Florida statutes can be tough to navigate if you’re not sure where to look. Don’t worry, we did all the hard work for you. Below is what Florida law says about knives in everyday English. It includes excerpts from the law as well as case decisions.
What is Legal to Own
- Balisong knives are legal.
- Belt knives, cane knives, and other disguised knives are legal.
- Bowie knives and other large knives are legal.
- Throwing stars and throwing knives are legal.
- Undetectable knives (knives that will not set off metal detectors) are legal.
- Ballistic knives are illegal.
The law does not limit individuals from owning, selling, or buying any knife except for ballistic knives.
Limits on Carry
- You can open carry any knife.
- Box cutters, multi-tools, and other work knives are legal to carry concealed.
- In most cases, conceal carry of a common pocket knife with a blade of less than 4 inches is legal.
- Concealed carry of nearly any knife is not allowed without a permit if the blade is over 4″ in length.
- Anything outside of this has not been expressly banned or allowed.
What the Law Says
§ 790.06 (2018) License to carry concealed weapon or firearm.—(1) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is authorized to issue licenses to carry concealed weapons or concealed firearms to persons qualified as provided in this section. Each such license must bear a color photograph of the licensee. For the purposes of this section, concealed weapons or concealed firearms are defined as a handgun, electronic weapon or device, tear gas gun, knife, or billie …
It is a crime to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Concealed weapon means any deadly weapon that is outside of sight of others. Courts have found that deadly weapons are weapons that can cause death or grave bodily harm. So, what kinds of knives count as deadly weapons? What is a “common pocket knife? Well, the law doesn’t say so it is up to the courts to determine.
The case of Porter vs. State in 2001 found that a pocket knife is a “common pocket knife” only if the blade is less than 4 inches in length and the knife is in the closed position. Police found Porter with a 4-inch folder knife in the open position in her purse. She was arrested for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and found guilty. She appealed stating that the knife is a common pocket knife but the appellate court turned down her appeal. This means that, if a pocket knife is over 4 inches and in the open position, it is a weapon and excluded from being a “common pocket knife.”
However, if the pocket knife has too many features, it might not be a “common pocket knife.” The case of F.R. vs State in 2012 found that 3-inch pocket knife with serrations, a notched grip, hilt guard, and locking mechanism does not count as a “common pocket knife.” If his knife did not have serrations, a notched grip, hilt guard, and locking mechanism, it might have been a “common pocket knife.”
If the knife was designed for utility and not harm, it is not a deadly weapon. In the case of Holley v. State in 2004, it was found that a box cutter or razor knife does not qualify as a deadly weapon because it was designed for utility, not bodily harm.
In addition to the physical characteristics of the knife, the courts also decided that how the knife was used and handled needs to be taken into account as well. In the case of Mims v. State, Mims was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon for having a pocket knife in his pocket during a robbery.
These cases still do not present that clear of a picture of what type of knife is a weapon and the case of Bell vs. State in 1996 found that it is up to the jury to decide if a knife is a deadly weapon given the definition of a deadly weapon, the knife, and how the knife was used into consideration. Judges can not make the decision.
The case of Hardy vs. State in 1992 found that a knife inside of a vehicle is not concealed if the knife and sheath are visible from the outside. Having a knife in the vehicle usually counts as having a concealed weapon but, if it is visible through the windows, it is not concealed.
What does this all mean? It means that you should stick to a plain 4-inch pocket knife, multi-tool, or box cutter. Any other type of knife can be illegal.
Ballistic Knife Ban
Fla. Stat. § 790.225 (2012)
§ 790.225. Ballistic self-propelled knives; unlawful to manufacture, sell, or possess; forfeiture; penalty
(1) It is unlawful for any person to manufacture, display, sell, own, possess, or use a ballistic self-propelled knife which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile and which physically separates the blade from the device by means of a coil spring, elastic material, or compressed gas. A ballistic self-propelled knife is declared to be a dangerous or deadly weapon and a contraband item. It shall be subject to seizure and shall be disposed of as provided in s. 790.08(1) and (6).
Ballistic knives are also illegal under federal law so it is best to stay away from them.
Conclusion on Florida Knife Laws
For the most part, Florida knife laws are easy. You can own any knife as long as it is not a ballistic knife and, if you keep your knives at home, you should be fine. You can also open carry any knife you want. You can conceal carry a knife that is considered a dangerous weapon if you have a permit to do so (see state statute F.S.A. § 790.06).Typically, you can carry concealed or open, any pocket knife with a blade under 4″ as long as your intent is not obviously malicious. Conceal carry of most any type of knife may or may not be considered carrying a concealed weapon so watch out.
There are also local laws outside of this so look up the laws in your city as well. Most cities in Florida have clearer guidelines on what is legal and illegal than the state law.
If you have a question, post it below. Note that this is not legal advice and I am not an attorney. Talk to an attorney if you are looking for legal advice.