Is Carrying a Knife for Self-Defense, Illegal or Legal?

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thomashoard1909

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Okay, I've done lots of research online - and still can't get a cut, clear and "sharp" answer. Can you carry a knife for the sole purposes of using it, obviously as a last resort in a life-threatening situation (and not getting into knife fights)?

I've read on my research, that many state legislatures will see that as you wanting to premeditatedly kill somebody.

In my state it's legal to carry concealed or open, anything that's not a ninja star or ballistic, we don't have preemption laws either. I'm still trying to find out, that even if my USMC Ka-Bar or Ontario SP-1 is legal to carry on both state and local levels, if self-defense and self-protection would be an accepted answer if ever questioned by a police officer.
 

lklawson

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Okay, I've done lots of research online - and still can't get a cut, clear and "sharp" answer. Can you carry a knife for the sole purposes of using it, obviously as a last resort in a life-threatening situation (and not getting into knife fights)?
It depends on where you live, sometimes down to the city level.

Some states (most these days) have some option for carrying some sort of knife for SD. Some don't. Some cities make it illegal. It also often matters what kind of knife. Not only fixed blade vs folding, but also single edge or double edge, length of blade and over all length, and whether or not it can be opened with one hand or can be "flicked" open.

These two websites can help:
Knife Rights – Rewriting Knife Law in America™
US Knife Laws | KnifeUp

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Danny T

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Different states, different laws. Some municipalities laws conflict with state laws.
Many laws are purposely vague. Allows for different interpretations based on the situation/s. (Be careful)
Many interpretations are based upon the 'spirit of the law' others on the 'letter of the law'. (Be careful)
Many state laws conflict with laws within the same state. (Be careful)

Different length blades are legal for carry in different states.
Best to have a reason for daily usage to have the knife and the back up is it was used it in a self defense situation.
 

Bill Mattocks

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As difficult as it can be to decipher all the laws that may cover you where you live, unfortunately it is still on your to do your due diligence. If you can't find the information yourself, my best advice is to engage the services of an attorney and ask them.

Here's the reasons.

First, we (most of us anyway) are not lawyers. We can't give you legal advice. And depending upon legal advice given online by people who are not lawyers is not smart in general.

Second, none of us will stand by your side if you end up in court. We won't pay your fines, we won't go to jail for you, we won't help you expunge your criminal record, if you should get arrested and if you should be prosecuted.

I recommend not asking, or at least not taking , advice from well-meaning strangers. Even police officers where you live - some will say one thing, some another, but they're not lawyers either, and they're not experts in the law; as much as it might seem they would be.
 

oftheherd1

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Different states, different laws. Some municipalities laws conflict with state laws.
Many laws are purposely vague. Allows for different interpretations based on the situation/s. (Be careful)
Many interpretations are based upon the 'spirit of the law' others on the 'letter of the law'. (Be careful)
Many state laws conflict with laws within the same state. (Be careful)

Different length blades are legal for carry in different states.
Best to have a reason for daily usage to have the knife and the back up is it was used it in a self defense situation.

Good answers so far. I have carried knives before, but never for self defense. I grew up in the country. Carrying a pocket knife was a very normal thing to do.

But much depends on the type of knife. Iklawson gives some, but not all, the things that may make a municipality declare a knife illegal. A lawyer, as Bill says, is a good place to go. Some states have justices of the peace who are qualified to tell you what the law is. A district attorney's office should also, but may not want to take time to talk to you about that.

So you need to know what the jurisdiction you will (are) be in says, not someone who even may report correctly for his jurisdiction, but gives you bad advice since you aren't in his jurisdiction. An example is Washington, DC. Legal pocket knife blade length is 3 inches. However, I work in a federal building. Legal blade length in a federal building anywhere is less than 2 1/2 inches. So I can walk around all over DC with a 3 inch bladed pocket knife in my pocket with no problems. However, as soon as I walk into a federal building with that 3 inch bladed knife, I have violated federal law. Check the laws for all the jurisdictions you will carry your pocket knife in.
 

oftheherd1

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Okay, I've done lots of research online - and still can't get a cut, clear and "sharp" answer. Can you carry a knife for the sole purposes of using it, obviously as a last resort in a life-threatening situation (and not getting into knife fights)?

I've read on my research, that many state legislatures will see that as you wanting to premeditatedly kill somebody.

In my state it's legal to carry concealed or open, anything that's not a ninja star or ballistic, we don't have preemption laws either. I'm still trying to find out, that even if my USMC Ka-Bar or Ontario SP-1 is legal to carry on both state and local levels, if self-defense and self-protection would be an accepted answer if ever questioned by a police officer.

This puzzles me. But surprisingly, it appears that many states and lower jurisdictions don't put a limit on the length of a blade, but more on its apparent inherently intended use.
 

hoshin1600

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i will second what @Bill Mattocks said. but i will add not to take advise from web sights even if they say they are a lawyer. a phone call to a defense attorney in your city is the best advise you will be able to get.
they might just give a blanket statement, "no you cant carry one, now go away your bothering me"
the one key factor in this that hasnt been mentioned, is that if you do happen to use it in self defense, whatever your laws are for carry, they are irrelevant once you use it. now its a completely different subject and chances are unless the other guy had a gun your going to lose in court and if he did have a gun and you have a knife your probably going to lose that battle too.
 

Paul_D

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The Web is World Wide (clue's in the name) so you might want to narrow your location down a little when asking questions that are location specific ;-)
 

wab25

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Best to have a reason for daily usage to have the knife and the back up is it was used it in a self defense situation.
I agree with this. I never carry a knife for self defense. I carry a knife for daily usage. I open letters and packages with it. I can cut a seat belt off with it. (in florida, there are a ton of little lakes and ponds everywhere, and people drive into them all the time. I am prepared to escape, or to jump in after someone else goes in, to cut them free from the seatbelt and get them out) There are all kinds of daily uses to have a knife for. It also happens to be convenient in a self defense situation... but that is never why I carry one.

I also agree with everyone else in regard to checking local and federal laws. They change depending on where you are. Its like carrying a gun on your trip across the US. Its on you to know how each state wants you to transport the gun. Same with knives. Its on you to know where you are, and what is allowed.
 

Midnight-shadow

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This may sound really stupid but why not just go to your local police station and ask them there? At the end of the day they are the ones who will uphold the law and arrest you, so they should know what is and isn't allowed.
 

Saheim

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No, do not ask police legal questions.

I spent many years working as a sworn law enforcement officer and can tell you - ask five cops a legal question, plan on three different answers. What's even worse is when you ask a cop a question he does not know the answer to, he will usually do one of two things: (1) make up an answer that fits what he THINKS you should be doing (2) Go ask another cop.

Do not rely on cops, lawyers, judges, etc to tell you what the law says, READ it yourself. The statutes of every state are available online. Look it up, read it. Now, if you want an interpretation of what the statute means, then you should ask a cop or lawyer.

My personal opinion/position - I owe no one an explanation as to why I am carrying something. Either the item is legal to carry or it isn't. I feel neither obligated nor compelled to state my reasons for carrying it.
 

MJS

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Okay, I've done lots of research online - and still can't get a cut, clear and "sharp" answer. Can you carry a knife for the sole purposes of using it, obviously as a last resort in a life-threatening situation (and not getting into knife fights)?

I've read on my research, that many state legislatures will see that as you wanting to premeditatedly kill somebody.

In my state it's legal to carry concealed or open, anything that's not a ninja star or ballistic, we don't have preemption laws either. I'm still trying to find out, that even if my USMC Ka-Bar or Ontario SP-1 is legal to carry on both state and local levels, if self-defense and self-protection would be an accepted answer if ever questioned by a police officer.

Lots of good advice already given. This is certainly a sticky situation, because as it's been said, things will vary from state to state. I would think, just like a gun, that things are going to be looked at on a case by case basis. Would a reasonable person pull a gun on someone because they got cut off in traffic? I could say the same about a knife.

For ME, it would really have to be a life and death situation. In other words...if ALL other avenues have been exhausted, I would do it. Again, this is only what *I* would do. I'm not saying you should do the same, I'm not saying that what *I* would do is even right. I will say this though...at the end of the day, if I was in a situation and no other options available, yes, I'd do it. If it meant saving my *** or a loved one....absolutely! I'll deal with the other stuff later.
 

DanT

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I only carry my knife because I'm proud of owning it, and for using it as a tool when needed (to cut an apple, open a box, cut a seat-belt, etc.). Carrying it with the intent of using it for "protection" or "self-defense" is illegal (in Canada).

THIS IS MY PERSONAL OPINION AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS LEGAL ADVICE.
 

jobo

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I only carry my knife because I'm proud of owning it, and for using it as a tool when needed (to cut an apple, open a box, cut a seat-belt, etc.). Carrying it with the intent of using it for "protection" or "self-defense" is illegal (in Canada).

THIS IS MY PERSONAL OPINION AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS LEGAL ADVICE.
it is unsurprisingly much the same in the UK, carrying anything for " self defence" is illegal , knifes are further restricted, so that any fixed blade knife is illegal, including lock knives, folding knives are ok with a blade of no more than 3". .UNLESS you have a very good reason for carrying it

there are a couple of work around if you want to push your luck in court. The 3" apples the sharpened blade, not to the tang, so 6" knives are arguably legal, if only half of it is ground to an edge, such knives are on sale, and a ( very) strong spring to hold the knife open is ok as long as as it doesn't actually lock. All in all the UK police are down on all knives and a court appearance is very likely for any thing but a strictly legal knife and a legal one would most likely be confiscated . Using one even a legal one in self defence, even if just used to threaten will almost certainty end up in court
 

Midnight-shadow

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it is unsurprisingly much the same in the UK, carrying anything for " self defence" is illegal , knifes are further restricted, so that any fixed blade knife is illegal, including lock knives, folding knives are ok with a blade of no more than 3". .UNLESS you have a very good reason for carrying it

there are a couple of work around if you want to push your luck in court. The 3" apples the sharpened blade, not to the tang, so 6" knives are arguably legal, if only half of it is ground to an edge, such knives are on sale, and a ( very) strong spring to hold the knife open is ok as long as as it doesn't actually lock. All in all the UK police are down on all knives and a court appearance is very likely for any thing but a strictly legal knife and a legal one would most likely be confiscated . Using one even a legal one in self defence, even if just used to threaten will almost certainty end up in court

And herein lies the problem. There are too many grey areas when it comes to self-defence and the law, meaning even if you think you are well within the law, you are going to end up in court regardless, and that costs money, lots of it.
 

Paul_D

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And herein lies the problem. There are too many grey areas when it comes to self-defence and the law,
There aren't "too many" grey area's in the UK, so it's quite simple in the UK. Carrying anything for self defence in the UK is illegal. Work on that basis and you'll be ok.
 

hoshin1600

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Do not rely on cops, lawyers, judges, etc to tell you what the law says, READ it yourself.
i can agree with the sentiment but disagree in the details. while yes you should read it for yourself, this does not mean you will gain an understanding of how the law is actually applied. your own interpretation could be different from the way it is applied. also many laws are written is such a vague and nonsensical way, you would actually need a lawyer anyway to help decipher what the intent of the law is.
 

hoshin1600

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Lots of good advice already given. This is certainly a sticky situation, because as it's been said, things will vary from state to state. I would think, just like a gun, that things are going to be looked at on a case by case basis. Would a reasonable person pull a gun on someone because they got cut off in traffic? I could say the same about a knife.

For ME, it would really have to be a life and death situation. In other words...if ALL other avenues have been exhausted, I would do it. Again, this is only what *I* would do. I'm not saying you should do the same, I'm not saying that what *I* would do is even right. I will say this though...at the end of the day, if I was in a situation and no other options available, yes, I'd do it. If it meant saving my *** or a loved one....absolutely! I'll deal with the other stuff later.

i will again say these are two different issues. the legality of carry is a separate issue from how it is used in a situation.
it is perfectly acceptable to carry a pen in my pocket......until i stab someone in the neck with it. at that point it will instantly become a "dangerous weapon" and i will be judged by a jury and judge on the legality of my application of such weapon and the circumstance that i am claiming to be self defense.
 

wingerjim

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Okay, I've done lots of research online - and still can't get a cut, clear and "sharp" answer. Can you carry a knife for the sole purposes of using it, obviously as a last resort in a life-threatening situation (and not getting into knife fights)?

I've read on my research, that many state legislatures will see that as you wanting to premeditatedly kill somebody.

In my state it's legal to carry concealed or open, anything that's not a ninja star or ballistic, we don't have preemption laws either. I'm still trying to find out, that even if my USMC Ka-Bar or Ontario SP-1 is legal to carry on both state and local levels, if self-defense and self-protection would be an accepted answer if ever questioned by a police officer.
Depends where you live. Look one of the best ways to find out it to call your local Sherriff's office and simply ask. They cannot arrest you for the question or at least ask them where this information can be found.
 

geezer

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There aren't "too many" grey area's in the UK, so it's quite simple in the UK. Carrying anything for self defence in the UK is illegal. Work on that basis and you'll be ok.

..Unless you find yourself in a situation where you really need more than your hands to defend yourself!

I guess situational awareness and good judgement are more stressed in the UK. Here in Arizona everybody carries. Yep. That solves everything! :D
 
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