Alabama Knife Laws

Knife laws are confusing; let us help. The US has some general knife laws but it only applies to importing from overseas, transportation between states, and federal properties like military bases. Anything outside of that is covered by state laws. Some cities have their own specific knife laws as well but Alabama has one of the most lenient knife laws of all 50 states.

What is Legal

Alabama has one of the best knife laws in the US.

Alabama has one of the best knife laws in the US.

If you don’t like legal speak, here is the basics of what are legal under Alabama knife laws.

  • Balisongs/butterfly knives are legal.
  • Switchblades, gravity knives, automatic and assisted opening knives are legal.
  • Stilettos, dirks, and toothpick knives are legal.
  • All folding knives are legal.
  • Bowies are legal if carried open (like on your hip).
  • Bowies are legal to carry concealed if you are on your own property.
  • Double sided knives are legal, no  matter the size.
  • If the knife fits in your pocket, it is legal.
  • Out the front knives are legal.

What is Illegal

Here are notes on what kinds of knives are illegal under Alabama knife laws.

  • Bowies and things that are like Bowies are illegal if concealed.
  • Bowies are illegal to have in your vehicle.
  • A machete might be classified as a Bowie and it would be illegal if you carry it concealed.
  • A 11″ butcher knife has be found to be like a Bowie in court so don’t plan on using it in a crime.
  • Selling Bowies to people under 18 is illegal.

Alabama State Code

Only Bowie Like Knives are Illegal

Section 13A-11-50 Carrying concealed weapons

Except as otherwise provided in this Code, a person who carries concealed about his person a bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than six months.

What this says is that Bowies are illegal and you will be fined between $50 and $500 and/or 6 months of hard labor.

What is a Bowie under Alabama law? Case precedence has stated that a Bowie is a fix blade, single edge knife that is too big to fit in your pocket. So, anything that has a front and back blade like a stiletto is legal. Also, Balisongs and any other automatic/gravity knives are legal too.

Bowies are only illegal if carried concealed so, if you carry it in the open on your hip, it is OK. Carrying a Bowie concealed on your property is OK as well. Precedence has stated that a 11″ butcher’s knife is classified a Bowie in Alabama. When Jim Bowie first used his knife, people stated that it looked like a large chef’s knife so I think that is why. If you are thinking about carrying a machete, note that, under Alabama code, it might be called a Bowie.

Carrying a Bowie or a similar tool in your vehicle counts as carrying it concealed. Do not place a Bowie or similar tool in your trunk. If you are pulled over and the cop asks to search for your car, say “no.” If you are unfamiliar with the law, said “yes,” and happened to be carrying your camping machete, you are might be charged with a misdemeanor.

What Happens if You are Charged

Section 13A-11-55 Indictment for carrying weapons unlawfully proof

In an indictment for carrying weapons unlawfully, it is sufficient to charge that the defendant carried concealed about his person a pistol, or other description of firearms, on premises not his own, or a bowie knife, or other knife or instrument of the like kind or description, or other forbidden weapon, describing it, as the case may be; and the excuse, if any, must be proved by the defendant on the trial, to the satisfaction of the jury; and if the evidence offered to excuse the charge raises a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt, the jury must acquit him.

If you are charged, you have a right to trial. At the trial, the prosecutor will need to show to the jury how the knife is classified as a Bowie, was concealed, and was on you.

The burden of proof here is “reasonable doubt.” Burden of proof is how convincing the evidence is that the person is guilty. For example, preponderance of the evidence means that the jury needs to be 51% or more sure that the person is guilty. Beyond a reasonable doubt means that a reasonable person should be somewhere between 90-99% sure that the person is guilty. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the burden of proof required by most criminal statues. We can guess that reasonable doubt is somewhere in between preponderance of the evidence and beyond reasonable doubt, 52% and 89% sure.

How to Be Found Not Guilty or Something Close

A good lawyer can acquit you of anything...

A good lawyer can acquit you of anything…

After you are charged with the crime and before you go to trial, get a lawyer. A crafty lawyer can get you a not guilty verdict even though, when you are reading this, the law sounds pretty black and white.

For example, if he can show that the knife that was on you does not count as a Bowie knife under Alabama law, you are not guilty.

Or, if he can show how the police used illegal means to find out that you were carrying a Bowie concealed, you are not guilty. For example, if the police officer called you a racial slur and, by doing that, you confessed that you have a Bowie in your trunk, you can use that as a reason to why you are not guilty. Note that it is hard to prove an officer said something to you unless you record it ;-).

Or, he can raise some holes in the prosecution’s case. If the holes are large enough to make the jury less sure than “beyond reasonable doubt” you are not guilty.

There are more ways to be found not guilty than than so always talk to an attorney.

Section 13A-11-51 Evidence of apprehension of attack may mitigate punishment, etc

The defendant being tried under the provisions of Section 13A-11-50 may give evidence that at the time of carrying the weapon concealed, he had good reason to apprehend an attack, which the jury may consider in mitigation of the punishment or in justification of the offense.

If you are arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a Bowie knife in our case, you can have your punishment reduced if you can show that you were carrying it to defend yourself.

The punishment for carrying a Bowie is not that large but the social repercussions of having a misdemeanor is larger. Think about future jobs that you are missing out on or future raises that you are missing out on.

Conclusion on Alabama Knife Laws

When the knife law was originally drafted and past, the late 1800’s, they were worried about people dueling with Bowies. Today, the law is very archaic and needs to change… but lots of laws need to change and bureaucracy is very slow.

However, Alabama has one of the best knife laws in the US. Stuff like stilettos and Balisongs are legal and lots of other states banned them.

Most likely, if you happened to carry a machete or other large Bowie like item concealed in public, you won’t be charged with anything unless the police officer has suspicion that you are trying to commit a crime. Than, he would arrest you for carrying a concealed weapon as an easy way to get you off of the streets.

Note that this is not legal advice and there is no client-attorney relationship. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment. We are also working to find an attorney in the state of Alabama who would like to do a short interview with us explaining the law.

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13 comments on “Alabama Knife Laws
  1. Critical J says:

    what about your classic USMC style Ka-Bar of the shorter length, 5 inches as apposed to 7? It’s shaped like a narrow Bowie but far shorter…

  2. Critical J says:

    the short Ka-Bar USMC has a 5″ blade, I mean – not including the grip!

  3. David Shockey says:

    @criticalj Read the article again. The author states that a fixed blade single edge knife that won’t fit in your pocket is the description of a bowie that is found in case law. If you can fit your Ka-Bar in your pocket then by all means carry it. But if caught with it concealed you might find yourself as the defendant in an expensive court case.

    Personally I think you should be able to carry any knife that you want. But the law doesn’t allow that.

  4. Donald says:

    I open carry a full size 7″ blade KA-BAR everyday and I have never had any trouble.

  5. John says:

    How do you carry a machete or Bowie if you can’t put it in the trunk? Do carry it in the back seat? Because my trunk looks like I’m a traveling Bowie and machete salesman. I would like to know how to fix this problem.

  6. Rusty Rossey says:

    Great article. Thanks for doing the research.

    Orange Beach, AL

  7. Chris says:

    Do you have any cases you can cite off the top of your head? “bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description” is actually kind of vague grammatically. Think of it this way: it could be (1) a bowie knife, or (2) a knife, or (3) something a lot like a knife.

    Yes, this is silly, but that won’t stop a dumb legislator! Or a dumber cop…

    love the site, subscribing!
    thanks!

  8. George Owens says:

    While the state law preempts local authorities from enacting laws on ownership or possession or carry of guns, the same does not apply to knives….. Many of the knives that are indicated as legal in Alabama are in fact made illegal by local ordinances that can be misdemeanors with up to a year in the county jail. If you are carrying a knife in Alabama you need to check your local laws to be sure what is legal and what is not.

  9. Digger says:

    I want to keep a knife in my car the blade is about 5″ long you can put it in your pocket but it’ll stick out a bit. Would that be illegal?

  10. shannon says:

    I have a sword that I would like to carry, it goes on the back so you can of course see it but I would like to know if that is legalle in fairhope alabama

  11. Can you open carry a bowie knife if your a convicted felon?

  12. Kerry Bradley says:

    George Owens is an ex federal agent and is now pretending to be pro gun but he actions and words show otherwise. He is the dictator of Alabama Gun Rights but isn’t for true 2nd Amendment Constitutional carry and is in favor of requiring training to get a CCW. Don’t let him fool you. He is a true snake in the grass.

  13. Moe Fury says:

    first: I like what Tennessee has done. We can carry large knives as well as autos without any sort of certification, but if we use them in the commission of a crime, it basically multiplies the offense (essentially makes it a felony, or worse if the crime is already a felony.) You should write your people and tell them to look to TN.

    Second: classifying a knife based on its shape rather than who is using it is just dumb. For instance, we call an AR an Assault Rifle because it is scary looking. Would we call a broom an Assault Broom if it were painted black? No, if someone were to break its handle and try to stab me with it, it would become an assault weapon. Why are knives and guns any different? I’d rather face an idiot with a .556 than a trained killer with a Derringer. Just seems our national discussion is fueled more by propaganda than fact.

    Third: I can’t agree with any statement that says education is bad. Requiring people to get training if they want to carry a gun in public is common sense, not communism. You don’t have to have any training to own and use it on your own property. Carrying it in public, though, is a different story.

    Fourth: Dude with the sword, carrying it is only going to make you a target. It will serve absolutely no purpose other than that.

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