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.
What is Legal
If you don’t like legal speak, here is the basics of what are legal under Alabama knife laws.
- Balisongs/butterfly knives are legal.
- Switchblades, gravity knives, automatic and assisted opening knives are legal.
- Stilettos, dirks, and toothpick knives are legal.
- All folding knives are legal.
- Bowies are legal if carried open (like on your hip).
- Bowies are legal to carry concealed if you are on your own property.
- Double sided knives are legal, no matter the size.
- If the knife fits in your pocket, it is legal.
- Out the front knives are legal.
What is Illegal
Here are notes on what kinds of knives are illegal under Alabama knife laws.
- Bowies and things that are like Bowies are illegal if concealed.
- A machete might be classified as a Bowie and it would be illegal if you carry it concealed.
- An 11″ butcher knife has be found to be like a Bowie in court so don’t plan on using it in a crime.
- Selling Bowies to people under 18 is illegal.
Alabama State Code
Only Bowie Like Knives are Illegal
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.
What Happens if You are Charged
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.
How to Be Found Not Guilty or Something Close
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.
Conclusion on Alabama Knife Laws
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.
what about your classic USMC style Ka-Bar of the shorter length, 5 inches as apposed to 7? It’s shaped like a narrow Bowie but far shorter…
the short Ka-Bar USMC has a 5″ blade, I mean – not including the grip!
@criticalj Read the article again. The author states that a fixed blade single edge knife that won’t fit in your pocket is the description of a bowie that is found in case law. If you can fit your Ka-Bar in your pocket then by all means carry it. But if caught with it concealed you might find yourself as the defendant in an expensive court case.
Personally I think you should be able to carry any knife that you want. But the law doesn’t allow that.
I open carry a full size 7″ blade KA-BAR everyday and I have never had any trouble.
How do you carry a machete or Bowie if you can’t put it in the trunk? Do carry it in the back seat? Because my trunk looks like I’m a traveling Bowie and machete salesman. I would like to know how to fix this problem.
youre supposed to put it in the trunk…
Great article. Thanks for doing the research.
Orange Beach, AL
While the state law preempts local authorities from enacting laws on ownership or possession or carry of guns, the same does not apply to knives….. Many of the knives that are indicated as legal in Alabama are in fact made illegal by local ordinances that can be misdemeanors with up to a year in the county jail. If you are carrying a knife in Alabama you need to check your local laws to be sure what is legal and what is not.
I want to keep a knife in my car the blade is about 5″ long you can put it in your pocket but it’ll stick out a bit. Would that be illegal?
I have a sword that I would like to carry, it goes on the back so you can of course see it but I would like to know if that is legalle in fairhope alabama
Why a sword it’s just gonna make u a target and if some maniac comes in witha a gun I don’t think your sword will be of much use
get a cane/walking stick with an arkansaw tooth pick inside. double sided as to be legal. used for defence. if they grab it they only come away with the sheth and leaves you in a possition to thrust.
Any Cane /walking stick with a gun or knife inside is two years. Forget which type of a knife or sword is a two year felony.
Can you open carry a bowie knife if your a convicted felon?
It depends on the nature of your crime if it was murder than no But if it was some other violent crime then it depends
Is there an age minimum to where you can open carry a Bowie type knife without it being a crime?
I’m 15 and I’ve been carrying for about 3 years. Pocket knives and spring assist. I also have a straight blade on me while hunting.
I have been practicing with a cheap butterfly knife but I’ve been scared to carry it cuz I’ve always been told that it’s illegal now that I know it’s not illigal(thanks to this website) I’m wanting to get me a good butterfly knife that’s not to pricy any suggestions?
These are State laws, however cities may and often do have ordnances restricting certain knives. If you plan to carry inside any city limit, check their laws.
A cop in Birmingham Alabama took my son’s Butterfly knife. The cop said as he handed it to me “Your son had this on him. These are illegal. I’m just going to give it to YOU.” I said “You just told me that knife is illegal, so if I take it from you, I’ll be breaking the law!! YOU keep it!”
So if I go to an outdoors store to purchase a Bowie knife, how the hell am I supposed to legally get it home if it is illegal to have it in a vehicle? If the knife is in the open (i.e., on the passenger seat, etc) and not concealed in a compartment like the glovebox or trunk, is it not considered to be a violation since it is technically not concealed in a compartment of the vehicle?
You can legally carry these things in your trunk, but if a cop, for whatever reason, thinks he has probable cause to search, don’t let him be surprised by it: tell him it’s there first.
They misinterpreted the law. Nowhere in the Code of Alabama of 1975 does it say it is considered concealed if placed in a vehicle. It doesn’t matter if it’s hidden or in plain view. There is no law against it.
Carrying a Bowie in a vehicle is not “considered” concealed. That is a common misconception. Nowhere does Alabama law state that placing a knife in your vehicle is concealing it.
Tell that to the cop who took me to jail for having a hunting knife in the glovebox of my car!
CAN A MINOR HAVE A “BOWIE KNIFE” ON THEIR PRIVATE PROPERTY? THANK YOU
A child can own a bowie, just no selling them a minor
So is it TOTALY illegal to carry a Balisong/Butterfly knive on public property (I’m 12 btw) and so can minors (12 again) carry a Butterfly Knive in public and if it gets convinscated by Police would I be in trouble lol thank you for this, it helped me a lot
I have folding pocket knives engraved with my company information. Does anyone know if it is legal to give these away for free as one would do with a business card or personalized object of other kinds? This would be in ditty bags to a convention of boaters.
As long as the knife is legal u can
I bought a gerber machete JR from Walmart but the person there never told me not to put it in the trunk WTF PERSON
IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE LAW
I have an esee laser strike
10” overall, 4.5” blade
I would like to carry for protection
Is it ok in alabama
And is it also ok to have it on your waist but inside ur pants with the handle sticking out.
I don’t understand why online retailers of knives, like blade HQ are unwilling to sell automatic knives to people in states like Alabama where such knives are not restricted. Sure, I can buy local for heavy markup, but I can’t get ” deals” by purchasing online unless I’m a LEO, or military.
My sons 16 and lives in a dangerous area can he carry a 5 1/2 fixed blade knife his car ?
Montgomery, Alabama limits the blade length to 3″ which is pretty small for modern knives. How would a person go about getting that ordinance changed?
The laws for carrying firearms state that once it is in your car it is considered a concealed weapon. So the description for knives is vague. If you carry a knife on your hip everywhere, and need to drive somewhere, can the law classify that as a concealed weapon?
I have an Alabama concealed carry license for pistol carry. Does my license cover knives like a Bowie?
Define what a Bowie knife is. Does it have to say Jim Bowie on the blade? Does it have to have a certain shape? Is it a certain length? Is it a certain type of edge?what is a Bowie knife, legally speaking???
What if I were to walk around with a sword? Would they charge it as a bowie, machete, or if I have it out in the open would it be ok?
You are allowed to carry bowies and machetes in your car to and from places of purchase and home or home and legal place of use. This is true of all weapons. While the law can oftentimes be asinine, it’s not always that asinine.
Is a bowie knife considered concealed if worn in sheath showing hanging from belt
Alright this is kind of out of left field but is carrying a Gladius Machete technically legal as an open carry?
What does the Alabama law state about felons having knives,?
Are there age restrictions on carrying a bowie knife in alabama. Like can a minor carry a bowie knife in the open on the hip, or not at all?
Would it break any state laws ordering a OTF from another state? Like Utah to Alabama.
So I wear your typical jeans I have a 5, inch knife that is a single sided blade that I cannot fully fit in my pocket but I have put it in my pocket when I don’t have a belt to put it on my hip I live in Alabama so is that legal or illegal?
It is also a fixed blade just figured I should mention that
Alabama is great!
So I’m a convicted felon who has moved from Tn. to Birmingham Al. No parole, no probation. Am I allowed to carry a Bowie knife about 5 inches long in the manner you’ve described (hip)
I’m clearing of some of my property and keep my machete and sometimes my axe in my trunk and don’t take them out for weeks at a time am I a criminal??????
The law doesn’t always apply to everyone equally. It depends on the person. Cops mess with me all the time. I’ve had 3 knives taken off of me in my own yard and they’ve threatened to jail me if I didn’t give them up. They were all open carry on my hip /side because one of them has it where you could carry it sideways.
So I have a dual katana holster that I designed for my belt. One is for an actual katana and the other is for a a practice one called an iaido. Were would that fit in to this conversation?
Still did not get complete info on whether a sword cane is legal with concealed carry permit in the state of Alabama.
If all this is true then my stepdad is a retard he said “switchblades and balisongs/butterfly knives are highly ILLEGAL “
Thanks for checking out our site. As far as we can tell by studying the Alabama State statutes, you may carry a switchblade or balisong. Alabama only makes a big deal of Bowie knives – not sure exactly why!
Not in Alabama or Georgia
I saw nothing about long swords like my Military Dress Sabre, a Samurai-style sword (made in China) or an old European broadsword. None of which is carried outside the home, with the exception of being laid to rest, it will be interred with my remains.
Can I keep a survival knife as self protection
Well then, perhaps I’ll just carry my Plumb Boy Scout hatchet.
Is it legal for a minor to carry a bowie knife as long as it is not concealed and you don’t own it
What about a push knife? I’ve got a daughter I think that particular knife would be harder for an assailant or potential abductor to take from her.
What about a world war 2 trench knife that’s integrated with knuckle dusters?
I am looking to purchase the Ras al Ghul cane for myself. Just because i love the style and need a walking cane. Unfortunately, it has a fixed blade that is concealed. From my understanding, this is considered legal in AL, but I would like to make sure. I would just remove the blade, but it is not removable. I just want to ask again. Is this type of knife that would be considered concealed legal in this state..?
I do appreciate your information, however according to what you say if I decide to go on a camping trip and purchase a tent and other camping paraphernalia including a camping machete, put it all in my car To take on my trip and get pulled over, that I’m going to jail because I’ve got a camping machete. So if I can legally purchase a machete, how on earth am I supposed to get it home or to my camping site legally? See it makes no sense! our 50 states Need to take the time and effort to make it absolutely clear to the Layman what is and is not legal.
IMHO – If I go to jail because I’m going camping with the machete Then whatever county or state that screws with me is going to get sued royally for violating my rights which I can prove Very easily since there are no True and pertinent /Accurate Places to gain this information. I do not see how I can be charged in a state when it does not provide True and accurate information on legality.
Just make sure it is not concealed. Then you are legal. So keep it in the open in the car and not the trunk.