Ohio Knife Laws

ohioOhio knife laws are vague and the statutes lack definitions and clear language. This article will examine the Court decisions, or case law, that provide some of those definitions and brings more clarity to the code. After reading this article, even those not trained in the law will know what is legal and what is not, when owning and carrying knives in Ohio.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own a switchblade or gravity knife
  • It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife as well as Balisong trainers
  • It is legal to own a ballistic knife
  • It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
  • It is legal to own a Bowie knife
  • It is legal to own a stiletto

What is Illegal to Own

Limits on Carry

Ohio law does not restrict the concealed carry of any specific knife except for what it calls a “dangerous ordnance” which includes ballistic knives. The concealed carry statute simply makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Ohio Supreme Court said in State v. Anderson, that to convict a defendant of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, the state must prove that the instrument is capable of inflicting death and that it is either designed or adapted for use as a weapon or that it is being carried as a weapon. Some knives that are very likely to be found to deadly weapons, and therefore illegal to conceal carry include:

  • Dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives
  • Switchblades
  • Balisong, or butterfly knives
  • Gravity knives
  • Stilettos

The law does restrict both open and conceal carry of any dangerous weapon in a school zone or a Courthouse, but you may open carry any type of knife on your person or in your vehicle.

Definition of Deadly Weapon

Ohio Statute defines deadly weapon as any instrument, device, or thing that is capable of inflicting death, and designed or adapted for use as a weapon, or that is possessed, carried, or used as a weapon. In State v. Hall, Ms. Hall was convicted of aggravated menacing, or causing another to believe that she would harm them or their property, when she became involved in an altercation while armed with a steak knife. The jury found that a steak knife fit the definition of a deadly weapon, and the Ohio Court of Appeals agreed. In the case of a student who brought a pocketknife to school in the case of In re Carson, the Court found that the pocketknife, whose blade was one and a half to two inches long, was meant to be used as a weapon. It further found that the pocketknife was capable of causing a deadly wound, and thus was within the definition of a deadly weapon. Just a year before the 2007 Carson decision, in State v. Port, the Ohio Appellate Court found that a Winchester seven and one half inch pocketknife was a deadly weapon, because Mr. Port claimed to be carrying it for protection. The Court reasoned that since the definition of deadly weapon provides that any device carried or used as a weapon is a deadly weapon, the fact that Mr. Port carried the knife as a weapon made it a deadly weapon. In 2010, in the case of State v. Cattledge, the Ohio Appellate Court found that the following characteristics may support the finding that a folding knife is a deadly weapon:

  • a blade that can easily be opened with one hand, such as with a switch, a spring-loaded blade, or a gravity blade capable of one-handed operation
  • a blade that locks into position and cannot close without triggering the lock
  • a blade that is serrated
  • a blade tip that is sharp
  • an additional design element on the blade, such as a hole, that aids in unfolding the knife with one hand
  • the knife does not resemble an ordinary pocket knife

Mr. Cattledge’s knife was found to be a deadly weapon because it was seven inches long with a locking blade and button, which allowed the knife to be opened with one hand.

Not all knives in Ohio are considered deadly weapons. In 2010 in State v. Thompson, the Court of Appeals of Ohio found that Mr. Thompson’s knife was not a deadly weapon. In its decision, the Court said that when determining whether an instrument was a deadly weapon, the trial Court should consider several factors including who is carrying the devise, the circumstances under which it is being carried, including the time, place, and situation that the person is found carrying it, and the reason he or she claims to be carrying it. The Thompson Court recognized that many knives are useful tools for hunters, fisherman, and campers, and workers, and said that not all knives could be considered to be designed for use as a weapon.

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

Ohio Code § 2923.11, defines a ballistic knife as any knife that has a detachable blade, which is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism. Neither the statues nor the case law define any other type of knife.

Definition of Concealed

In 1929, in Porello v. State, the Supreme Court of Ohio found that concealed “on or about his person” meant that the weapon was kept in close proximity so as to be convenient and within immediate reach. In State v. Pettit, in 1969 the Court was asked to define ‘concealed’ and decided used the definition given by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in Shipley v. State. The Shipley Court said that a weapon was concealed so situated as not to be discernible by ordinary observation by those near enough to see it if it were not concealed. It specified that absolute invisibility was not required, stating that ordinary observation did not extend to an unusually careful, thorough, or detailed search.

Conclusion on Ohio Knife Law

Ohio law allows for the ownership and open carry of any type of knife.

Conceal carry statutes in Ohio do not specify any type of knife, other than ballistic knives, that one may not conceal carry. Instead, it makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Courts have called everything from a pocketknife to a steak knife a “deadly weapon”. The test however, is whether the instrument is deadly AND is made or modified to be a weapon or is being carried as one.


  • ORC Ann. 2923.11 (2013)
  • State v. Hall, 2008 Ohio 1405 (2008 Ohio App.)
  • In re Carson, 2007 Ohio 5687 (2007 Ohio App.)
  • State v. Port, 2006 Ohio 2783 (2006 Ohio App.)
  • Porello v. State, 121 Ohio St. 280 (1929)
  • State v. Pettit, 252 N.E.2d 325 (1969 Ohio App.)
  • Shipley v. State, 220 A. 2d 585 (1966 Md. App.)
  • State v. Anderson, 440 N.E.2d 814 (1981).
  • State v. Cattledge, 2010 Ohio 4953, (2010 Ohio App.)
  • State v. Thompson, 925 N.E.2d 188 (2010 Ohio App.)

Peter Stec
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  1. Is having the pocket clip out open carry or concealed carry. And is it fine to concealed carry a normal every day work purpose folding knife legal at thirteen or dose it have to be open carry

  2. Ohio law open carry but iffy carry simple folder with pocket clip out of pocket cliped to pocket and say it’s tool

  3. Boy how times have changed! When I was a young lad in the early 60’s, as a Boy Scout we were required to follow the Boy Scout Motto of “Be Prepared”. We were told we should always carry our Boy Scout Knife with us so we were “prepared” for a situation requiring the use of a knife. This included carrying it to school! Imagine being told to do that these days!

    1. I agree completely. We’ve degenerated as a society and while technology has improved and cars have more luxuries, our kids are being destroyed through lack of proper moral/ethical training, men are being feminized, there’s no such thing as right or wrong, we’re being legislated to death while crime increases, criminal activities carry weaker sentances and our language has deteriorated on top of all that! My heart is burdened with heavy stuff like that!
      thanks for you thoughts,

  4. Great forum. Is it legal in Ohio for work purposes, whether it be professional or personal, yard work, as a civilian to carry a spring assist / OTF or push button knife in your pocket with clip exposed. Not for use as a “deadly weapon,” “no intent.”

    1. Hi! I’m not an officer or super knowledgeable on the topic but I’ll say I carry a Kershaw launch 4 to work and school every day. I wouldn’t carry an otf but as far as spring assisted just pick something small enough not to cause a panic.

  5. Hello, based on this article if i open carry my 5 in ka bar it would be okay as long as i am not in a school zone court house or any where it restricts weapons? I generally carry a knife because i love to hunt and fish. But was always weary of wearing it around. Thanks in advance

    1. Is it illegal to carry a survival knife under your coat even if the blade is sticking out below the coat?

    1. Technically yes, but many will argue that’s not reasonable or rational and will feel you are inducing a panic which is another charge completely. Now, if your at some festival where it would be expected to see that, and you are in costume, conducting yourself in a friendly peaceful way, and NOT DRAWING THE WEAPON from the sheath, then I would say it’s probably okay, but remember the police get a vote also.

  6. I live in dayton ohio, i have a ccw and I carry my 4in stiff blade everywhere I go. I do lawn and landscaping so its a good tool you just need to realize that if you use it as protection it is illegal to carry because it is a “weapon” but if you actually have a use for it besides being scared its okay. If not wait until you’re 21 get a ccw for a firearm and do your thing in peace.

    1. No, completely wrong. It’s not illegal to carry a deadly weapon (Your 4 inch stiff blade) even when it’s carried as a weapon, as long as it’s open carried (in plain sight) and not violating one of the other restrictions.

  7. I have a question I’m 12 and have a pretty big collection of knives so they are saying I can carry my ww2 style combat knife on my belt

    1. You’re 12. So no, you may not. You need to wait until you are of legal age 18 (21 to be safe) and you need to also remember other restrictions such as the following…

      1. City code as well as Ohio revised Code – Akron for example has a strict control against knives.
      2. Location. You can’t be in a school zone or courthouse, or in other structure where weapons are restricted.
      3. You can’t be consuming or under influence of alcohol or other substance of abuse, even if it’s legal to do so.
      4. You must be engaged in lawful activity. You can’t go looking for trouble, or trespassing, or the like.
      5. You must reasonably feel threatened. That one is easy now days, but how threatened are you at an event that has a heavy police presence like a county fair? Something to think about.
      6. You can’t be otherwise restricted such as having a violent felony conviction or being restricted by the courts.

    2. Call your mayor of your city of police department and ask them that if not that do some research

    1. If you’re found to be 14 years old carrying a dagger in any situation, the copy will probably do something about it. It looks suspicious and of course, if it’s concealed, that’s illegal in Ohio. Even open carry will draw questions and it would also be illegal in school, so you’d be better off not to have it. If there’s a reason to seriously need protection, I might add that the odds of successfully fighting off an attacker with your knife is statistically low. Personally, when I feel like I’m in some danger, I have (and carry) pepper spray (technically meant for dogs, but does a good job on an attacker).

    2. and i don’t think the odds are low im 5’11, 170 pounds and do jiu-jitsu.

    3. If I’m 17 would I be able to buy a dagger from amazon?

    4. Ohio law does not allow for carry of any knife for personal protection ie self defense.

    5. No,only because youre phrasing it as “for protection”. In this case it can be viewed as: youre going to use this to harm someone,even if theyre threatening you. But if you have a reason to have it,like for your job, and you can prove it then yes it is legal.

  8. Is it legal to carry a small fixed blade on my belt in a plastic sheath in Columbus Ohio?

    1. I live in a bad neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland & I always carry a 12in survival knife on my belt the police have detained me a couple times over it but I read the Ohio revised code first & already knew not to say it was for protection because it I’d then classified as a deadly weapon which is illegal. So when asked why I had it on me I replied mostly as a deterrent to ward off any potential issues but mainly because its a survival knife & You never know when or where you could be put in a position to have to depend on survival instincts. After a disagreement with the officer over the legalities of it, and after 45 min back in forth with dispatchers, the decision on weather to arrest and charge me came down to when asked why I was carrying it what I replied. Basically because my answer wasn’t for protection, it was not classified as a deadly ordinance therefore legal. Supervisors that got involved told officer to return my weapon and release me. Needless to say the officer on scene was not happy over the decision or the fact a detainee had more knowledge on the Ohio revised code then him, being it’s his job to know it. He refused to hand it back to me, but instead, he walked 15 ft into a field n stuck it in the ground told me to wait till he was in his cruiser to retrieve it. I told him I wouldn’t ever want to hurt anyone and I figure when people see it, it would prevent most bad ppl with bad intentions from doing harm in my presence. No hard feelings i know you’re just doing your job I wasn’t trying to be difficult or u show u up I simply read every rule on it b4 carrying it to make sure I was allowed & had I not done that I wouldn’t know crap about it. I would have probably been arrested just now. After saying that his whole demeanor changed now everytime I see that officer weather I’m carrying it or not he beeps & waves at me.

  9. Is a Benchmade Bedlam 860SBK knife legal to carry in Ohio. This is the manual version.

    1. A folding spring assisted karambit to be exact, in ohio?

    2. Doesnt mention those specifically but based on what a karambit is used for in the state’s eyes, I would say it’s illegal to conceal carry a karambit

    3. I’m not a lawyer but I just read the entire Section 2923 of the Ohio Revised Code and when it comes to knives, as long as you are of 18 or older, not in a school zone or courthouse or other restricted area, and as long as you have no prior convictions which could limit your right to carry a weapon of any type, then you can carry any type of knife as long as it’s open carried (not hidden or in a unlikely location).

      Some people will still call police on you, and they will still come and harass you, and try to trick you into incriminating yourself, but the law indicates you can open carry any knife.

      I suggest you review ORC 2923, Make sure you read the ENTIRE section because the entire section always applies.

  10. I am a bit confused. Some posts, and the article say that you can open carry any knife of any kind. Could be a bowie 12′ or a standard multi-tool.

    But in other posts people say you cannot carry a knife. So which is it?

    1. Even though judges can do whatever they want in their “interpretation” of the situation, the general rule is that you cannot carry (either concealed or open) a “deadly weapon” which is described in the article. It’s all about intent! My advice is that you stick to carrying something that a “normal” person might carry like a pocket knife. A multi-tool is fine. If you want to look “cool”, then there are lots of very “cool-looking” pocket knives you can get, so there should be no “normal need” to walk around with a Bowie strapped to your hip unless you have something to prove or your pride is getting the best of you. That’s just my opinion and of course, I’m not offering legal advice here – only a lawyer in Ohio can give you that officially.
      Thanks for your question,

    2. A 12 foot blade would be the biggest knife I ever saw. But maybe you meant a 12 inch blade.

      In the state of Ohio you can OPEN carry any knife if you are of legal age, not in a restricted location or have a prior conviction which limits you. You can read this yourself in Ohio Revised Code section 2923.

      Police will still harass you and ask you why you are carrying it and they may try to charge you with menacing or public disturbance or something like that, so Don’t carry a big blade unless you are going to be out doing bushcraft in your own woods, or something like that.

    1. Ohio has “CHL” not “CCW”.
      It applies to “handguns” only.

    1. As long as you don’t intend to stab someone in the eye with a training blade, you should be fine.

  11. I’m under 18 and was wondering if I carry a folding karambit with a 3.25 inch blade in my pocket if it would be legal or not?

    1. Is it illegal for a minor to carry a pen knife or pocket knife for the sake of protection? In a teenage girl and have a fear of getting attacked while I’m walking home or out by myself? I wanna know if it’s okay for me to bring a pen knife with me if I go into a store or something because there is so much talk about girls getting trafficked while they are leaving stores. It’s scary.-.

    2. Hey Courtney;
      While I think it’s important to do our best to follow most laws meant to maintain order, there are things I just do because I know I’m not breaking any moral laws (ie. lying, stealing, cheating, killing, etc.) If I feel I am in danger, I don’t worry as much about man’s laws (as I do worry about God’s laws). I’d probably carry dog spray regardless of laws. The same goes with a pen knife. The issue is two-fold: First of all, you’ll need to understand the limits of your defense. If you use a knife, the odds of success are not in your favor, but you can do your best to strike out once with the knife and be sure it hits the target from up close, then take off running. You’re not going to defeat some big thug in a one-on-one prolonged fight just because you have a pen knife. If it is technically “illegal” to carry a pen knife (or dog spray, etc.), but you were able to fend off an actual attacker, you will not be penalized by a judge or jury. There would be too much of a public outcry for YOU to be the one ending up in jail or getting charged. Those are my thoughts (with some help from a police officer friend), though officially I can’t tell you that’s good legal advice.
      Good luck!

  12. Is there limitation on type of knife ems fire police can carry

  13. I think you should be fine carrying any knife as long as it isn’t against any local ordinance. And it isn’t tactical looking and you say that you use it as a tool for cutting tasks.

    1. Matt, there is no restriction against a “tactical” looking knife. You can even say it’s a weapon for defense as long as it’s open carried. If it’s CONCEALED, then you better call it a “tool”.

  14. So, what if you are a minor? Does that mean that the open carry part doesn’t apply no matter what?

  15. I have a Bowie knife in original Bowie knife and it is a good working tool I use that for a lot of things I used to fly fish when I go fishing I also use it to help cutting beef I also help my grandparents around the house cutting up cardboard boxes for stuff because they have back problems and a bunch of other health stuff I don’t see why you can’t just carried out in the open as long as you don’t reach for it or going to threaten someone I’m 18 but yet I know the rules and I know it’s illegal to harm someone which I would never do I’m a good soul I would never hurt anyone especially someone I don’t know these knives that I use are good tools and that’s all they ever been for me is for someone especially for me when I’m at the ranch house helping out cutting bail twine and whatever else I need it for these things are very useful and it sucks that I can’t use them power for any other purposes that mean even if I’m defending myself from a rabid dog or an animal it really sucks you know

  16. I would like to know if its legal to carry a bowie knife i hike alot in the deep forest and wilderness it can be used as a survial tool or protect my self from large wild animals.I know i can’t own a firearm being a convicted felon thanks

    1. As a convicted Felon, you are “NOT” allowed to carry or possess any Deadly instrument or Munition on your person. Some States also outlaw black powder firearms as they are considered “Firearms” under their statutes.

    2. Guy below is WRONG. False. You can carry or own anything but a firearm. Carry a crossbow if you like. There is no law regarding felons with anything but a firearm or object Ohio deem a deadly ordinance. A knife, crossbow, club, bat etc are not listed as deadly ordinance

  17. The key is to put the gaps where they won’t be seen, as within the bureau or face outline. In the last picture above, where the gaps are appearing on the outside of the bureau, there will be an end board going over that side. In another photo the bureau being constructed will go side-by-sde against another. This is the reason pocket-opening joinery is frequently utilized as a part of implicit cupboards, where the sides of the bureau are typically covered up, and if there are some pocket gaps inside the face outline nobody will truly mind.

    Coincidentally, in the event that you should have the pocket gaps where they can be seen, there are exceptional attachments you can purchase to fill them, in an assortment of woods, yet the fittings will in any case appear as large ovals. I think you can purchase them from Rockler, Woodcraft, and so on., and presumably Kreg as well.

  18. as a heathen priest, u i carry a small fixed blade, on my belt in open view,,,

  19. Would it be illegal to carry a folding credit card knife being sold (and planning to be used) as a utility knife?

  20. is it illegal to carry a spring assisted knife that has a seatbelt cutter and a glass breaker and if its covered up by your shirt when its hooked on the inside of your pocket with the pocket clip

    1. From what it says it would appear that it being covered by your shirt would be considered “concealed” so it wouldn’t be legal for your shirt to cover it

  21. is it legal to conceal a karambit knife with the shealth on in public?

    1. I just looked up images of a karambit knife. I think you might have a difficult time convincing the arresting Ohio officer that a karambit is a box opener or some other tool. It’s clearly designed for slicing and stabbing flesh. But it will be up to the prosecutor /judge/jury that hears your case.

    1. Is a karambit a deadly weapon? If it is not please carry it anywhere you like except a courthouse airplane

    1. Is the object a deadly weapon? If it is then no you cannot. If it isn’t a deadly weapon then carry it.

  22. Is this consider illegal in Ohio to carry due to the hole design on the blade?

    1. I would not carry it, carry a traditional pocketknife, maybe one with tape residue on the blade so it could be considered a tool. If you are worried you are in danger keep it ready to open.

    2. Is the Cold Steel Tuff Lite Plain Edge Folder Knife a deadly weapon? If it is you cannot legally carry it. If it isn’t you can carry it. Unfortunately you won’t know until your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor work out a deal.

  23. Can I carry a small fixed blade knife around my neck, or in my boot in a kydex sheath? It’s a small hunting knife

    1. Is the object a deadly weapon? If it is then no you cannot. If it isn’t a deadly weapon then carry it. Let us know what the judge/jury/prosecutor decide.

    1. No. It is called a CHL in Ohio. Concealed Handgun Liscense only.

    1. That measurement is meaningless in State of Ohio code. Local maybe.

  24. I find it odd as to not allow “deadly weapons” heck, I could carry a normal swiss army knife and I could kill someone with it. You can kill someone with rope; is it illegal to carry some rope?
    Im mad about this because I live in a town filled with people walking about, many people in my area have problems like drug addiction. I want to carry around a knife for my protection.

    1. that may not have been a smart comment to make, it’s not that i don’t agree with the point you’re trying to make, it’s the way you phrased it

    2. I think you should be fine carrying any knife as long as it isn’t against any local ordinance. And it isn’t tactical looking and you say that you use it as a tool for cutting tasks.

  25. I’m under 18 and I believe it is stupid to make knives illegal due to the fact that people can use anything as a weapon. It also makes it difficult for collectors such as me Who like things like switchblades, butterfly knives, and leverlocks.

    1. You can, just carry it openly. It says Ohio allows you to open carry any knife, right? That’s what I got out of it anyway. It says “Ohio law allows for the ownership and open carry of any type of knife.”

  26. @madz it clearly says that intent of carry matters and carrying it for defense makes it a no go as well as it being a dagger making it clearly a deadly weapon

  27. Made please remember that just about anything can be a defensible weapon.
    A pencil, a pen or even a stick on an iicicle an be used to stab someone so be creative.
    In women’s self defense classes they they that a car key an puncher someone if it is playing ed between the fingers while making a fist.
    The list is endless.
    Try hitting someone with a tube sock that has 2 or 3 golf balls in it.

  28. I am under 18 and live in Ohio my mom recently got devorced from my step dad and he stalks us I also walk alone at night to and from work and was wondering if it is legal for me to take my dagger with me UN concealed (I am trained in knife fighting) the blade itself is about 7 inches please respond thanks

    1. I know it’s been two years, but if your intent is to use the knife for self defense as a deadly weapon in defense of your estranged stepfather then no, you cannot carry the dagger.

  29. Ohio has no preemption of knife laws.

    Each city and village can have their own knife laws, and many do.

  30. This was very helpful. Thanks.
    Do you know if Ohio makes weapons laws only on the state level? Or do they allow cities to make their own ordinances as well?

    1. Cities are indeed allowed to make their own ordinances that are more restrictive than state law in Ohio. IE, if you are carrying a knife and you are in Akron, leave it in your car or they will charge you with carrying a deadly weapon if the blade is larger than the palm of your hand.

    2. Is says in the article that a knife less than 2 inches long was considered a deadly weapon. So that rule doesn’t work. I was planning on buying a credit card knife in case i want to open a package away from home, but i’m not sure i’m going to risk carrying something that may be considered a concealed deadly weapon.

    3. Are trench Knives considered to be illegal under the definition of brass knuckles?

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