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Wisconsin Knife Law

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Wisconsin

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]isconsin knife laws are long, wordy, and difficult to understand, even for someone trained in the law. This article takes the law and puts into clear and concise, plain English, so that anyone can understand what is legal and what is not when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of Wisconsin.

What is Illegal to Own

Not much as far as we can tell by reviewing all Wisconsin State laws pertaining to restricted weapons.  Knives are not on the list of “dangerous weapons” and so they do not fall under the laws pertaining to dangerous weapons.

Definition of Carry

Carry is defined as going “armed” by Wisconsin statute. Case law has further defined going armed, and in State v. Caprice S.I., the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that “went armed” meant that a weapon was either on a defendant’s person or that the weapon was within the defendant’s reach.

Restrictions on Carry

It is illegal in Wisconsin to carry a concealed and dangerous weapon (including a knife) by anyone who is PROHIBITED from possessing a firearm.

Further, it is illegal to carry any knife to any school or public building owned by the state.  Otherwise, the restrictions on carrying a concealed weapon are pretty liberal.

Definition of Various Knives

A switchblade is defined as any knife having a blade which opens by pressing a button, spring or other device in the handle or by gravity or by a thrust or movement. In State v. Krause, the Appellate Court upheld Mr. Krause’s conviction for carrying a concealed dangerous weapon, finding that his knife, which had a blade that was serrated on one side, sharp on the other, and had a point at the end, was a switchblade. The blade was contained in two casings: the serrated blade fit into one of the casings and the cutting edge in the other. The casings were secured by a clasp, that when removed, allowed one casing to fall away from the other by the force of gravity, exposing the blade.

Neither the Wisconsin code nor its case law offers a definition of any other type of knife. When words or terms are not defined by the legislature, in the state code, Court’s use the ‘plain English meaning’ of the word, or that meaning provided in Webster’s dictionary.

What the Law States

941.23. Carrying concealed weapon.941.231. Carrying a concealed knife. Any person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under s. 941.29 who goes armed with a concealed knife that is a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

However, “knife” has been taken off the list of dangerous weapons, so as long as you haven’t been legally prohibited from possession a gun, you’re golden!

What is Legal to Own

Definition of Carry

Carry is defined as going “armed” by Wisconsin statute. Case law has further defined going armed, and in State v. Caprice S.I., the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that “went armed” meant that a weapon was either on a defendant’s person or that the weapon was within the defendant’s reach.

Definition of Concealed

In 1993, in State v. Keith, the Court of Appeals for Wisconsin found that there were three elements to carrying a concealed dangerous weapon.

In State v. Walls, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals found that a person was guilty of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon in an automobile where all of the following are true:

Definition of Dangerous Weapon

(ap) Notwithstanding s. 939.22 (10), “dangerous weapon” does not include a knife.  The definition of a dangerous weapon is outlined below;

939-22(10) “Dangerous weapon” means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded; any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm; any ligature or other instrumentality used on the throat, neck, nose, or mouth of another person to impede, partially or completely, breathing or circulation of blood; any electric weapon, as defined in s. 941.295 (1c) (a); or any other device or instrumentality which, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

Sources

*updated May 2018

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