The law in Michigan can be confusing if you have not had formal training. This article will give you a through understanding of Michigan’s knife laws in everyday English. It will give you a brief version of the law, a full version of the law with explanations, as well as case precedence. The law does not have to be confusing (and it was never intended to be) and, hopefully, this article will make it more accessible for the common person.
What is Legal to Own
- Butterfly knives, also called balisong knives, are legal.
- Dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing knives are legal.
- Throwing knives and throwing stars are legal.
- Bowie knives and other large knives are legal.
- Hidden knives like belt knives and lipstick knives are legal.
- Undetectable knives (knives that do not set off metal detectors) are legal.
- Switchblades, automatic knives, and gravity knives are illegal.
What is Legal to Carry
- All knives, except for banned ones, are legal for open carry.
- It is legal to carry a hunting knife concealed.
- It is illegal to conceal carry dirks, stilettos, daggers, and other stabbing items.
- On top of this, you can not carry a dangerous weapon with intent to harm.
The law only limits the carry of dirks, stilettos, daggers, and other sharp, double bladed stabbing tools. If a knife can not be used to stab (has no point), it can be carried concealed as long as you do not have intent to harm someone.
What the Law Says
No Intent to Harm
MCL § 750.226
§ 750.226. Firearm or dangerous weapon; carrying with unlawful intent. Sec. 226.
Carrying firearm or dangerous weapon with unlawful intent-Any person who, with intent to use the same unlawfully against the person of another, goes armed with a pistol or other firearm or dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto, or knife having a blade over 3 inches in length, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or by a fine of not more than 2,500 dollars.
This law makes it illegal for individuals to use a dangerous weapon against another. The law states that daggers, dirks, razors, and stilettos are dangerous weapons per se. The law also goes on to say that any knife over 3 inches, when used against another person, is a defacto dangerous weapon. However, the clause also ends with “or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument.” What would be included under that? We don’t know for sure but case law gives us some ideas.
Any knife can be a dangerous weapons. In the 1971 case of People v Iverson, it was found that carrying a hunting knife is not a per se crime unless you are carrying a hunting knife with intent to harm another person. The implications of this is that, if you are planning on hurting someone with a knife, there is a chance that the knife can count as a dangerous weapon even if it is a 1 inch folder.
Pocket knives over 3 inches are not dangerous weapons per se. The case of People v Vaines in 1945 found that a jackknife (a type of pocket knife) that is over 3 inches in blade length is not an automatic dangerous weapon and carrying it is not a crime. The court goes on to explain that, only when the knife is used for attacking or defending is it than a deadly weapon.
What is the implications of these two cases and the law? It means that you can carry any of the above knives on you as long as you do not have intent to harm someone. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you, at the moment the police found you, had intent to harm while you were carrying a dangerous knife.
An example of a case where this happened was in Chicago where a man was convicted of carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to harm. A police officer found the man bent over behind a car at night with leather gloves on during the summer. Given the season, the fact that the knife was in the open position, and the fact he was concealed, a jury convicted him of carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to harm.
No Automatic Knives
MCL § 750.226a
§ 750.226a. Pocket knife opened by mechanical device; unlawful sale or possession; persons exempted. Sec. 226a.
Any person who shall sell or offer to sell, or any person who shall have in his possession any knife having the appearance of a pocket knife, the blade or blades of which can be opened by the flick of a button, pressure on a handle or other mechanical contrivance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not to exceed 1 year or by a fine of not to exceed $300.00, or both. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any one-armed person carrying a knife on his person in connection with his living requirements.
This law bans the possession and sale of switchblades, automatic knives, and gravity knives. This means it is illegal for you to own a switchblade, automatic knife, or gravity knife in Michigan. Bringing one over from another state would still be illegal.
Note that the law here does not ban balisong knives, also called butterfly knives. Balisong knives do not open with a button, pressure, or mechanical contrivance. Balisong knives have a latch which you must release but, once released, the knife will still not open until you manually expose the blade from the handle. This makes balisong knives legal in Michigan.
Limits on Concealed Knives
MCL § 750.227
§ 750.227. Concealed weapons; carrying; penalty. Sec. 227.
(1) A person shall not carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, a double-edged nonfolding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon, except a hunting knife adapted and carried as such, concealed on or about his or her person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person. […] (3) A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00.
MCL § 750.222a
§ 750.222a. “Double-edged, nonfolding stabbing instrument” defined. Sec. 222a.
(1) As used in this chapter, “doubled-edged, nonfolding stabbing instrument” does not include a knife, tool, implement, arrowhead, or artifact manufactured from stone by means of conchoidal fracturing. (2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an item being transported in a vehicle, unless the item is in a container and inaccessible to the driver.
From reading this, we know that it is legal to concealed carry a hunting knife. We also know that it is legal to open carry any type of knife as long as it is not an automatic knife (a knife your not supposed to have in your possession).
What is illegal than? Well, we must first find out what “other dangerous weapon” means. Case precedence will help with this.
People v Smith (1975) found that “other dangerous weapon” must mean other types of stabbing instruments. The implications of this is that carrying concealed a non-hunting knife that has a blunt tip is not illegal. Some dive knives have blunt tips and, under this law, you can carry them concealed. To further emphasize this point, the case of People v Grandberry in 1980 found that axes (top tomahawks for tactical use) do not qualify as dangerous weapons in this clause since they can not be used to stab others. From these two cases, we know that, as long as the knife can not be used to stab others, it is legal to carry concealed.
What is a Hunting Knife?
The case of People v Payne in 1989 found that a hunting knife is a knife used to cut open and skin game. It is usually a wide, single bladed knife with a point tip. The law makes no distinction on folding or fixed blade. It also has no distinction on blade length.
Conclusion on Michigan Knife Laws
Michigan’s laws are not that confusing, it just requires some investigation and analysis. In Michigan, you can own any knife you want as long as it is not an automatic knife. You can also open carry any knife you want. The only limits to concealed carry is that you must not use the knife to harm others and that you can not carry a stabbing knife like a dirk or stiletto.
Note that this is not legal advice and there is no client-attorney relationship. Talk to an attorney in your area if you need assistance. There are also county laws that come into play as well.
If you have a question, type it in the comment box below.
- Concealed weapons; carrying; penalty. MCLS § 750.227 (2012). Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- Double-edged, nonfolding stabbing instrument defined. MCLS § 750.222a (2012). Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- Firearm or dangerous weapon; carrying with unlawful intent. MCLS § 750.226 (2012). Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- People v Iverson (1971) 34 Mich App 519, 191 NW2d 745. Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- People v Johnson (1989) 175 Mich App 56, 437 NW2d 302. Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- People v Payne (1989) 180 Mich App 283, 446 NW2d 629. Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- People v Smith (1975) 393 Mich 432, 225 NW2d 165. Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- People v Vaines (1945) 310 Mich 500, 17 NW2d 729 Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
- Pocket knife opened by mechanical device; unlawful sale or possession; persons exempted. MCLS § 750.226a (2012). Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from LexisNexis database.