The knife laws in Maine are very vague. Because of that, the average person will have a hard time determining if a certain type of knife is legal or illegal. This article will give you a clear idea of what the law means. It includes excerpts from the law as well as explanations of the law with case precedence.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own Bowie knives and other large knives.
- It is legal to own dirks, stilettos, daggers, and other slim knives.
- It is legal to own throwing stars and throwing knives.
- It is legal to own disguised knives like cane knives, belt knives, and lipstick knives.
- It is illegal to own switchblades, automatic knives, and balisong knives.
The only banned types of knives are automatic opening knives. Balisong knives were found to fall under this category.
What is Legal to Carry
- It is legal to carry any knife in the open.
- It is illegal to carry daggers, stilettos, and knives designed for harming others.
- Any knife outside of those 3 are legal to conceal carry.
The law bans the carry of “other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person.” This means that, as long as the knife was not designed to attack other people, it is fine to carry concealed.
What the Law Says
Limits on Carry and Display
25 M.R.S. § 2001-A (2012)
§ 2001-A. Threatening display of or carrying concealed weapon
1. DISPLAY OR CARRYING PROHIBITED. A person may not, unless excepted by a provision of law:
A. Display in a threatening manner a firearm, slungshot, knuckles, bowie knife, dirk, stiletto or other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person; or
B. Wear under the person’s clothes or conceal about the person’s person a firearm, slungshot, knuckles, bowie knife, dirk, stiletto or other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person.
2. EXCEPTIONS. The provisions of this section concerning the carrying of concealed weapons do not apply to:
C. Knives used to hunt, fish or trap as defined in Title 12, section 10001;
The law bans the concealed carry and threatening display of dirks, stilettos, and “other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person.” Dirks and stilettos are slim, long knives that have a very sharp stabbing point. The law also states that it is 100% legal to conceal carry hunting, fishing, and trapping knives.
It is easy to understand what a dirk or a stiletto is and it is also easy to understand what a hunting, trapping, or fishing knife is but “other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person” is not very clear. What type of knife is a deadly weapon usually employed in the attack of others? How do you know if the knife you own is such a knife?
The case of State v. Jones in 2012 was a case that clarifies what knives are allowed to be carried concealed and what knives are not.
Jones was found walking down the street at 2am. After the police officer got out of his car to talk to him, Jones informs the officer that he is on probation, gives the officer his ID and allows the officer to search him. Note, at this point, Jones did not break any law and is obeying authority and following the terms of his probation.
The officer asks if Jones is carrying any weapons and he reports no. The officer pats down Jones to find two knives clipped to Jones’s pocket. The knives were folding knives with 3 inch, point tip blades. Jones’s shirt was covering the pocket, making it concealed. The officer arrested Jones for carrying a concealed weapon.
Jones was found guilty by the trial court because, the court stated, walking around at 2am as a parolee with a knife that can cause serious damage is fitting of “other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person.”
The court of appeals stated that the nature of the knife, not the situation that it was found, makes a knife “deadly or dangerous” and “usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person.” Having a knife at 2am does not make the knife dangerous or deadly. Also, a knife is a “deadly or dangerous” and “usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person” only if it can be proven that the knife was “designed for use against human beings or whether its primary function is to attack or defend a person.” If a knife was not designed for use against humans or its primary function is attack or defense, it can be carried concealed.
This is different from a lot of other states who have dangerous weapon clauses that takes into account the nature of the weapon as well as the situation it was used in. For example, in Iowa, a person was convicted of using a dangerous weapon when he smashed an ash tray on another person’s head. If that case took place in Maine, he would of not been guilty for that crime (but probably guilty of something else).
Ban on Automatic Knives
17-A M.R.S. § 1055 (2012)
§ 1055. Possession or distribution of dangerous knives
1. A person is guilty of possession or distribution of dangerous knives if, when the person has no right to do so, the person knowingly manufactures or causes to be manufactured, or knowingly possesses, displays, offers, sells, lends, gives away or purchases any knife that has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or any knife having a blade that opens or falls or is ejected into position by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward or centrifugal thrust or movement.
2. Possession or distribution of dangerous knives is a Class D crime.
3. Notwithstanding subsection 1, a person who has only one arm may possess and transport a knife described under subsection 1 that has a blade 3 inches or less in length.
This law clearly bans the ownership of switchblades and other automatic knives.
Even though balisong knives are not listed, they fall under this ban. In the case of State v. Michael M., Michael M. was found carrying a balisong knife, also called a butterfly knife. He was charged with possession of dangerous knives and found guilty. The court papers stated that it borrowed ideas from New Mexico law as to what counts as a switchblade or not, most particularly the case of State v. Riddell.
Since Michael M. was convicted of carrying a dangerous knife when he was carrying a balisong knife, it has set the precedence that all balisong knives are dangerous knives in Maine.
In Maine, it is legal to own any knife except for switchblades, balisongs, and other automatic knives. You can not conceal carry dirks, stilettos, and dangerous knives. You can also not aggressively display dirks, stilettos, and dangerous knives. A knife is a dangerous knife only if it was designed to hurt other humans. If a knife has a utility purpose, it would not fall under the definition of dangerous knife based upon case precedence.
Note that there are also county laws that come into play with knife law so make sure you look up the law in your town. This is not legal advice and there is no client, lawyer relationship so talk to a lawyer if you need assistance.
If you have any questions, ask them in the comment box below.
- State of Maine v. Jones. Docket No. And–11–475 (2012). Retrieved January 20, 2013, from findlaw.com.
- State of Maine v. Michael M. Ken-00-649 (2001). Retrieved January 20, 2013, from courts.state.me.us.
- State of New Mexico v. Riddell. 112 N.M. 78 (Ct.App. 1991). Retrieved January 20, 2013, from titleii.com.
- Threatening display of or carrying concealed weapon. 25 M.R.S. 2001-A (2012). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- Possession or distribution of dangerous knives. 17-A M.R.S. 1055 (2012). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.