law is written so that it could include balisong knives even though they are not released by a spring or gravity.

Knives you cannot own include automatic/switchblades, gravity knives, undetectable knives, throwing stars, and knuckle knives. Knives you can own, as in keep on your property, include all folding knives, fixed knives, dirks, daggers, and butterfly knives.

Restrictions on what you can carry on your person only apply to concealed carry. Basically, it is illegal for any knife that’s not a pocket knife (a folding knife) or has a blade 3 inches or greater to be concealed.

Maine

Maine is known for having rather vague knife laws. There are no limitations on what you can own, but concealed carry has many restrictions. It is illegal to carry concealed Bowie knives, dirks, stilettos, and other dangerous or deadly weapons. You can, on the other hand, carry all of these knives out in the open.

The only knives you can carry concealed are regular folding knives and any of the above knives if used to hunt, fish, or trap.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has very few limitations on what you can own. These include balisong knives, butterfly knives, switchblades, automatic knives, dirks, daggers, stilettos, push knives, knives with brass knuckles, disguised knives, large knives (Bowie knives), and throwing knives.

Carry and concealed carry is where it gets a bit more tricky. Firstly, it’s illegal to carry on your person (concealed or open), double-edged knives, automatic knives, switchblades, dirks, daggers, stilettos, ballistic knives, and knuckle knives. It is also illegal to carry any item believed to be dangerous while disturbing the peace or being arrested.

In Massachusetts, it is legal to carry folding knives, Swiss army, and kitchen knives on your person as long as you do not behave in a way that makes them dangerous.

Stilettos, daggers, double-edged knives, ballistic knives, automatic knives with a blade longer than one and one half (1 ½) inches, and any device which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position is legally considered a “dangerous items.”

Michigan

While there are no knives that are restricted or banned under Michigan law, concealed carry is heavily restricted, including what knives can be carried and where you can carry them.

Concealed carry is unlawful for knives such as daggers, dirks, stilettos, double-edged non-folding stabbing instruments of any length, and “any other dangerous weapon”. The only exception is hunting knives and switchblades (spring-assisted knives) that are “adapted and carried as such”.

New York

It’s not news that New York has stricter weapon laws than almost any other state, so be sure to do your research and take precautions as laws are changing all the time.

New York law does not differentiate between concealed and unconcealed carry, so if you are carrying a blade on your person for any reason, you have to be sure that it is fixed and less than 4 inches in length. These knives may only be located where others cannot see them. There are several types of knives you cannot carry on your person, including folding knives, balisong knives, automatic or spring-loaded knives, and pileum ballistic.

There are multiple knives banned for non-exempted citizens under New York law, including switchblades (automatic or spring-loaded knives), ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, and cane swords. Any person under the age of 16 is not allowed to possess a “dangerous knife.” In addition to that, all knives are illegal on New York’s subways.

Also, while some knives are not technically illegal, they may become illegal based on the intent of use. Knives in this category include daggers, dirks, stilettos, machetes, dangerous knives, or razors.

North Carolina

Surprisingly, North Carolina is another state with knife laws that are a bit hard to follow. First, residents are required by law to open carry all knives except pocket knives, even though you are allowed to own many other kinds.

The only type of knife that is banned in North Carolina is the ballistic knife. And while there are exceptions to all of these rules, they are very limited. Altogether, owning knives is not heavily regulated in this state, but carrying is.

Oregon

In Oregon, ownership of knives is legally lenient. The only rule that they have regarding knife ownership is that a person who has committed a felony cannot own one. The types of knives that people can own in this state include dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives, bowie knives, switchblades or other automatic knives, ballistic knives, gravity knives, balisong (butterfly) knives, and balisong trainers, and stilettos.

When it comes to concealed carry, the only types of knives that are prohibited are automatic knives, assisted opening knives, dirks, daggers, or ice picks.

Washington

Concealment of “dangerous weapons” in the state of Washington is a crime. This basically means that concealed carry is illegal, but the intent is what matters most. In a case where an officer performed a pat-down on someone involved in a disturbance, the officer found a 3-inch paring knife on a teen, who was later charged with that crime. Even though the case was later dropped because the intent was not established, you get the idea. When traveling in the state, be aware that laws are written in such a way that potentially makes any concealed carry illegal. Otherwise, you are able to own anything other than “spring blade” knives. Open carry is generally allowed.

 

Search... (51)
Required Age for Possession
Statewide Preemption
Restricted
Concealed Carry
Schools
Major Cities w/ Knife Ordinances
Critical Dimensions
Alabama None No None. Not permitted for Bowie knives Not permitted on school property Montgomery - 3 inch blade limit None.
Alaska None Yes None for people over 21. Allowed with restrictions for those under 21. Not allowed on school grounds without special permissions. None. None.
Arizona None Yes None. Allowed with restrictions for those under 21. Not allowed on school grounds or at polling places on election days. None. None.
Arkansas None No None. Not restricted, unless there is unlawful intent. Not allowed in publicly-owned buildings or facilities. None. 3 inches or longer blade length if there is intent to use unlawfully.
California None No Multiple. See state info. Unlawful unless a folding pocket knife. Not ever allowed on school property. Multiple. 2 inches or more - lenth of legal switchblade.
Colorado None Limitation on local ordinances when traveling. Ballistic knife. Not allowed with blade over 3 1/2 inches. Further restrictions apply relating to location. Not allowed on school grounds. Denver, Boulder 3 1/2 inches
Connecticut None No None. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds. None. 1 1/2 inch maximum for automatic knives and 4 inches for all others.
Delaware None No "Undetectable knives." Explained in state section. Restricted. Not allowed on school grounds or recreational zones. None. 3 inches.
District of Columbia None N/A Switchblades. Restricted. N/A Switchblades banned in the District. 3 inches
Florida 18 No Ballistic knives. Common pocket knife allowed, but others prohibited unless licensed. Not allowed on school grounds. Multiple. None.
Georgia None Yes None, but blades over 12 inches hae some restrictions. Allowed. Having a blade greater than two inches on school grounds is prohibited. None. 12 inches
Hawaii None No Switchblades and butterfly knives. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
Idaho 18 Yes None, but blades over 6 inches hae some restrictions. Allowed with restrictions on minors, non-citizens, felons, and the mentally-ill. Blades less than 2 1/2 inches may be carried on school grounds (K-12) and school buses. None. Blades exceeding 6 inches have some restrictions.
Illinois None No Switchblades and ballistic knives. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds. Chicago None.
Indiana None Yes Ballistic knives and "chinese throwing stars." Allowed. Knives cannot be on school property, if intended as a weapon. Indianapolis None.
Iowa None No Ballistic knives, daggers, razors, stilettos, and switchblades. Items on "dangerous weapon list" cannot be concealed. Not allowed on school grounds, including area within 1000 feet of school. None. Blades ecseeding 5 inches considered dangerous weapon.
Kansas None Yes None. Allowed. Restrictions for carrying at schools, jails, and juvenile coreection facilities apply. None. None.
Kentucky 21 No None. Allowed. Restrictions only apply to those under 21. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
Louisiana None No None. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds, school grounds, or school functions. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport None.
Maine None No Bowie knives, dirks, stilettos, and more. Restrictions on certain knives. Not allowed on school grounds. More restrictions may apply per district. None. None.
Maryland 18, but more restrictions apply. No None. Allowed for folding knives that are not switchblades or spring-activated. Not allowed on school grounds. Baltimore None.
Massachusetts None No Stilettos, daggers, double-edged knives, ballistic knives, and automatic knives. Allowed with restrictions on the types of knives. Not allowed on school grounds, from elementary to university campuses. Boston, Salem Maximum blade length 1 1/2 inches for automatic knives.
Michigan None No None. Restrictions on certain knives. Not allowed on school grounds. Detroit and Lansing None.
Minnesota None No Allowed unless a switchblade. Not allowed on school grounds. Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul None.
Mississippi 18 Yes Allowed with restrictions on the types of knives. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
Missouri None No None. Restrictions apply based on states definition of a knife. Not allowed on school grounds. None. A pocketknife with a blade 4 inches or less can be carried concealed.
Montana None Yes None. Allowed. A blade 4 inches or longer, a sword, or straightrazors are prohibited. None. None.
Nebraska None No None. Allowed with restrictions on the types of knives. Not allowed on school grounds. Lincoln and Omaha Blades up to 3 1/2 inches can be concealed.
Nevada None No None. Allowed unless a machete. Edged tools are not allowed on school grounds. Carson City, Las Vegas, Clark County, and Reno None.
New Hampshire None Yes None. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
New Jersey None No Gravity knives, automatic knives, dirks, daggers, stilettos, and ballistic knives have restrictions. Allowed. Not allowed in any part of buildings or grounds of any educational students. Camden Blades sold to minors up to 10 inches are permitted.
New Mexico None Yes Switchblades, including gravity and butterfly knives, are prohibited. Restricted, even prohibited. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
New York 16 No Switchblades, ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, and cane words. Restricted. Not allowed on school grounds. Several. New York City - under 4 inch blade length.
North Carolina 18, for bowie knives and dirks. No Ballistic knives. Restrictions apply based on the type of knife. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
North Dakota None No "Dangerous knives" as in switchblade or gravity knives, machete, scimitar, stiletto, sword, dagger, or knife with a blade over 5 inches. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds and certain public events/gatherings. Bismark, Fargo, and Grand Forks Knives with a blade longer than five inches considered a dangerous weapon.
Ohio None Yes Ballistic knives. Allowed. Not permitted on school property or courthouses. None. None.
Oklahoma None Yes None. Allowed. Allowed with limitations. None. None.
Oregon None No None. Restrictions based on the type of knife. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
Pennsylvania None No Automatic knives. Allowed. Not allowed in school grounds. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh None.
Rhode Island Restrictions on selling to minors. No None. Blades longer than 3 inches and certain types of knives have restrictions. Not allowed in school grounds. None. 3 inch maximum for blades carried in concealed manor or transferred to a minor.
South Carolina None Yes None. Allowed. 2 inch maximum on knives on primary and secondary school property. Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville None.
South Dakota None No None. Allowed. Not allowed on school property. Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Sturgis, Deadwood None.
Tennessee None Yes None. Allowed. Not allowed on school property. None. None.
Texas 5 1/2 inch blade maximum under specific conditions of locations. Yes Any with blade longer than 5 1/2 inches (relating to minors). Allowed. Not allowed on any premises related to educational institutions with exceptions. None. 5 1/2 blade has restrictions depending on location.
Utah None Yes None. Allowed. Not allowed on the property of any kind of educational institution. None. None.
Vermont Only guardian or parent can furnish a minor (under 16) with a knife. Yes Switchblades or automatic knives with a 3 inch blade. Allowed. Not allowed on school property. None. Automatic knives may not have blades that exceed 3 inches.
Virginia 18, penalty on who provides knife. No Ballistic knives. Restrictions based on the type of knife. Knives with folding metal blade of less than 3 inches allowed. None. A folding pocket knife has a maximum length of 3 inches.
Washington Location specifications, but no restriction on general possession. No Spring blade knives, daggers, dirks. Restrictions apply. Not allowed on school property. Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver None.
West Virginia 18, unless married or otherwise emancipated. Yes None. No restriction on concealed carry or possession for those over 21. Not allowed on school grounds. None. 3 1/2 inches in relation to any dagger, dirk, poniard, or stiletto.
Wisconsin 18, possession is prohibited. Yes None. Allowed. Not allowed on school grounds. None. None.
Wyoming 21, it is an on offense to carry concealed weapons unless of age. Yes None. Allowed. Nothing mentioned. None. None.

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