Pocket Knife Rules & Laws in the U.S. – Updated for 2020

pocket knife laws in us

Pocketknives are handy, common, and sometimes illegal. They’re small enough to be carried in someone’s pocket or even on a keychain and are useful on a daily basis, but there are some places, like the airport, that having one will get you in big trouble. Each state is different, but there are some general guidelines to follow if you own or carry a pocketknife.

Types of Knives You Can Typically Legally Carry

Knives that are usually legal to carry almost anywhere include multi-tool devices, Swiss Army knives, and utility knives, and knives with blades that are shorter than 2.5 inches.

Places Where It’s Illegal to Carry a Knife in the U.S.

There are some locations in the U.S. where it’s always illegal to carry a knife, including schools, courts, and government buildings. Knives cannot be brought onboard planes, or onto military bases except for members of the military.

Ownership Laws and Carry Laws

Ownership laws forbid owning certain types of dangerous knives. Carry laws define what a person can have with them outside the home. Different states have varying regulations for what can be carried and whether it must be carried openly or can be concealed. Some states define “carry” as being held on one’s person, while others include knives within a vehicle or within reach. In some places, knives in someone’s vehicle are considered concealed, depending on their visibility and accessibility within the vehicle.

Select Your State Below


Alabama State Knife Laws

Every citizen in Alabama has a fundamental right to bear arms in defense of themselves. Residents and visitors may own the following types of knives: dirk, pocket knife, dagger, butterfly knife, misleading knife, stiletto, switchblade, and ballistic knife.

Courts have streamlined the laws so that residents can carry knives in public places such as bus terminals and airports.

Are folding knives legal in Alabama? Yes

Are automatic/switchblades legal? Yes

Fixed blade length: No limit


Alaska State Knife Laws

Alaska doesn’t prohibit the possession or carrying knives by persons aged 21 years and above. The law imposes some limitations on citizens in possession of concealed blades but not on common types, such as a pocket knife.

However, it is a violation to carry a knife on school grounds without permission from the Chief Administrative Office.

Are folding knives legal in Alaska? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Arizona State Knife Laws

The state permits ownership and carrying knives for citizens 21 years or older. There is no restriction on the type or size of the knife, and you can carry it concealed or open. Knives count as tools because they aren’t lethal weapons.

Are folding knives legal in Arizona? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Arkansas State Knife Laws

Arkansas law prohibits carrying a knife on a person, in a vehicle, or otherwise with a purpose to unlawfully use it as a weapon against another person. The law doesn’t restrict those who don’t intend to use the knife as a weapon unlawfully.

Are folding knives legal in Arkansas? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


California State Knife Laws

Citizens can carry any folding blade knife, but a fixed blade, such as a dagger or dirk, must be open-carry in a sheath at the waist. This law does not permit knives disguised as other objects. Automatic knives that exceed 2 inches in length are not permissible in any location open to the public, including in vehicles. Los Angeles and San Francisco municipals have stricter laws.

Are folding knives legal in California? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 2.5in


Colorado State Knife Laws

Colorado law permits citizens to legally own almost any knife, such as a switchblade or gravity knife, except a ballistic knife. It’s also legal to possess pocket knives or other types that have a blade no longer than three and one-half inches, regardless of whether it’s concealed or open.

Are folding knives legal in Colorado? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3.5in


Connecticut State Knife Laws

Two Connecticut laws restrict ownership and carrying blades beyond one’s home, including in a vehicle. The law declares explicitly it unlawful to carry an automatic knife that has a blade longer than 1 ½ inch or any other knife with a blade longer than 4 inches.

Are folding knives legal in Connecticut? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 1.5 in


Delaware State Knife Laws

Apart from an ordinary pocket knife carried in a concealed bag, the Delaware law considers any other knife or firearm a deadly weapon. To qualify as an ordinary pocketknife, it must have a blade no longer than 3 inches. It is unlawful to carry lethal weapons unless one has a license.

Are folding knives legal in Delaware? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 3in


Florida State Knife Laws

Florida law permits people to keep and bear arms in self-defense, and by the lawful authority of the state, as long the carrier does not intend to attack anyone. The state regulates knife ownership, allowing for recreational use or self-defense.

Are folding knives legal in Florida? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 4in


Georgia State Knife Laws

No person may carry a weapon without a valid license in Georgia. The law defines a weapon as a handgun or a knife. Any knife with a blade less than 12 inches in length is permissible, including daggers, pocket knife, machete, stilettos, butterfly, and ballistic knives.

Are folding knives legal in Georgia? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 12in


Hawaii State Knife Laws

Hawaii law allows for open carry to be legal. However, there are several restrictions on knife possession. For instance, it is illegal to carry switchblades, balisongs, and butterfly knives, which are common in the United States. Furthermore, dirks, metal knuckles, daggers, and similar blades are illegal.

Are folding knives legal in Hawaii? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: No limit


Idaho State Knife Laws

In Idaho, citizens have the right to bear arms without revealing them. Anyone above the age of 18 can carry single-edged or double-edged blades. However, it is illegal for adults to sell knives to minors, but minors may carry pocket knives. Additionally, carrying a knife in an intoxicated state is unlawful.

Are folding knives legal in Idaho? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Illinois State Knife Laws

Illinois is one of the states that determine the legality of owning and carrying a knife based on the person’s intent. The law defines intent as an attempt to injure a person by using a knife. However, this isn’t the only criterion as some knives, such as automatic, ballistic, and throwing, are illegal.

Are folding knives legal in Illinois? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


Indiana State Knife Laws

Many types of knives are legal in Indiana, apart from throwing stars and ballistic knives. There is no state law pre-emption in Indiana. However, they are not permissible in schools, regardless of the intended use. The law also does not specify the length of the knife blade.

Are folding knives legal in Indiana? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Iowa State Knife Laws

Iowa law has restrictions on dangerous weapons, such as knives, limiting citizens’ freedom to carry a knife concealed on the owner.

Dangerous weapons include daggers, stilettos razors, switchblade knives, and any other type whose blade is more than five inches in length.

Are folding knives legal in Iowa? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 5in


Kansas State Knife Laws

Kansas doesn’t have any strict knife laws. Instead, the state focuses on the intent to use a dirk or dagger on another person and not mere ownership.

However, students cannot carry switchblade knives or any other knife that can open outward or downward. This law also applies to anyone within the school property.

Are folding knives legal in Kansas? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Kentucky State Knife Laws

Kentucky law preserves its residents’ and visitors’ right to bear arms and the right to defend family and property. Residents can, therefore, carry and display knives on private property. Some of the legal types include daggers, machetes, dirks, swords, throwing knives, and throwing stars.

Are folding knives legal in Kentucky? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Louisiana State Knife Laws

It is legal to carry open or concealed knives in Louisiana. The only exception is automatic blades, which a person cannot conceal on themselves intentionally. It’s illegal to carry a knife in schools, school buses, and school functions. Concealed switchblades are also illegal.

Are folding knives legal in Louisiana? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 5in


Maine State Knife Laws

The Maine law permits its citizens to own and carry all types of blades, including automatic and switchblades. Other permitted types include daggers, stilettos, utility blades, sword canes, hunting, and pocket knives. However, the law is not specific on the distinction of concealed versus open carry.

Are folding knives legal in Maine? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Maryland State Knife Laws

In Maryland, there is no limitation on the type of knife you can own, but there are limits on concealed and open carry. Furthermore, there is no state pre-emption, so different counties may have stricter laws on carrying knives. Students cannot carry blades on school property.

Are folding knives legal in Maryland? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


Massachusetts State Knife Laws

Massachusetts law states that one should not carry on his/her person or vehicle any dagger, dirk knife, stiletto, automatic knife, ballistic knife, or any other blade longer than 1 ½ inch. The law also prohibits double-edged blades or any other device whose blade can be drawn at a locked position.

Are folding knives legal in Massachusetts? No
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 1.5in


Michigan State Knife Laws

The knife law in Michigan protects the citizens’ right to bear arms and the recreational industry, including hunting and fishing. The law permits the use of the following knives: daggers, throwing, belt, butterfly, gravity, and switchblades.

Are folding knives legal in Michigan? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Minnesota State Knife Laws

Minnesota law concerning ownership and carrying of weapons classifies knives as dangerous weapons. Therefore, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, or own a knife, especially switchblade ones that open automatically. Other types are permissible, as long as the owner doesn’t intend to harm anyone.

Are folding knives legal in Minnesota? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 4in


Mississippi State Knife Laws

Mississippi knife laws are laxer, as they don’t ban any kind of knife. For instance, possession of a knife in a vehicle doesn’t constitute a concealed carry. However, the law prohibits carrying knives on public school property, including sports venues and school buses. Mongolia State prohibits concealed carrying knives with long blades.

Are folding knives legal in Mississippi? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 4in


Missouri State Knife Laws

In Missouri, the law protects the right of residents to bear arms as well as any type of knife. The weapons are permissible for use when defending a person, family, home, or property, or in aid of civil power. However, anyone who uses a switchblade in crimes violates the law.

Are folding knives legal in Missouri? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 4in


Montana State Knife Laws

The knife law in Montana is one of the friendliest after the state enacted knife pre-emption and lifted limitations on carrying and using an automatic knife with a blade no longer than 1 ½ inch. Additionally, knives such as dirks, daggers, and sword canes are no longer prohibited.

Are folding knives legal in Montana? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 4in


Nebraska State Knife Laws

Nebraska knife owning laws permit residents and visitors to own and carry any type of knife, although there are some regulations. Regulations also exist on concealing knives with specific blade sizes.

It’s illegal for convicted felons and fugitives from justice to possess knives. Residents also cannot carry them into school properties.

Are folding knives legal in Nebraska? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3.5in


Nevada State Knife Laws

Nevada knife laws permit people to own and carry knives in public, although there are a few exceptions. A permit for concealed carrying of some blades is required. People also need sheriff’s permission to carry knives with a blade longer than three inches. It is illegal to have brandish knives where two or more people are present or in a school facility.

Are folding knives legal in Nevada? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


New Hampshire State Knife Laws

New Hampshire knife laws are quite friendly to law-abiding citizens, as no law restricts ownership of knives apart from residents previously convicted of a felony. Laws regarding selling knives to minors are non-existent, although there is a prohibition on the sale of paint guns and BB guns to minors.

Are folding knives legal in New Hampshire? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


New Jersey State Knife Laws

Knife law in New Jersey prohibits ownership and carrying of gravity knives, dirks, daggers, switchblades, ballistic, or dangerous knives without any explainable reason. It’s worth noting that having a knife in your home is a lawful purpose, but self-defense beyond one’s home is not allowed.

Are folding knives legal in New Jersey? No
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 5in


New Mexico State Knife Laws

New Mexico law states that it’s illegal for concealed carry of specific blades or cutting instruments outside one’s home. Some of the prohibited ones include butcher and dirk, daggers, bowie as well as switchblades. New Mexico law deems it an offense to endanger the lives of others by negligently using a knife.

Are folding knives legal in New Mexico? No
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: Not specified


New York State Knife Laws

Like many states, New York outlaws possession of blades designed for use as weapons. It’s legal to have a dagger, dirk, stiletto, or hunting knife. However, ballistic knives, cane swords, throwing stars, and metal knuckles are illegal if the intention is to use them unlawfully against another person.

Are folding knives legal in New York? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 4in


North Carolina State Knife Laws

It’s unlawful for concealed carry of knives, apart from in one’s premises in North Carolina. There is an exception of the ordinary pocket knife, but possessing or selling all other types is unlawful. This restriction also applies to police officers, unless they are using them for training or as evidence.

Are folding knives legal in North Carolina? No
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: Not specified


North Dakota State Knife Laws

North Dakota law classifies knives as dangerous weapons, so it is illegal to carry or own a knife. The law directs that residents cannot carry concealed deadly weapons unless the person has a firearm and weapon license from North Dakota or CCW license by the state.

Are folding knives legal in North Dakota? No
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 5in


Ohio State Knife Laws

Ohio’s knife laws are quite lax, as most types are entirely legal to own and carry. The knife laws also include switchblades and swords. According to the law, the difference between a legally owned knife and an illegal one is the intent to use it as a deadly weapon.

Are folding knives legal in Ohio? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 2.5in


Oklahoma State Knife Laws

The state has a uniform pre-emption concerning knife laws. It’s legal to possess any type of knife, although there are some restrictions. Axes, throwing stars, machetes, and tomahawks are illegal. However, there are no blade limits or any distinction between concealed and open carry for other types.

Are folding knives legal in Oklahoma? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Oregon State Knife Laws

Oregon knife laws majorly depend on court ruling rather than codified statutes, although the state is more restrictive on knives than other weapons. In Beaver State, however, the law is quite straightforward. It is legal to carry daggers, switchblades, and dirks.

Are folding knives legal in Oregon? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 4.75in


Pennsylvania State Knife Laws

The state’s statute regarding knives prohibits offensive weapons. The law provides that a person may not carry nor own automatic blades unless the knife counts as a curio. It’s also illegal to use a knife to inflict serious bodily injuries on another person if it serves no lawful purpose.

Are folding knives legal in Pennsylvania? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: Not specified


Rhode Island State Knife Laws

Rhode Island is a state with fairly strict knife laws, and it also borders other states with strict laws on their own. Residents take into account the laws of neighboring states, even during routine shopping, commuting, or travel. However, the state law doesn’t include knives in its list of forbidden items.

Are folding knives legal in Rhode Island? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


South Carolina State Knife Laws

South Carolina is one of the least restrictive states for possession and carrying of knives. The following types of knives are legal to own: disguised knife such as belt-buckle or lipstick, switchblade, stiletto, dagger, dirk, butterfly knife, or a bowie knife. The law excludes knives and dirks from concealed carry unless the intention is to commit a crime.

Are folding knives legal in South Carolina? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


South Dakota State Knife Laws

South Dakota state law defines knives as dangerous weapons. There are some restrictions in place regarding the ownership and carrying of knives. For instance, it is illegal for a person to carry concealed a knife with the intent to commit a crime. They are also not allowed in specific locations such as schools.

Are folding knives legal in South Dakota? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: Not specified


Tennessee State Knife Laws

Tennessee state law permits its citizens to own almost any type of knife. There are no restrictions on sale or possession, and a person can carry a knife either concealed or open.

In the past, automatic blades were illegal, but the state lifted this law in 2014. The law focuses on the intention to commit a crime.

Are folding knives legal in Tennessee? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: Not specified


Texas State Knife Laws

According to the Texas State Constitution, residents and visitors have a right to bear arms such as knives. There is no restriction on the possession of a knife. Knife-friendly statutes are in place because the state’s lawmakers seek to maintain the vibrant recreation industry, including hunting and angling.

Are folding knives legal in Texas? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 5.5in


Utah State Knife Laws

Utah law permits residents and visitors to possess and carry any type of knife in the state. The only exception is restricted persons, such as those who have committed crimes. Some of the legal types include switchblades, dagger, butterfly, dirk, stiletto, bowie knife, and a disguised knife (such as a necklace or belt buckle).

Are folding knives legal in Utah? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: Not specified


Vermont State Knife Laws

The State of Vermont is friendly to knife owners. The law directs that it is illegal to carry dangerous weapons openly or concealed with intent to commit a crime. Still, it does not generally prohibit the ownership and carrying of knives. However, a switchblade knife with a blade longer than three inches is illegal.

Are folding knives legal in Vermont? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes (max. 3in)
Fixed blade length: 3in


Virginia State Knife Laws

The State of Virginia doesn’t prohibit openly carrying knives. However, it is illegal to conceal bowie knives, dirks, machete, ballistic knife, switchblade knife, oriental dart, throwing star, or any other similar weapon. All weapons, except for a pocket knife less than three inches, are illegal in schools.

Are folding knives legal in Virginia? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3in


Washington State Knife Laws

Ownership and use of arms are illegal in Washington; knives are no exception. The law prohibits ownership of dangerous weapons such as gravity, switchblades as well as automatic knives. The only exception is people working in the military, law enforcement agencies, emergency medical services, and fire departments.

Are folding knives legal in Washington? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 4in


West Virginia State Knife Laws

The statutory law in West Virginia categorizes knives as dangerous weapons. The person’s age is also crucial in deciding what types of blades are legal for concealed carry.

No restriction exists for carrying a knife for people aged 21 years and above. For persons aged below 21, carrying a knife is equivalent to concealing a dangerous weapon. It is illegal to carry all weapons in schools.

Are folding knives legal in West Virginia? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: 3.5in


Wisconsin State Knife Laws

The law in the state of Wisconsin does not restrict ownership and carrying of knives, whether concealed or openly. The law states that it is illegal to carry dangerous weapons apart from knives.

However, individuals with a criminal conviction, restraining orders, or mental disabilities cannot carry blades. Sale of dangerous weapons to a minor is also prohibited.

Are folding knives legal in Wisconsin? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? No
Fixed blade length: 3in


Wyoming State Knife Laws

Wyoming law states it is illegal to carry a concealed dangerous weapon unless one owns a valid weapon permit or is eligible to hold a weapon permit. Residents who are at least 21 years and not convicted of a drug offense or violent crime are eligible to carry a knife.

Wyoming law defines dangerous weapons as an instrument that, when used, can produce severe bodily injury or death.

Are folding knives legal in Wyoming? Yes
Are automatic/switchblades allowed? Yes
Fixed blade length: No limit


Pocket Knife Laws By State

Pocket knives are small, folding knives that can fit in a pocket. They are used primarily as tools and are generally legal to own and carry. Knife laws vary widely by state, however, as do definitions of what is considered a “pocketknife.”

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Virginia allow for pocketknives to be concealed when carried.

Many states set restrictions for conceal carry based on the length of the knife blade. Knives with blades that are shorter than 2.5 inches, like the Kershaw 1600 Chive, are usually legal in these states. Delaware only allows the concealed carry of knives with blades shorter than 3 inches. Colorado requires concealed knives to be shorter than 3.5 inches, while Connecticut, Florida, and Missouri specify they must be shorter than 4 inches. Georgia, North Dakota, and Texas permit pocket knives to be conceal carried if the blades are shorter than 5 inches.

Other states have other restrictions on the types of knives that can be carried. Idaho allows pocket knives of any size, and those with blades shorter than 2.5 inches may be carried into schools. People who are intoxicated are prohibited from carrying knives in Idaho.

Iowa allows concealed carry of knives with blade length shorter than 5 inches, but only if they are not used in a dangerous way. Blades shorter than 5 inches that are used as dangerous weapons fall under Iowa’s concealed carry ban. Similarly, Massachusetts allows Swiss Army knives and folding knives to be carried as long as they are not used in a dangerous fashion.

Pocketknives are legal in Ohio, but they have also been classified as “dangerous weapons” in court. If they are intended for use as a weapon, pocketknives are subject to the concealed carry ban. South Carolina allows concealed carry of any knife that is not used to commit a crime, and Washington permits concealed carry of knives that are not considered “dangerous weapons.”

Some states specify what types of knives are considered pocketknives. The majority of states ban either owning or carrying many types of automatic knives, which open with the press of a button, regardless of blade size. Knives that look like other objects, like lipstick or pens, are frequently banned although they may be “pocket-sized.”

In Montana, a pocketknife with a blade shorter than 4 inches can be carried, provided it does not fall under the definition of a switchblade, defined by that state as having a blade longer than 1.5 inches that open with the press of a button or device on the handle. North Carolina defines a pocketknife as a small, folding knife, designed to fit in pocket or purse, which cannot be opened by a spring or an explosive or throwing motion. In N.C., pocketknives can be conceal carried.

In Oregon, switchblades fall under the category of “pocketknife” and are legal to conceal carry.

People who have been convicted of felonies, who are fugitives, or who are under domestic violence restraining orders cannot own knives in Nevada. New Jersey prohibits ownership for those who have been convicted of certain crimes or have certain mental illnesses. Oregon prohibits felons from owning knives, while Utah bans certain felons, drug offenders, and those with mental illness.

Wisconsin and Wyoming prohibit anyone from carrying “a concealed, dangerous weapon.” Depending on its use or intended use, whether pocketknives fall under that ban is open to interpretation.

Zach Belmont has been working in the outdoor apparel industry in one form or another for over 20 years. During his career, he has worked at some of the most well-known adventure brands including Patagonia and The North Face in marketing, operations and product development. Zach currently lives in Wyoming with his wife and 2 kids.

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