Illinois Knife Law

This article will give you the basics of Illinois knife law in simple everyday language. It will also include excerpts from the law itself and case precedence so you will know exactly what the law means. The excerpts are truncated by me with […] whenever it goes off into something that is unrelated to knives.

What is Legal to Own in Illinois

  • Balisong knives are legal.
  • Disguised knives like cane knives, belt knives, and lipstick knives are legal.
  • Throwing knives are legal.
  • Bowie knives and other large knives are legal.
  • Throwing stars are illegal.
  • Ballistic knives are illegal.
  • Switchblades and other automatic knives are illegal.

The state of Illinois only banned the possession of throwing stars, switchblades, ballistic knives, and knives that open with a press of the button.

Limits on Carry

You can carry any knife as long as it is not one of the banned knives listed above and that you do not have the intent to harm someone or break the law. The law goes into more details on this…

What the Law Says

Limit on Unlawful Use

720 ILCS 5/24-1 (2013) Unlawful Use of Weapons

(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:

(1) Sells, manufactures, purchases, possesses or carries any […] metal knuckles or other knuckle weapon regardless of its composition, throwing star, or any knife, commonly referred to as a switchblade knife, which has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or a ballistic knife, which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material or compressed gas; or

(2) Carries or possesses with intent to use the same unlawfully against another, a dagger, dirk, billy, dangerous knife, razor, stiletto, broken bottle or other piece of glass, stun gun or taser or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character; or

(9) Carries or possesses in a vehicle or on or about his person any pistol, revolver, stun gun or taser or firearm or ballistic knife, when he is hooded, robed or masked in such manner as to conceal his identity;

(b) Sentence. A person convicted of a violation of subsection 24-1(a)(1) through (5) […] commits a Class A misdemeanor. A person convicted of a violation of subsection […] 24-1(a)(9) commits a Class 4 felony; […] A person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of subsection […] 24-1(a)(9) commits a Class 3 felony. The possession of each weapon in violation of this Section constitutes a single and separate violation.

This law bans brass knuckles, throwing stars, switchblades (and other automatic knives), and ballistic knives in the state of Illinois. The case of People v. Gazelle found that the knife ban in section (a)(1) only applies to switchblade knives or ballistic knives. Other knives that are not switchblades and ballistic knives are not banned. This means that balisong knives, also called butterfly knives, are legal.

The law also makes it illegal to open or concealed carry daggers, dirks, razors, stilettos, “dangerous knife,” and other similar dangerous weapons when you are attempting to harm someone else. You can also carry dirks, razors, daggers, stilettos, and “dangerous knives” all you want as long as you do not have the intent of harming another person.

On top of that, having a ballistic knife on you when wearing a mask is class 4 felony. Getting caught twice with a ballistic knife when wearing a mask is a class 3 felony.

Owning banned knives or carrying daggers, dirks, razors, stilettos, and other dangerous knives are a class A misdemeanor.

The term “dangerous knife” can mean a lot of things. Here is what case precedence and the legislature has determined.

What is a Dangerous Weapon

720 ILCS 5/33A-1 (2013) Legislative intent and definitions

(a) Legislative findings. The legislature finds and declares the following:

(1) The use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of a felony offense poses a much greater threat to the public health, safety, and general welfare, than when a weapon is not used in the commission of the offense.

[…]

(1) “Armed with a dangerous weapon”. A person is considered armed with a dangerous weapon for purposes of this Article, when he or she carries on or about his or her person or is otherwise armed with a Category I, Category II, or Category III weapon.

(2) A Category I weapon is a handgun, sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, any other firearm small enough to be concealed upon the person, semiautomatic firearm, or machine gun. A Category II weapon is any other rifle, shotgun, spring gun, other firearm, stun gun or taser as defined in paragraph (a) of Section 24-1 of this Code [720 ILCS 5/24-1], knife with a blade of at least 3 inches in length, dagger, dirk, switchblade knife, stiletto, axe, hatchet, or other deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument of like character.

(3) A Category III weapon is a bludgeon, black-jack, slungshot, sand-bag, sand-club, metal knuckles, billy, or other dangerous weapon of like character.

This section of the law was designed to stiffen penalties for felonies committed with a dangerous weapon. This section of the law also gives us a good idea of what the legislature means when they say “dangerous weapon.”

Category II dangerous weapons are daggers, dirks, switchblades, stilettos, axes, hatchets, knives with blades over 3 inches, and other similar weapons. Category III dangerous weapons are metal knuckles. However, the case of People v. Kohl in 2006 found that, just because a push knife that has two holes to put your fingers threw does not make it a metal knuckle. This is unlike some other states who have determined that knives with holes to place your knuckles threw do count as metal knuckles. Note that, in Kohl’s case, his push knife only had 2 holes. If your knife has more, it might still count as metal knuckles (think of WWI trench knives).

There also has been some unique cases that has further defined what a dangerous weapon is. The case of People v. Weger found that a straight-blade razor, since it has a legitimate use, is not a dangerous weapon per se.

The case of People v. Chrisos found that a piece of broken glass that was 2 to 3 inches in length counts as a dangerous weapon since the edge is a blade. The case of People v. Ptak in 1990 also found that a broken bottle counts as a dangerous weapon since it has can be used like a knife to stab people.

On top of all these specific rules, the case of People v. Fort in 1970 found that, even if an item is not specifically listed as a dangerous weapon, it can still count as a dangerous weapon by the way it is used. The case of People v. Kinchy found that having a hunting knife is not a crime in and of itself but, only when you have intent to harm others, would it be. The case of People v. Marquita in 2012 found that having a steak knife can count as unlawful use of weapons when there is clear evidence that you are going to use it to harm someone.

Limits on Knives in Certain Locations

720 ILCS 5/24-1 (2013) Unlawful Use of Weapons

(c) Violations in specific places.

(1.5) A person who violates subsection 24-1(a)(9)  in any school, regardless of the time of day or the time of year, in residential property owned, operated, or managed by a public housing agency or leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development, in a public park, in a courthouse, on the real property comprising any school, regardless of the time of day or the time of year, on residential property owned, operated, or managed by a public housing agency or leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development, on the real property comprising any public park, on the real property comprising any courthouse, in any conveyance owned, leased, or contracted by a school to transport students to or from school or a school related activity, in any conveyance owned, leased, or contracted by a public transportation agency, or on any public way within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising any school, public park, courthouse, public transportation facility, or residential property owned, operated, or managed by a public housing agency or leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development commits a Class 3 felony.

(2) A person who violates subsection 24-1(a)(1), 24-1(a)(2), or 24-1(a)(3) in any school, regardless of the time of day or the time of year, in residential property owned, operated or managed by a public housing agency or leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development, in a public park, in a courthouse, on the real property comprising any school, regardless of the time of day or the time of year, on residential property owned, operated or managed by a public housing agency or leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development, on the real property comprising any public park, on the real property comprising any courthouse, in any conveyance owned, leased or contracted by a school to transport students to or from school or a school related activity, in any conveyance owned, leased, or contracted by a public transportation agency, or on any public way within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising any school, public park, courthouse, public transportation facility, or residential property owned, operated, or managed by a public housing agency or leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development commits a Class 4 felony. “Courthouse” means any building that is used by the Circuit, Appellate, or Supreme Court of this State for the conduct of official business.

(4) For the purposes of this subsection (c), “school” means any public or private elementary or secondary school, community college, college, or university.

(5) For the purposes of this subsection (c), “public transportation agency” means a public or private agency that provides for the transportation or conveyance of persons by means available to the general public, except for transportation by automobiles not used for conveyance of the general public as passengers; and “public transportation facility” means a terminal or other place where one may obtain public transportation.

(e) Exemptions. Crossbows, Common or Compound bows and Underwater Spearguns are exempted from the definition of ballistic knife as defined in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Section.

This is a continuation of the unlawful use of weapons law. It says that having a ballistic knife on you when you are wearing a mask on any property listed above will upgrade the offense from a class 4 felony to a class 3 felony. Having a dirk, razor, stiletto, switchblade, ballistic knife, or any other dangerous weapon at a place listed above will cause the class A misdemeanor to increase to a Class 4 felony.

Limits on Storage and Possession

720 ILCS 5/21-6 (2013) Unauthorized Possession or Storage of Weapons

(a) Whoever possesses or stores any weapon enumerated in Section 33A-1 [720 ILCS 5/33A-1] in any building or on land supported in whole or in part with public funds or in any building on such land without prior written permission from the chief security officer for such land or building commits a Class A misdemeanor.

(b) The chief security officer must grant any reasonable request for permission under paragraph (a).

This law says that, if you commit a felony with a dangerous weapon and hide it at a place funded by the public, you will be slapped with a Class A misdemeanor in addition to your other charges. So, robbing a bank is one charge. Robbing a bank with a dangerous weapon is another charge. And unauthorized storage of your weapon at a park is a third charge. Three charges for one crime! The State of Illinois does not play around.

Conclusion on Illinois Knife Laws

The state of Illinois has fair knife laws. I’m assuming most of these laws were written to counteract gang violence in South Chicago. Other states have more relaxed laws than Illinois but Illinois’s laws are not that restrictive.

You can own any knife you would like as long as it is not a ballistic knife, throwing star, or switchblade. Automatic knives are in the gray area since they are activated by pressing a button but balisong knives are legal.

You can carry any knife you want as long as you do not have the intent to harm someone. This should be pretty self explanatory. The law also has all these long paragraphs about how committing a crime with a deadly weapon would increase the offense but I’m sure that applies to none of you ;-). The law does state specifically what is a dangerous weapon but case precedence has determined that certain things, and how it is used, can make almost anything a dangerous weapon.

Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. There are also county laws that come into play as well so look up your municipal laws. If you have any questions, ask it in the comment box below.

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15 comments on “Illinois Knife Law
  1. Redhat says:

    Can you please elaborate on throwing knives (non-folding, single edge blade, less than 6”) in the greater Chicagoland area? Are these allowed, can they be concealed and is there a limit on how many I can carry? I travel in and around Chicago daily and needless to say there are some bad neighborhoods. I don’t want to break any laws but I do want to be able to protect myself against gang members that might have guns (yes, I know you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight but it’s better than trying to try throw my boot at them). I only want to conceal them because I don’t want customers that I visit to think I’m a crazy psycho if I walk in to their businesses with a sheath of 3 or 6 knives on my belt.
    Thanks for your help,
    Redhat

  2. TacosTacosPizza says:

    Nice sum up of the laws. Gives a much clearer idea of what you can get here in Illinois. Most likely the 2.5″ to 3″ laws you hear about are more county or city base laws or tips to avoid hassle if caught with one during random inspections or traffic stops etc. Thanks!

  3. Quentin says:

    Is it considered a illegal automatic knife if it is spring loaded when you open it without button pressure?

  4. Chris says:

    So it’s legal to carry a bowie knife as long as you do not intend to harm someone?

  5. Brian Williams says:

    I’ve heard there is an exemption for local 134 electricians.

    Any truth to this?

  6. JB says:

    Pay close attention to the limits on knives section…Looks like you can’t have ANY knife on your person if you’re at a school or public park, or on any public way within 1000 ft of a school or public park.

    Now, how to avoid being this? …
    http://wgntv.com/2013/08/01/family-carjacked-at-gunpoint-in-schaumburg/

  7. sam says:

    So an Illinois resident could own a Bowie knife as long as it was under 3″ long? LOL! Do they make em that small?

  8. oldwestlawdawg says:

    Chicago also has additional knife laws. In illinois a blade up to 3″ is legal to carry while in chicago the blade limit is 2.5″

  9. Sifter says:

    I don’t think Illinois knife laws are fair at all. Good citizens pay the price, once again, for the criminal actions occurring in areas heavily populated by certain minorities. No need to beat around the bush about this. My Spyderco and Kershaw assisted opener can be opened MUCH FASTER than a Protech Auto. I don’t understand why in the world auto knives are banned. It makes NO sense, unless every politician is stuck in a time warp watching West Side Story as their paradigm of behavior. Auto knives come in very handy as a mechanic, HVAC guy, and certain sports, especially water sports. Not everyone with an Auto has the intent of being a little gangbanger. For shame on the politicians. For shame.

  10. Unknown Mouthpiece says:

    All the things discussed here also fall under our Second Amendment Rights. Our Second Amendment says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Second Amendment does not specifically state firearms but all arms and this can include the weapons listed on this website however it could be costly to test this in court. I think it would be hard for a jury to convict someone that protected themselves from an attacker by using a knife or other weapon.

  11. PAUL WAGNER says:

    I DON’T SEE ANY HARM,IN USING AN ASSISSTED OPENING KNIVE. I HAVE ARTHRITIS AND IT IS SO MUCH EASIER FOR ME TO OPEN.I USE IT MAINLY TO OPEN LETTER’S OR PACKAGE’S. IF THE MILITARY,AND LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND FIREFIGHTER’S CAN USE THEM, THEN WHY CAN’T THE REST OF THE CITIZEN’S. THE GANG BANGER’S CAN GET ANYTHING THEY WANT, AND USE GUN’S AND KNIVE’S ANYWAY THEY WANT. WHY
    CAN’T I HAVE THE SAME TO MAKE MY LIFE EASIER.

  12. EDWARD says:

    I have an assisted opening knife that has a 3 1/4 inch blade. Is this legal in Illinois? THANK YOU.

  13. Brad Schimka says:

    I read somewhere that it is legal to possess a switchblade in the state of illinois as long as the blade is under 3 inches, a hunting knife, and only useable while hunting. Would love to hear feedback on this.

  14. Dominick says:

    I just wanted to inquire about the laws. yes i understand all the different classes of illegal weapons, and i understand that any blade over 3″ is illegal to carry. I work for Cutco, the company that manufacters the KA-BAR knives for our military, and police forces worldwide. I was wondering If there are any licenses or permits i can apply for to carry a KA-BAR knife on my person. I do not have intent to harm anybody, It would be for security. There are a lot of nutcases out there, and i’m sure i’d be glad if i had a KA-BAR in one of those dangerous situations.

  15. Sully says:

    It seems that the carry limits are very unclear. In this article, we’re told that any knife can be carried as long as there is no intent to harm anyone. However, there is no clear statements about what can be concealed and blade length seems to be an issue. Obviously, it would seem a little unsettling to carry my 7″ KA-BAR openly. It may deter some attackers, but it would also frighten those who assume that merely having a knife signals intent. I think I’d be more comfortable having my knife tucked away under my coat where no one can see it, and therefore, prevent them from assuming the worst. I certainly don’t consider myself to be a violent person and I have no intention of harming anyone, but dropping to one’s knees and begging for mercy in the face of an attacker simply isn’t the Marine Corps way. I simply want to know that I can carry a tool in a not-so-nice part of Illinois without ending up in prison over weapons charges.

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