Although the exact legal definition may differ by state, a weapon is typically defined by a state’s criminal code as anything that is used, designed to be used, or intended for use in causing death or injury to any person, or for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person. In other words, anything that an individual holds may essentially be considered a weapon, if the intent is to cause death or injury to another person. This means that everything from a shoe to a firearm may be considered a weapon in the eyes of the law.

It is important to note that states do not typically rely solely on the broad definition of what constitutes a weapon in the state. In fact, many states will have more detailed laws concerning weapons such as handguns, automatic firearms, bombs, and bladed weapons. Once again, your particular state’s law will control what is considered to be a legal or illegal weapon in that state.

Thus, it is important to read your state’s criminal statutes as to what they define as a weapon, as well as the restrictions, or lack thereof, placed on such weapons. Additionally, for persons who are traveling across state lines, or are on federal property such as a military base, federal laws will apply as to what is considered a weapon and permitted to be carried.

Is It Legal to Carry a Knife?

As mentioned above, the laws surrounding what is considered a weapon, and therefore what restrictions are placed on that weapon, differ by states. Thus, the laws of your state will determine whether or not it is legal to carry a knife.

In general, it is legal to carry a knife in most states. However, there are often limits on knives or bladed weapons that may be carried. Most states regulate an individual’s ability to carry a knife based on the following characteristics of the knife itself:

  • The type of knife, including the purpose in which it is typically used for;
  • Where the knife is being carried. Once again, there are often locations where the carrying of weapons is prohibited, such as event venues, schools, courthouses, airports, and federal buildings to name a few;
  • The length of the blade. Typically longer bladed weapons will not be allowed to be carried as they are often more threatening and commonly used for purposes of causing injury. Shorter bladed knives, such as pocket knives or multi-tools are often allowed to be carried by persons over the age of majority in that state; and/or
  • Whether or not the knife can be concealed.

What Are the State Laws Concerning Carrying a Knife?

State laws regarding the legality of carrying a knife will be much more specific than general carry laws. Therefore, it is important to consult your state’s specific laws regarding the legality of carrying a knife prior to carrying the blade on your person.

Examples of state laws regarding the legality of carrying a knife include:

  • California: In the state of California, individuals are not permitted to carry any type of “disguised knives.” What this means is that individuals are not permitted to carry knives that are hidden in a cane, belt buckle, or other mechanism of concealment. However, California residents are permitted to carry pocket knives and blades under 2” in length, so long as they are carried openly. California residents are also allowed to own and carry bowie and other large knives with no length limit.
    • Once again, such possession and carrying must occur openly. Further, a California resident may not possess a switchblade in a passenger or driver’s seat of any motor vehicle in a public space, carry it in public, or try to sell, loan, transfer, or give the knife to any other individual. Thus, a good rule of thumb regarding carrying in California is that the knife should have a fixed blade, and openly hanged to the waist;
  • Texas: In the state of Texas, Texas lawmakers passed a law that allows any Texas resident over the age of 18 to legally carry knives, machetes, sabers, spears, and swords into most establishments. This erased earlier Texas laws that placed restrictions on carrying blades that were longer than 5.5 inches. The previous law did not allow individuals to carry bowie knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, or swords. Texas law now only has regulations regarding where knives are restricted from being carried. Anyone found to be carrying a knife in a restricted location will face a minimum charge of a Class C misdemeanor, or in the case of specific locations, a third-degree felony. Such restricted locations include, but are not limited to:
    • Airports;
    • Amusement parks;
    • Schools, including colleges and universities;
    • Government buildings;
    • Bars;
    • Correctional facilities, or other government buildings, such as courthouses;
    • Places of worship, unless indicated otherwise;
    • Polling places;
    • Hospitals and mental health facilities; and/or
    • Sporting or event venues.
  • Florida: In the state of Florida, the law prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons. The definition of weapon in Florida includes specific mention of dirks, knives, a common pocket knife, plastic knives, and blunt-bladed table knives. Further, state law mandates that anyone who wishes to conceal carry a knife in Florida, must first apply and obtain a concealed carry license. Similar to other states, knives are not allowed to be carried at specified locations, such as elementary schools, universities, establishments that sell alcohol, or governmental buildings.
    • The only law in Florida that regulates the length of a blade allowed to be carried otherwise is in regards to the common pocket knife. Common pocket knife blades must measure 4 inches or less to qualify for concealed carry. In addition to the above laws, there is a specific law in Florida that bans ballistic knives, otherwise known as knives that can shoot a projectile. Once again, the Florida resident must be over the age of majority (18 years of age), or they will not be allowed to carry a knife. Further, selling or providing a knife to a minor, other than a common pocket knife is illegal, and will result in a misdemeanor charge at a minimum; and
  • New York: In the State of New York, New York residents are not permitted to carry a dirk, dagger, or stiletto with the intent to harm somebody. Otherwise, New York residents are permitted to carry or conceal carry any type of legal knife, so long as they don’t have the intent to harm another. Similar to other states, there are restrictions as to where a knife may be carried, including school property, government buildings such as courthouses, correctional facilities, and most airports.
    • Additionally, within the New York City Metropolitan area, residents are not allowed to carry knives on public transport. It is important to note that major cities in New York have ordinances that further restrict a New York resident’s ability to carry a knife in the state. Thus, it is important to research not only state law, but your local city’s ordinances to determine what is considered a legal knife, and where such a knife can be carried.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Criminal Knife Possession?

If you are facing criminal charges for knife possession or concealed carrying a knife, you should immediately speak with an experienced criminal lawyer.

An experienced attorney will be able to advise you on state and city laws regarding carrying a knife, as well as how to best proceed in your legal defense. Additionally, an attorney will be able to assert any applicable legal defense on your behalf, as well as represent you at any necessary hearing.