Does anyone here carry a knife? (need legal info)


April 15, 2008, 01:52 PM
Hey guys, I was wondering if anybody on here knew anything about knives. If anyone does or carries one on a regular basis I am in need of some advice. I was under the impression that folding knives which were under a certain length were legal to carry. A friend of mine was recently pulled over for a minor traffic violation and the officer asked him to exit his vehicle. He complied (not knowing what he had done wrong). The officer asked him if he had any weapons or illegal substances on him and my friend told him that he had a small utility knife clipped to his back pocket which he uses for work. He is also well practiced in martial arts and edged weapons and so could use it effectivley for self defense. The officer took the knife out and completed the traffic stop. He did not end up giving my friend a ticket. He did however confiscate the blade saying that it was illegal for my friend to ber carrying a concealed weapon???! Whats the deal here?

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April 15, 2008, 01:57 PM
I think 99% of us around here carry a knife everyday. I don't know any of the legalities of it and am currious as to why he took it also. What state are you in?

April 15, 2008, 01:58 PM
What state/locality?

Different rules for different places...

April 15, 2008, 02:00 PM
Does anyone here not carry a knife?

Knife laws vary hugely with location. There are very few Federal knife laws (mostly pertaining to interstate commerce in automatic knives), but states and even counties and cities can have very restrictive knife legislation.

The THR library has some good info ( to start.

I'm fortunate to be able to legally carry a double edged out-the-front automatic knife, everyday.

April 15, 2008, 02:10 PM
I have had several Detroit policemen as students. I have asked them about Detroit knife law. Each has said that any knife with a blade over three inches is illegal. When I ask for the exact law so that I can look it up, they all promise to get back to me. None has.

April 15, 2008, 02:15 PM
In Los Angeles, CA, the laws are about as draconian as they get. Here is a link to some CA laws:
Actual penal code is:

April 15, 2008, 02:16 PM
this will be specific to your state/ city laws. I'd guess 90% here carry folders of some type. Most laws are directed to blade lenght. Longer than 4" a no-no alot places, longer than 3" other places. We are truly living in a nanny/police state in this country.

April 15, 2008, 02:19 PM
My Texas legal knives are illegal on federal property. Texas says blade length less than 5˝ inches, but the feds say the max blade length for a pocket knife is 2˝ inches.

April 15, 2008, 02:45 PM
From your handle, I'll guess you're in NY.

NY law is vague on the subject, essentially letting LEO & judges prohibit whatever they want. A nexus of laws makes possession of a "dangerous knife" a misdemeanor (to wit: it's illegal to have one if you intend to use it against someone, and having one is presumptive evidence you intend to use it against someone). Depending on circumstances and appearance, the cop may not have had enough to press charges (whatever they might be), but did feel that the "tool" knife was possessed for purposes other than common tool use.

Spend some quality time with looking specifically under PEN Article 265 & 400 for all relevant laws. The applicable laws in this case are PEN 265.15.4 coupled with PEN 265.01(2).

Of note: despite popular belief, there is no length limit on knives in NY outside NYC. (NYC has a 4" limit ... but being under that limit does not automatically make it legal.)
The legal issue is whether the officer & judge conclude the knife is "dangerous", which is otherwise undefined.

To your friend's situation: possession is legal, until a cop decides it's not (usually as being connected to another offense). It's normally not enough to press charges, but is enough for confiscation. The cop asked about weapons, your friend turned over the knife, and it was confiscated as such. Since he was pulled over pursuant to suspicion of some violation, the otherwise legal knife was declared contraband.

Hence, the "Empire State".

2nd 41
April 15, 2008, 02:53 PM
I carry a Spyder ...fully serrated

April 15, 2008, 03:22 PM
Over in, the buzz is that NYC has been busting people under the NYC "gravity knife" statute. This law apparently was little used "before 9-11 changed everything." :rolleyes:

Basically, any folding-blade pocket knife that locks the blade open is a "gravity knife" if you can flick it open and get it to lock. ("Lock" means it requires a push-button or some other action to unlock it (so a Swiss Army knife wouldn't count).) One Bladeforum guy reported that the arresting officer held the BLADE to do the "flick test" before busting him.

April 15, 2008, 03:39 PM
We see this sort of issue all the time in Non-Firearms Weapons ( No one can answer your question unless you tell us the make of knife and the state/locality that the stop occurred in.

Knife laws vary from state to state and even within localities within a state. What is legal in California (carry any length blade folder and 2" and under switchblades) is not legal in TN (under 4" and no switchblade carry). What's legal for the state may not be legal in a specific city (TX allows 5.5" lockblade folders, but San Antonio doesn't allow lockblades of any size).

So, where was your buddy, what was he carrying, and how was he carrying it? Is he a US citizen (matters some places like NY)? Until we know those things all else is guesswork.

BTW, taking legal advice without verifying the accuracy of it is highly inadvisable. If this occurred in NY state check the NY Penal Law at 265.0 and .01 (


NYC may not be the only city that puts limits on blade length in NY state. Often a city will arbitrarily limit legal blade length to under 4", or 3" and under. I feel certain that you're not saying no other cities in NY state limit blade length except NYC, but that once outside of NYC (or one of the other cities) there's no blade length limits. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

lee n. field
April 15, 2008, 05:29 PM
Does anyone here not carry a knife?

Strangely enough there are people that don't. I see them clumsily trying to open packages with their fingers, stuff like that. <shakes head>

April 15, 2008, 05:33 PM
Yes, I do live in New York, though not in NYC. I was shocked honestly, because the type of folding knife my friend carried are sold openly at malls, large store chains and even shopping mall kiosks. My impression is that the officer, either was not well versed in the law himself or was on a bit of a power trip unfortunatley.

April 15, 2008, 05:42 PM
I live in Wahington and I don't think there is any limit on how long folding knives are allowed to be. If a knife is over 3" it is considered a weapon, if it's under 3" it is considered a tool. A cop friend told me that.

April 15, 2008, 05:58 PM has a huge seciont on state and federal knife laws... i would start there

The Tourist
April 15, 2008, 06:34 PM
I think the cop wanted a new knife.

If the stop uncovered an illegal act, then the people should be arrested or ticketed.

If the people were not doing anything illegal, then there's no reason for the confiscation.

The former knife owner should have gotten a badge number and filed a complaint. Where I live, honest cops buy their knives.

April 15, 2008, 11:19 PM
At one point I was pretty well-versed in knife laws through much of the country, with special focus on NY (a resident). I don't recall any NY location outside NYC with a length limit, but things may have changed since then.
The main thing about understanding NY knife law is: if a cop thinks you might be up to no good with that knife, you're screwed.

Yes, I could be wrong, and Albany is the most likely culprit. I'm still pretty sure nowhere else has such a limit.
...and that's the problem, and the reason why we have a 2nd Amendment: so we can keep & bear arms without being hassled by a mishmash of overlapping contradictory dynamic laws. When questioned by one company about whether a switchblade was legal in their jurisdiction, I informed them (honestly) that it was - and that if they wanted to press charges, conditions were legally ripe for the subject to challenge it on 2nd Amendment grounds.

April 15, 2008, 11:26 PM
My Texas legal knives are illegal on federal property. Texas says blade length less than 5˝ inches, but the feds say the max blade length for a pocket knife is 2˝ inches.

You don't happen to have a citation or link where I can read more about this, do you? I hadn't heard about it previously, and would like to get more info.

April 16, 2008, 12:25 AM
Sounds like the officer is a jerk.
He knows most men carry a knife,
and the most convenient place
to carry it of course is in a pocket.

Another day another dollar.
Or maybe in the officers case another knife.

April 16, 2008, 04:39 AM
I know that you can't carry a small Swiss Army knife into a court house in CT. :scrutiny:

53a-3: (7) "Dangerous instrument" means any instrument, article or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used or attempted or threatened to be used, is capable of causing death or serious physical injury, and includes a "vehicle" as that term is defined in this section and includes a dog that has been commanded to attack, except a dog owned by a law enforcement agency of the state or any political subdivision thereof or of the federal government when such dog is in the performance of its duties under the direct supervision, care and control of an assigned law enforcement officer.

So if you articulate that you have a knife that you intend to use as a weapon, just about any knife "could" be considered a Dangerous Instrument.

"LEO: "Why do you have this boxcutter?"

Person: "For protection."

That poor choice of words could dance you into a place you don't want to be depending on the overall reason you are dealing with the police.

Sec. 53-206. Carrying of dangerous weapons prohibited. (a) Any person who carries upon his or her person any BB. gun, blackjack, metal or brass knuckles, or any dirk knife, or any switch knife, or any knife having an automatic spring release device by which a blade is released from the handle, having a blade of over one and one-half inches in length, or stiletto, or any knife the edged portion of the blade of which is four inches or over in length, any police baton or nightstick, or any martial arts weapon or electronic defense weapon….

There exceptions to this based on what the person has the knife for.

I've seen many interesting interpretations of the above statutes. :uhoh: But, like with many laws, there is that interpretation issue there. Different people can read things into the various laws that another may not. Even State Attorneys and judges view the interpretations differently than the police may. Sometimes harsher. ;)

Commander Crusty
April 16, 2008, 09:59 AM
The law is whatever the local police officer, district attorney and judge say it is. That's the way it works. Tell your friend to buy a new knife.

April 16, 2008, 11:41 AM
18 USC 930. Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities
(g) As used in this section:
(2) The term “dangerous weapon” means a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 21/2 inches in length.

April 16, 2008, 11:53 AM
cops don't really care in florida provided it's a folding knife, and not something more akin to a machete.

April 16, 2008, 11:56 AM
Thanks wdlsguy! I hadn't seen that previously and can think of a handful of times where I may have been in violation of that. Heck, the post office is a "federal facility", isn't it?

Kurt S.
April 16, 2008, 12:09 PM
I've carried a pocket knife for 50 years, since I was 8 or so.

I generally carry a small lockback folder, most often a lightweight Cold Steel Voyager or CRKT KISS. Occasionally I'll carry a 2 blade trapper's knife or a 3 blade penknife.

I also use a Micro Leatherman tool as a key fob.

April 16, 2008, 01:16 PM
UPDATE: My friend was pretty worked up about the situation once I told him I could not find anything that seemed to say he had broken the law. BTW this guy is an EMT and volunteer FD member. Which is what made the whole incident even more laughable to us. I mean you think the officer would understand that as a firefighter and possible first responder his knife could be very usefull. So he has called the local police department and made a complaint. Who knows maybe they will be able to shed some light on the situation.

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