State Knife Carry Laws: Know Your Rights

The US is based upon federalism and, for that reason, laws are created at the federal, state, and municipal level. With regards to knife law, this makes things particularly tricky since a certain knife can be legal in one state and illegal in the next as well as legal in one county and illegal in the neighboring county. Knife laws are fairly fluid and it seems they change more often than most of us would believe.  Here at knifeUp we do our best to stay current with our concise legal summary of what is permitted and what is not allowed in our state by state guide to statutes concerning the ownership and transportation (carrying) of knives.

For more details on your state’s knife laws, check out KnifeUp’s knife law guide for all 50 states. KnifeUp also has great review articles on such things as the best survival knives, best pocket knives, and the best machete.

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69 thoughts on “State Knife Carry Laws: Know Your Rights”

  1. Would like to see a knife recommendation, direct and to the point, that is legal in all or most states when openly carried. – @19thWheel

    Reply
  2. I love your site, and I love the idea of this graphic! But there seem to be a lot of errors 🙁

    Switchblades are illegal in Idaho? Not even your Idaho page claims that.

    And the 3″ concealed carry limit in Washington? Nope, not under state law (of course, I consider a “pocket knife” to be a folder…you may not. A small neck knife under your shirt might conceivably be considered a concealed “dirk” or “dagger” since neither of those terms are defined in the law.)

    A survey I did recently shows switchblades to be completely illegal in AK, CO, HI, IL, LA, ME, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OK, PA, TN, VI, WA, WI.

    Still cleaning up the spreadsheet, but drop me an email and I’ll show you what I have.

    Reply
  3. This post is a mess. Spot checking the infographic shows that it has some glaring errors (examples: there is no restriction on pocket knife size in Ky, much less a required license for over 3″, and it’s legal to carry a knife larger than 3″ in Mi as long as it’s not used in the commission of a crime), which can be fact checked by using the excellent reviews of state laws on your own site. On top of that, the post even contradicts the infographic claiming that it’s illegal to conceal carry a >3″ blade in TN! The infographic gets this one right by stating that the limit is 4″ (well, “with the intent to go armed,” but close enough).

    Your site usually has great, accurate information, but this one is just complete rubbish.

    Reply
  4. Illinois law can be confusing; the short version is that switchblades and ballistic knives are indeed banned, but the carry of other knives is just about unregulated. The relevant statute is here:
    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/072000050K24-1.htm

    (720 ILCS 5/24-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 24-1)
    Sec. 24-1. Unlawful Use of Weapons.
    (a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:
    (1) Sells, manufactures, purchases, possesses or

    carries any bludgeon, black-jack, slung-shot, sand-club, sand-bag, metal knuckles or other knuckle weapon regardless of its composition, throwing star, or any knife, commonly referred to as a switchblade knife, which has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or a ballistic knife, which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material or compressed gas; or
    (2) Carries or possesses with intent to use the same unlawfully against another, a dagger, dirk, billy, dangerous knife, razor, stiletto, broken bottle or other piece of glass, stun gun or taser or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character; or . . . .

    Hope the bolding HTML worked . . . if it did, notice the bold sections. Yes, switchblades are prohibited, even possession. However, they are also clearly defined, and it’s worth noticing that the definition clearly excludes “assisted-opening” knives that use torsion bars or springs to assist with opening the knife when the user pushes a thumb stud,hole, disk, or “flipper” on the blade rather than the handle.

    The second part is a little bit murkier. There’s no 3″ limit anywhere in Illinois law; many police officers cite one when asked, but I’ve never met one who could remember the source. It seems to get passed down as lore. There *is* a prohibition on carry of any “dangerous knife,” but *only* “with intent unlawfully to harm another.” In practice, this is a tack-on charge that gets added to people who get caught actually doing or threatening harm to someone while carrying just about anything with a sharpish edge or a pointy end.
    That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be questioned or arrested by a police officer simply for carrying your knife, but it’s nowhere in the law and you should be acquitted (but all standard disclaimers apply and I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.)

    I currently carry an assisted-opening folder with about a four-inch blade. I have carried a Camillus CUDA Maxx with a 5.5-inch blade as well as various smaller sheath knives and neck knives. It’s probably best to keep privilege in mind, as I’m an obviously-adult, clean-cut white male in a rural and small-urban area. But the law is on your side if you’ve got a knife in your pocket in Illinois and you aren’t threatening or hurting anyone.

    Chicago has its own rules, of course, because Chicago. They have a prohibition on knives with blades over 2.5″ for carry (for adults–anyone under 19 is limited to 2″ because Chicago.)
    No person shall carry concealed on or about his person a pistol, revolver, derringer or other firearm or dagger, dirk, stiletto, bowie knife, commando knife, any blade of which is released by a spring mechanism, including knives known as “switch-blades” or any other type or kind of knife, any blade of which is more than two and one-half inches in length, ordinary razor or other dangerous weapon except that no person 18 years of age or under shall carry concealed on or about his person, any knife, the blade of which is two inches in length or longer.

    Municipal Code of the City of Chicago 8-24-020 Carrying dangerous weapons.

    Reply
  5. I would be very careful about publishing your infographic- In Massachusetts the laws wording is a bit vague- you either cannot have ballistic knives and switchblades over 1.5 inches or they are completely illegal depending on how you read it. In Boston and a bunch of other communities there is a 2.5 inch limit on all knives- including simple pocket knives. IANAL, so take everything I say with that in mind.

    Reply
  6. Your information on Pennsylvania is wrong. The only restriction on knives, at a state level, is the prohibition of switchblades (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908: Prohibited Offensive Weapons)

    “A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon. […] As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection: […] “Offensive weapons.” Any […] dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise”

    Reply
  7. There’s a heck of a lot of variation within states. Knife laws aren’t uniform and typically don’t have the state-level preemption issues associated with municipal gun control laws.

    One addendum to Chris’s comment – I can’t speak for other states, but I lived in MN. Switchblades aren’t COMPLETELY illegal. You can’t carry them, but you can collect them or keep them as “curios.”

    Reply
  8. I see the map showing it Illegal to carry concealed pocket knives more than 3 inches in NV. I have reviewed the laws and comments on your Nevada page, and can’t find any reference to 3 inches anywhere. What am I missing?

    Reply
  9. Your chart lists Michigan as one of the states where it is illegal to carry a pocket knife three inches or longer. The law clearly states the following:

    MCL 750.226: Michigan law specifies that a person, with intent to use the knife unlawfully against another, shall not go armed with a knife having a blade over 3 inches in length.

    So the law only bans them if you plan on using it unlawfully.

    Reply
  10. Nothing in the Nevada revised Statutes says anything about blade length. It does however specifically prohibit the public carry of machetes.

    Reply
  11. It’s legal to carry switch blades in WV? Does that include so called “automatic knives”? You can’t buy one unless you’re L.E. or military

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  12. Thanks for the awesome graphic! I just have one small bone to pick. All types of automatic knives over 2 inches are illegal to sell or carry in California. This includes switchblades which can technically be possessed but not carried (I’m not lawyer. NOT legal advice.) I would suggest that if some of the maps pertain to carry and others to possession you should specifically state it on the map so the casual observer doesn’t get confused.

    Reply
  13. I see this infographic making its rounds on the Internet. Someone should have done better research before publishing. Knives over 3″ are not illegal in MI. Item #4 from the Michigan State Police website clearly says they are not illegal: http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1878_1591_3503_4654-10953–,00.html
    And here is the law itself from the MI legislature website: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28ted5podwauow1o1aemeprolk%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-750-226

    Knives over 3″ are only illegal if a person has the intent to use it unlawfully. I’m sure they wrote the law this way to be able to add one more charge to a person who assaults someone with a large knife. It’s much the same as the MI law that says it is a crime to wear a ski mask while committing a felony. Ski masks are not illegal, however, so don’t go creating an infographic saying they are.

    I don’t know where the myth came from, but the laws in MI have been this way for as long as I can remember. From the other comments, it looks as if there are many inaccuracies. I hope you adjust these before anyone else shares it so people actually know their rights.

    Reply
  14. NY Penal Law Dangerous Weapons265.20 Exceptions (6). Possession of a switchblade or gravity knife for use while hunting,
    trapping or fishing by a person carrying a valid license issued to him
    pursuant to section 11-0713 of the environmental conservation law.

    Reply
  15. In Connecticut carrying on you person or in a vehicle it is illegal to possess any Dirk knife or switchblade ,gravity knife. The blade lenth one and one half inches or over THE EDGED PORTION OF THE BLADE,a stiletto,or any knife the Length of the blade FOUR inches or longer the EDGED PORTION of the blade….Exemption of blade length is if one holds a valid Hunting Or fresh water fishing license ,or a salt water fisherman while engaging in fishing. (The reason is at The time the law was revised ,there was no salt water licence ) (There is much debait on whats difference between a dirk knife &a stiletto ,but most local cops I have talked to say a Dirk knife is any double edged knife & a stiletto is single edged.

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  16. Switch blades have been legal in Alaska since September 2014. I’m glad to hear that ballistic knives are as well, I just but a Russian Ismash armory ballistic knife.

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  17. It is illegal to conceal carry a pocket knife of any length in CT unless it is part of a multi-tool or unless you have a “hazardous weapons permit.” CT has never issued such a permit despite it being mentioned several times in CT’s general statutes.

    For open-carry in CT, all knives must be under four inches unless you are engaged in an outdoor activity that necessitates a knife (e.g. hunting, fishing, camping, etc.)

    Punlishing crap lihe this without actually doing your homework is wildly irresponsible.

    Reply
  18. I see from the remarks here that this is over 2 years old… Maybe that’s why it is so incomplete and obviously WRONG. Don’t use this info to guide your actions.. do the research. Each state posts it’s knife laws.. Get it from the legit source

    Reply
  19. Kansas just changed their knife laws. Which is awesome. They removed length restrictions, and the only knives illegal are ballistic knives and throwing stars. And all legal blades are allowed to be concealed or open carried!! :)asked my dads best friend (a cop) if that meant we could carry swords! Yep. Technically you can. You could carry a damn broad sword or katana if you want.

    Reply
  20. Is it legal to carry a knife that hangs around your neck that you can wear under your shirt in New York people carry all kinds of knives legal or not whether there’s laws or not weather there in force or not who’s to say butt around the neck knives where knife is under your shirt is that illegal

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  21. Where do I go in my state of North Carolina to get a permit for a work knife.It’s a military tactical “”bannet ,Bowie ,hunting knife!!!

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  22. Looking at the Ballistic Knife & Switchblade Knife info they are legal in some states.
    But Federal law says they are NOT legal.
    In the USA, switchblades remain illegal to import from abroad or to purchase through interstate commerce since 1958 under the Switchblade Knife Act (15 U.S.C. §§1241-1245). However, a 2009 amendment (Amendment 1447) to 15 U.S.C. §1244 provides that the Act shall not apply to spring-assist or assisted-opening knives (i.e. knives with closure-biased springs that require physical force applied to the blade to assist in opening the knife).[27]

    Similar to conventional automatic knives, federal law makes ballistic knives with a spring-operated blade[14] illegal to possess, manufacture, sell, or import “in or affecting interstate commerce.”[15] This means they are illegal to import from outside the United States, as well as buy or sell over state lines, including possessing or making them with intent to sell over state lines. The federal law also makes it a separate crime to use or possess a ballistic knife during the commission of a federal crime of violence, with a minimum sentence of 5 years in a federal prison. Federal law does not prohibit the possession, manufacture, or sale of a ballistic knife within a state’s boundaries, and the individual laws of each state or territory must be consulted to determine whether possession, manufacture, or sale within a given state is legal (many states have statutes that regulate or prohibit the acquisition or possession of ballistic knives, and penalties vary from state to state). Like the federal switchblade law, an exception is made for sale to the United States Armed Forces within the confines of a contract, as well as possession by duly-authorized members of the Armed Forces in performance of their duty.[16]
    A ballistic knife with a blade propelled by an explosive charge falls outside the Federal law pertaining to these devices, but still may be restricted as this makes it a firearm subject to the Any Other Weapons (AOW) category of the National Firearms Act.

    Reply
  23. A note for ohio. While the law does not make it illegal to carry a pocket knife concealed, and there is no maximum legal length under state law, i have met cops who believe there are state length laws. Also, and more importantly, it is illegal to carry ANYTHING concealed with the purpose of using it as a weapon *(the only legal exception is a handgun for which you have a concealed handgun permit that is recognized by Ohio). And your intent for what you carry is solely decided by the individual police officer you may be interacting with.. .his sole personal discretion / decision no matter what you may claim. So, if he doesn’t like you or armed individuals in general, you’re screwed.

    Reply
  24. When did Michigan give Wisconsin the Upper Peninsula? Your map is showing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as being part of Wisconsin. How can I trust this information if you don’t care enough to get the map correct?

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  25. In Iowa, a knife having a blade exceeding five inches in length is classified as a Dangerous Weapon” and requires an Iowa Permit to Carry (Dangerous Weapons). Your map is in error since to show five inches and above. Iowa law allows up to and INCLUDING five inches.

    Reply
  26. Still trying to understand how a ballistic knife can be legal in Louisiana but a switch blade is illegal. I really want to know how I can help get this law removed from the books in Louisiana.

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  27. In Pennsylvania and folding knife not a switch blade is legal for carry if not a felon. In the City of Philadelphia they arrest you for carrying ANY knife. Even a little folder with one and a half inch, (like a Swiss army knife pee-wee version) non-locking blade. Rest of the state we are packing guns any way. People in Philly can get gun permits too but they delay and delay and delay long beyond the state maximum wait limit. No chance of them getting in trouble and that’s what their perennial Democrat Mayor and City Counsel wants.
    The rest of the state carrying a folding knife is fine. Just avoid knives in Philly. If your state has a reciprocity agreement with PA, you can get a county License To Carry Fireman’s visitor’s license from many counties OTHER than Philadelphia and legally carry a gun there. They’ll arrest you for having a carton knife in the pocket nearest the gun though in Philly. I kid you not!

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  28. My wonder is what about the states that went constitutional Cary and stand your ground laws, so a person can carry a firearm but not a knife. A knife is a useful tool. No don’t really need a LG blade but I do like a 5″ blade

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  29. Your information is nearly three years out of date. As of July 01, 2014, It is now legal in Tennessee to own and carry any type of knife with any blade length you want. the only restriction is no knuckles.

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  30. It is always good to sharpen your knowledge on basic state law. Personally I dont want to have to get close enough to fight some thug to have to do hand to hand combat with a knife, thats why I may or may not carry a gun…

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  31. Hello I just picked up a 3 pack of 8 inch smith and Wesson throwing knives I live in Minnesota is it considered a concealed weapon I would like to carry them on my belt but I also don’t want to spend the weekend in the clink any one out there that knows please let me know I would ask a cop but they just want a reason to toss you in the hole so anyone let me know thanks all

    Reply
  32. California disallows fixed blade dirks and daggers as well as gravity knives or folding knives that lack a detent that gives a closed knife the tendency to remain closed unless deliberately opened.

    Reply
  33. This is either extremely out of date or it wasn’t researched at all. There are too many errors to list to fix. Time to take this down and start over.

    Reply

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