The legalities of knife carry

Tgace

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As an LEO, on occasion I get asked questions about carrying a knife for "self-defense". Is this type of knife legal? Is that length of blade legal? Is this a "gravity knife"? Will I get arrested/charged if a cop sees a folder clipped to my pocket?

Bear in mind that I am NOT an attorney, different states have different laws and different PD's in the same state have different policies, so take this advice with a grain of salt..but this is a somewhat popular piece I wrote about knife law in my State, through my experience lens of enforcing it.

http://tgace.com/2012/04/12/ny-knife-law/

I frequently get asked questions about the legality of carrying a knife in NY. The following is a response I wrote on one occasion:
...

The legal definition of the crime of Criminal Possession of a Weapon 4th is:

Section 265.01 Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when:
(1) He possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star”; or
(2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another; or


Some weapons are illegal to simply possess. You can’t be carrying one PERIOD, while some are illegal to possess only if you intend to use it unlawfully against another, otherwise they are not illegal. The difference is very important in terms of my probable cause to arrest. But oddly enough NOT so different at the same time….read on.

The “any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another;” part covers using just about any object as a weapon as long as you are using it unlawfully.

What is a “dangerous knife”?

Matter of Jamie D., 59 NY2d 589 (1983). Whether a “knife” is a “dangerous” knife may be determined on the basis of three alternative considerations: one, its own characteristics which show that it is primarily intended for use as a weapon; second, a modification, which converts what would otherwise be a utensil into a weapon; and third, the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool.

In other words “its not what it does that’s important…its how it looks thats important”. If it looks like a weapon instead of a tool/pocket knife it will be treated as a weapon. Something to keep in mind.

That last sentence there is an eyeopener too isnt it? The “the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool. ” one?

There are no specific limits on blade length in NYS Law. NYC has a city code on carrying blades longer than 4″. But that’s local law.

To throw another thorny legal issue into the mix (in NY) is the fact that PL 265.15(4) dictates that simple possession constitutes presumptive evidence that the possessor intends to use the instrument unlawfully against another.

4. The possession by any person of the substance as specified in section 265.04 is presumptive evidence of possessing such substance with intent to use the same unlawfully against the person or property of another if such person is not licensed or otherwise authorized to possess such substance. The possession by any person of any dagger, dirk, stiletto, dangerous knife or any other weapon, instrument, appliance or substance designed, made or adapted for use primarily as a weapon, is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another.

So what that means is that if an officer has some reason to be dealing with you and discovers a dagger on you he can “presume” (in the eyes of the law) that you intended to use it unlawfully on another and arrest you for it. To be honest, if you were a decent person/victim/or otherwise respectful and with no “history” of criminality, you probably wouldnt be charged. You may have the blade confiscated. It is sort of circular reasoning. The statute says that a “dangerous knife” is legal to own and only illegal if carried with intent to use against another, but then another statute states that simple possession is enough to prove “intent”.

What it means is…if you carry a knife stay out of situations where the cops would be likely to search/detain/ or otherwise “deal” with you.i.e. “STAY OUT OF TROUBLE” and people places and situations that attract trouble.
 
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Sukerkin

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Always interesting to hear insights from those whose business it is to know something about a given topic. Thank you Tgace.
 

Bill Mattocks

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This is a point I attempted to make in the 'pen as a weapon' thread. A pen that is designed with the alternative purpose of self-defense *is* a weapon and may be treated as one by police or prosecuting attorneys.

Does it look like a weapon? It may be a weapon.
Is it intended to be a weapon by the person who carries it? Then it may be a weapon.
Is it carried in a manner that demonstrates its purpose is as a weapon? Then it may be a weapon.

If you want to carry a pen as a weapon, carry a pen, not a weapon.

Sorry to sidetrack the thread, but the concepts here are illustrative.
 
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Tgace

Tgace

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This is a point I attempted to make in the 'pen as a weapon' thread. A pen that is designed with the alternative purpose of self-defense *is* a weapon and may be treated as one by police or prosecuting attorneys.

Does it look like a weapon? It may be a weapon.
Is it intended to be a weapon by the person who carries it? Then it may be a weapon.
Is it carried in a manner that demonstrates its purpose is as a weapon? Then it may be a weapon.

If you want to carry a pen as a weapon, carry a pen, not a weapon.

Sorry to sidetrack the thread, but the concepts here are illustrative.

IMO you are 100% correct Bill.

Hell..a plain pen waved at me as a weapon makes it a weapon in the eyes of the law.
 

elder999

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This is a point I attempted to make in the 'pen as a weapon' thread. A pen that is designed with the alternative purpose of self-defense *is* a weapon and may be treated as one by police or prosecuting attorneys.

Does it look like a weapon? It may be a weapon.
Is it intended to be a weapon by the person who carries it? Then it may be a weapon.
Is it carried in a manner that demonstrates its purpose is as a weapon? Then it may be a weapon.

If you want to carry a pen as a weapon, carry a pen, not a weapon.

Sorry to sidetrack the thread, but the concepts here are illustrative.

Yeah, but that's why I made those pens-they're pens, not "tactical pens." They're my everyday carry pens, now.....amd they don't look like weapons, and I don't intend to use them as weapons, and they're not carried in a manner that demonstrates their purpose is as a weapon-they're pens.......that, like almost all pens, can be used as weapons.....
 
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Sukerkin

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:chuckles: For obvious reasons, I prefer one of these ... it's a bugger to write with tho' :angel: :

$SH6001KPE.jpg
 

geezer

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... if an officer has some reason to be dealing with you and discovers a dagger on you he can presume (in the eyes of the law) that you intended to use it unlawfully on another and arrest you for it. To be honest, if you were a decent person/victim/or otherwise respectful and with no history of criminality, you probably wouldnt be charged.

For the most part I've had decent experiences with law enforcement officers exercising their judgement, but then I'm an inoffensive, middle-aged, middle class white guy who is pretty well spoken and I generally act respectful of authority. In other words, I don't look or act like a "troublemaker". If I were a minority teenager in a rough part of town I really don't think I'd find this "decent person" standard sufficiently reassuring. Just saying.

What it means isif you carry a knife stay out of situations where the cops would be likely to search/detain/ or otherwise deal with you.i.e. STAY OUT OF TROUBLE and people places and situations that attract trouble.

Sound advice, but it kinda defeats the whole reason why people concerned for their own safety carry knives to begin with.

Funny thing. Where I live anyone can carry a gun openly or concealed with no permit required. We have state legislators who insist on carrying loaded pistols in our state Senate and House during session. Just in case. Or whatever! So basically, in Arizona today, the average Joe with no criminal record is probably way better off from a legal standpoint carrying a gun than a knife.

Strange how all the Second Amendment groups will rally to allow guns almost everywhere, while they don't give a hoot if knives, clubs, saps, brass knuckles and other less lethal weapons (including traditional martial arts weapons) are heavily restricted or outright banned.

To avoid the whole intent issue, my advice to my students is to learn how to defend themselves with improvised "weapons" that they already carry for peaceful reasons everyday. If they are a tradesman, do they normally carry a hammer, large wrench or screwdriver in their truck? If they play softball with a league, do they keep their sports-bag (with their bat protruding) handy in their car? If they go off-roading or camping a lot, is their trenching shovel were they can quickly reach it? For the rest of us, do you use a "Club" brand steering wheel lock? Think about that name: "The Club", and keep it next to you on the passenger seat when not in use. Same goes for personal carry items like keys, pens, flashlights, cell phones, water bottles, purses, briefcases, and so on. If that's not enough, then you must live in a very nasty area or have a pretty rough line of work.
 
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Tgace

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I'm not writing to reassure you...or even to debate the "rightness or wrongness" of laws regarding knives and LE applications of them. That's the way the laws (here) are crafted. The reality is what it is.
 

Christian Soldier

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When I was in NYC I had a kubaton that I carried with me all the time for SD and it was confiscated a few days in on the trip, when I was headed to ellis island. Keep in mind at this time I was barely 10. The security guy's exact words to me is "this isn't legal in NY and it will be confiscated and destroyed". I was pretty upset but I laugh at it now how silly it is that this little metal stick had to be 'destoyed' because it's so dangerous in the hands of this elementary school boy. :)

Just out of curiosty, was he right? Legally wise not common sense wise of course. Thanks!
 

Bill Mattocks

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The best thing to do is not be the kind of person the police want to interview or search. The next best thing is to not go where things often happen that require police intervention. People routinely ignore both of these and then wonder why they have issues with police.

You can carry anything you like if no one looks for it. Be the person that does not get searched.
 

elder999

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I'm not writing to reassure you...or even to debate the "rightness or wrongness" of laws regarding knives and LE applications of them. That's the way the laws (here) are crafted. The reality is what it is.


Thanks Tgace-this is an excellent thread. I grew up in NY-and the laws are really iffy. True story-when we lived in Manhattan, sometime between 1963 and 1968, a nurse associate of my mom was attacked in an elevator. She had a pair of scissors in her purse, and stabbed her assailant with them.

And was charged with assault, and carrying a concealed weapon.

I've carried a knife for years, but never in NYC-and I never told anyone that the pen was a tool for self defense until I posted about it here. I just made sure that if I was going into the city I had a sturdy one with me...I always carry a pen-who doesn't?

I was going to post all of this in this thread, but this is a good place for it too.

Knife techniques are part of what I teach, so legalities are part of it as well, and I have some advise for my students, for what it's worth.

Know the laws in your state. Here in NM, anyone can openly carry about anything they can legally own-legally. A pistol strapped to their hip. A samurai sword. A machete. Of course, you might get looks or questions with those last two, or even some serious investigation if you're walking down the street with a pump-action and two bandeliers across your chest, but you're not breaking the law. And, if you're like me, and take a pretty simple and easy 30 hr. course, you can carry a concealed weapon-you have to qualify with each of the calibers you want to carry, which I think is kind of silly, and you never have to requalify, which I think is really silly, but there it is. I can carry .9mm, 10mm, .45, .22, .40, .357, .38, and .44, because Rita-that's the wife-and I brought all our pistol calibers with us. I'll carry under my jacket,usually.

But if I defend myself with a knife, and I've been carrying it in my pocket-or on my belt in a parallel sheath at the small of my back, which is one of my favorite carries-I can be charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon.

If, on the other hand, I hac\ve one of those pocket knives with a clip, and the clip is showing, it's not concealed.

So, first thing, know how and what to carry legally in your jurisdiction.

As far as deploying the thing, it should be something that you use-and you deploy it for defense the way you use it daily. When you're asked what you use it for and why you carry it, you can say (like me) to open boxes, to cut hoses, to cut twine, to cut rope, to slice my lunch up, to trim gaskets, etc., etc., etc. and use it for those things, dammit....

I don't recommend carrying anything with a blade greater than 3.5" as a daily carry. Stay away from anything with the words "tactical, military, Special Forces, Ranger, Seal, Marine, black-ops," or anything that denotes anything other than the things that you use it daily for.No "paratrooper." No "Police." No balisongs, no tantos, and, much as I love them, no damn balisongs. If it's a fixed blade, it shouldn't have fingerguards or be in a "dagger," or boot knife configuration.It shouldn't be a KABAR, or Randall, or any maker who makes a knife called a "fighter." A folder like a BUCK knife can be good, but it's also a favorite of bikers, and can arouse suspicion (though I have a good story about a beat cop in the Bronx carrying one...). Much as I like them-and I carry one-it's probably best to avoid assisted opening blades, and just get practiced at opening a folder one-handed.

That's me, though, and what do I know?

Moving on, though-you should train for various scenarios, so that you know when you can deploy your blade legally, and train for non-lethal as well as lethal targets, but be prepared for targets of opportunity.


Me, I usually wear painter's pants to work, and I carry my clip blade in the pocket on my right leg-I have long arms, but the front pocket is also good. I also occasionally will carry a thin blade (Ken Onion Leek) alongside my wallet in the same pocket, and have practiced pulling out the wallet with the knife at the same time, in case of mugging, so I can feign compliance....

What's most important, though, is knowning the laws where you live, and where you are. That concealed weapon permit, and open carry? I can get on my motorcycle with a knife on one hip, a pistol on the other, and one under my jacket, and ride through Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona, but the minute I enter Denver, I'm breaking the law.

The minute I cross the Nevada/California or Arizona/California border, and enter Khaliforniastan?

Odds are good that even with my resources, I'm going to spend some time under the jail.....:lol:
 
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Tgace

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When I was in NYC I had a kubaton that I carried with me all the time for SD and it was confiscated a few days in on the trip, when I was headed to ellis island. Keep in mind at this time I was barely 10. The security guy's exact words to me is "this isn't legal in NY and it will be confiscated and destroyed". I was pretty upset but I laugh at it now how silly it is that this little metal stick had to be 'destoyed' because it's so dangerous in the hands of this elementary school boy. :)

Just out of curiosty, was he right? Legally wise not common sense wise of course. Thanks!

It's one of those grey area " the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool." things.

Is a kuboton an illegal weapon? As in is it stipulated in NY law as illegal to possess? No. Could it be considered a "dangerous instrument" and you charged with illegal possession of a weapon in certain circumstances? Yes.

Ideally. Someone simply walking along with a kuboton sticking out of their pocket shouldn't reach the level of "circumstances" indicating an intent to use it as a weapon..but in NYC? YMMV. I've yet to charge anyone with carrying a kuboton.

As un-reassuring as this sounds, the reality of the matter is that a cop could arrest the kuboton carrier and charge him...while likely "justified" as in the cop would have been within the letter of the law. He would probably have the whole thing dropped in court because the circumstances of the contact didn't justify considering the item as being carried as being carried "as a weapon". But you would have to go through the hassle. It would take a number of arrests getting "kicked" by court before the dept would likely issue a "knock off the kuboton arrests" directive.

As much as people like to think that LE is an IF/THEN process of reading a list of laws. Many times it's like making a sausage. You may like the end result but, the process of making it can be a mess at times.
 
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geezer

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I'm not writing to reassure you...or even to debate the "rightness or wrongness" of laws regarding knives and LE applications of them. That's the way the laws (here) are crafted. The reality is what it is.

Agreed. Reality is what it is. My point was that people should not feel assured, just because they see themselves "as the good guy", that others in authority will concur. And, if you ever must resort to using some kind of weapon to defend yourself, learn to use something that doesn't scream criminal intent. Wherever you live.
 

lklawson

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Strange how all the Second Amendment groups will rally to allow guns almost everywhere, while they don't give a hoot if knives, clubs, saps, brass knuckles and other less lethal weapons (including traditional martial arts weapons) are heavily restricted or outright banned.
That's not my experience.

From what I can tell most folks who are 2A supporters and want to be able to carry a firearm for SD are equally interested in the ability (usually the theoretical ability) to also carry any other weapon for SD. Knives are particularly popular but certain clubs (especially expanding batons) are also considered very desirable. I've been consulted on more than one occasion for recommendations on knives.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

stonewall1350

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I don't know about New York, which is pretty much a police state :whip1: in terms of their laws, but in Florida a pocket knife needs to be small and it generally won't be considered a weapon. Of course that also depends on who arrested you and why.

Large blades in Florida require a CCW license (good luck getting that in NY :rules: ).
 

punisher73

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I've found The Firing Line's site to be quite helpful:

http://thefiringline.com/library/blades/knifelaws.html

Again, it's always best to consult several sources, and make damned sure that you have consistent, confirmed information.

That here is the key. For example, in Michigan it has the clause about the blad being under 3 inches to be legal. Yet, if I am stopped and have a 2 1/2 inch blade on me and the police ask "why" and I tell them it's for protection, I am guilty of CCW because of the "Intent to go Armed" (true case in our county). Now, if I had the exact same stop and told the officer that I use the knife at work to cut boxes, twine etc. I am ok under the law.

Even in felony assault cases, the USE of the object is what determines a weapon. For example, a brick. Not ever defined by law as a deadly weapon to have in your posession, but if you threated to beat someone with it and the threat is credible and could be carried out, that brick is now a felony weapon. Then there are objects that are classified as a weapon because there is no other use for them other than that (brass knuckles, expandable batons, dirks etc.)
 

jks9199

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That here is the key. For example, in Michigan it has the clause about the blad being under 3 inches to be legal. Yet, if I am stopped and have a 2 1/2 inch blade on me and the police ask "why" and I tell them it's for protection, I am guilty of CCW because of the "Intent to go Armed" (true case in our county). Now, if I had the exact same stop and told the officer that I use the knife at work to cut boxes, twine etc. I am ok under the law.

Even in felony assault cases, the USE of the object is what determines a weapon. For example, a brick. Not ever defined by law as a deadly weapon to have in your posession, but if you threated to beat someone with it and the threat is credible and could be carried out, that brick is now a felony weapon. Then there are objects that are classified as a weapon because there is no other use for them other than that (brass knuckles, expandable batons, dirks etc.)
The interesting thing here is that, in Virginia, a case a few years ago made the function the determinant for a concealed weapon, not the intent. First, the only limitation on length is on school grounds. Then, if it doesn't qualify as a weapon -- it's not a concealed weapon. It can still be dangerous -- but it's not a weapon. So, hide a 12 inch chef's knife up your sleeve -- and it's not a concealed weapon. But a tiny push dagger... Yep.
 
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