Knife laws are confusing; let us help. The US has some general knife laws but it only applies to importing from overseas, transportation between states, and federal properties like military bases. Anything outside of that is covered by state laws. Some cities have their own specific knife laws as well but Alabama has one of the most lenient knife laws of all 50 states.
If you don’t like legal speak, here is the basics of what are legal under Alabama knife laws.
Here are notes on what kinds of knives are illegal under Alabama knife laws.
Section 13A-11-50 Carrying concealed weapons
Except as otherwise provided in this Code, a person who carries concealed about his person a bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than six months.
What this says is that Bowies are illegal and you will be fined between $50 and $500 and/or 6 months of hard labor.
What is a Bowie under Alabama law? Case precedence has stated that a Bowie is a fixed blade, single edge knife that is too big to fit in your pocket. So, anything that has a front and back blade like a stiletto is legal. Also, Balisongs and any other automatic/gravity knives are legal too.
Bowies are only illegal if carried concealed so, if you carry it in the open on your hip, it is OK. Carrying a Bowie concealed on your property is OK as well. Precedence has stated that a 11″ butcher’s knife is classified a Bowie in Alabama. When Jim Bowie first used his knife, people stated that it looked like a large chef’s knife so I think that is why. If you are thinking about carrying a machete, note that, under Alabama code, it might be called a Bowie.
Carrying a Bowie or a similar tool in your vehicle counts as carrying it concealed. Do not place a Bowie or similar tool in your trunk. If you are pulled over and the cop asks to search for your car, say “no.” If you are unfamiliar with the law, said “yes,” and happened to be carrying your camping machete, you are might be charged with a misdemeanor.
Section 13A-11-55 Indictment for carrying weapons unlawfully proof
In an indictment for carrying weapons unlawfully, it is sufficient to charge that the defendant carried concealed about his person a pistol, or other description of firearms, on premises not his own, or a bowie knife, or other knife or instrument of the like kind or description, or other forbidden weapon, describing it, as the case may be; and the excuse, if any, must be proved by the defendant on the trial, to the satisfaction of the jury; and if the evidence offered to excuse the charge raises a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt, the jury must acquit him.
If you are charged, you have a right to trial. At the trial, the prosecutor will need to show to the jury how the knife is classified as a Bowie, was concealed, and was on you.
The burden of proof here is “reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof is how convincing the evidence is that the person is guilty. For example, the preponderance of the evidence means that the jury needs to be 51% or more sure that the person is guilty. Beyond a reasonable doubt means that a reasonable person should be somewhere between 90-99% sure that the person is guilty. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the burden of proof required by most criminal statues. We can guess that reasonable doubt is somewhere in between preponderance of the evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt, 52% and 89% sure.
After you are charged with the crime and before you go to trial, get a lawyer. A crafty lawyer can get you a not guilty verdict even though when you are reading this, the law sounds pretty black and white.
For example, if he can show that the knife that was on you does not count as a Bowie knife under Alabama law, you are not guilty.
Or, if he can show how the police used illegal means to find out that you were carrying a Bowie concealed, you are not guilty. For example, if the police officer called you a racial slur and, by doing that, you confessed that you have a Bowie in your trunk, you can use that as a reason to why you are not guilty. Note that it is hard to prove an officer said something to you unless you record it ;-).
Or, he can raise some holes in the prosecution’s case. If the holes are large enough to make the jury less sure than “beyond a reasonable doubt” you are not guilty.
There are more ways to be found not guilty, so always talk to an attorney.
Section 13A-11-51 Evidence of apprehension of attack may mitigate punishment, etc
The defendant being tried under the provisions of Section 13A-11-50 may give evidence that at the time of carrying the weapon concealed, he had good reason to apprehend an attack, which the jury may consider in mitigation of the punishment or in justification of the offense.
If you are arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a Bowie knife in our case, you can have your punishment reduced if you can show that you were carrying it to defend yourself.
The punishment for carrying a Bowie is not that large but the social repercussions of having a misdemeanor is larger. Think about future jobs that you are missing out on or future raises that you are missing out on.
When the knife law was originally drafted and past, the late 1800’s, they were worried about people dueling with Bowies. Today, the law is very archaic and needs to change… but lots of laws need to change and bureaucracy is very slow.
However, Alabama has one of the best knife laws in the US. Stuff like stilettos and Balisongs are legal and lots of other states banned them.
Most likely, if you happened to carry a machete or other large Bowie like item concealed in public, you won’t be charged with anything unless the police officer has a suspicion that you are trying to commit a crime. Then, he would arrest you for carrying a concealed weapon as an easy way to get you off of the streets.
Note that this is not legal advice and there is no client-attorney relationship. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment. We are also working to find an attorney in the state of Alabama who would like to do a short interview with us explaining the law.
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