Utah knife laws are vague and may be difficult for those who have not had formal legal training to understand. This article translates both the statues and the case law into easy to understand plain English so anyone can figure out what is legal and what is not, when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of Utah.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife
- It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
- It is legal to own a stiletto
- It is legal to own a bowie knife
- It is legal to own an automatic or gravity knife
- It is legal to own a disguised knife, such as a lipstick or belt buckle
What is Illegal to Own
Utah law creates two categories of people who may not own certain weapons, defined as “dangerous weapons”.
A category I restricted person is someone who:
- has been convicted of a violent felony under Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-203.5
- is on probation or parole for any felony
- is on parole from a facility is under contract with the Division of Juvenile Justice Services, that provides 24-hour supervision and confinement for youth offenders who have been committed to the division for custody and rehabilitation
- has been adjudicated delinquent, within the last 10 years, for an offense that if committed by an adult would have been a violent felony under Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-203.5
- is illegally or unlawfully in the United States
A category II restricted person is someone who:
- has been convicted of any felony
- has been adjudicated delinquent, within the last seven years, for an offense which if committed by an adult would have been a felony
- is an unlawful user of a controlled substance as defined by Utah Code Ann. § 58-37-4.2.
- is in possession of a dangerous weapon and is knowingly and intentionally in unlawful possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance as defined in Section 58-37-2;
- has been found not guilty by reason of insanity for a felony offense
- has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial for a felony offense
- has been adjudicated as mentally or has been committed to a mental institution
- has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
- has renounced his citizenship after having been a citizen of the United States
A category I person commits a third-degree felony if he or she possesses, arranges to purchase, or uses a dangerous weapon other than a firearm.
A category II person commits a class A misdemeanor if he or she posses, arranges to purchase, or uses a dangerous weapon other than a firearm.
Those who do not fit into either category may own any type of knife in Utah.
Definition of Dangerous Weapons
Utah statute defines a dangerous weapon as an item that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
The statute provides a list of factors to be used when determining if any object is a dangerous weapon. The list includes:
- the character of the instrument, object, or thing
- the character of the wound produced, if any
- the manner in which the instrument, object, or thing was used
- the other lawful purposes for which the instrument, object, or thing may be used
In Salt Lake City v. Miles, Mr. Miles was arrested for possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, after attempting to board a light rail train with a shopping cart, and threatening the field supervisor who prevented him from boarding. After Mr. Miles referred to a gun or a knife, the police were called. The arresting officer found a folding knife in the pocket of a jacket in Mr. Miles’ shopping cart. Mr. Miles was found guilty, and subsequently appealed the conviction. The Utah Court of Appeals, in upholding the conviction, found that not all four of the factors provided in the statute had to be present, particularly, that a knife did not have to be used in order to be a dangerous weapon.
In 1991 in the case of State v. Archambeau, the Appellate Court, in upholding Mr. Archambeau’s conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, found that Mr. Archambeau’s two 10-inch knives with 5- and 6-inch blades were dangerous weapons. The Court said that even though there was no evidence that Mr. Archambeau intended to use the knives in a dangerous way, the statute was clear that a knife did not have to be used in order to be considered dangerous.
In 1995, in State v. Pugmire, the Appellate Court upheld the earlier Archambeau decision, quoting the Archambeau Court, when it stated that Mr. Archambeau’s knives …”are objectively the type of instruments reasonable people would assume were dangerous weapons, as they were objectively the type of weapons which are capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.” It then upheld Mr. Pugmire’s conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, saying that his buck knife, just like Mr. Archambeau’s knives, was commonly known as a dangerous weapon and objectively “the kind of instrument reasonable people would assume to be a dangerous weapon”.
In 2003, in an unpublished decision in State v. Jennings, the Court found that a knife with a 3 ½-inch blade, with two serrated edges, which tapered to a sharp point was a dangerous weapon, citing Mr. Jennings statement that he carried the knife for self-defense, admitting that he carried it for potentially dangerous reasons.
Restrictions on Carry
Those who fall under one of the two categories of restricted persons may not own or carry any knife that falls within the definition of a dangerous weapon. Those who do not meet the criteria of a category I or II restricted person, may open or conceal carry any type of knife, regardless of whether it is a ‘dangerous weapon’ or not.
Definitions of Various Knives
Neither the Utah statutes nor the case law offers a definition of any type of knife. This is likely due to the fact that the statutes applicable to the ownership and carrying of knives in Utah does not mention any particular type of knife, instead it simply makes it illegal for certain persons to own or carry a ‘dangerous weapon’.
Conclusion on Utah Knife Law
It is legal for anyone who has never been convicted of a crime, adjudged delinquent or mentally ill, or who does not use illegal drugs to own and open or conceal carry any type of knife in Utah.
Certain felons, drug users, and mentally ill people are not allowed to own any knife considered to be a dangerous weapon.
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-501 (2013)
- Utah Code Ann. § 62A-7-101 (2013)
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-203.5 (2013)
- Salt Lake City v. Miles, 299 P.3d 1163 (2013 Utah App.)
- State v. Jennings, 2003 UT App 361 (2003 Utah App.)
- State v. Archambeau, 820 P.2d 920 (1991 Utah Ct. App.)
- State v. Pugmire, 898 P.2d 271 (1995 Utah Ct. App.)