Michigan Knife Laws

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.

References

  • 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.
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26 comments on “Michigan Knife Laws
  1. jaden says:

    is a “FLICK” knife illegal

  2. Nathan Spitzley says:

    From what you said, can I carry any length fold knife, concealed in my pocket as long as I do not have unlawful intent? Is that correct?

  3. Jim Dundas says:

    Are “assisted” knives illegal in Michigan? Do they fall under the “automatic” knife category?

  4. David says:

    What is the legal leangth of a fixed blade knife you can carry in a sheath on your belt in the state of michigan?

  5. Brian says:

    Excellent summary. I read through the laws myself a few months ago when I was in the market for a fixed blade to camp with. This summary really helps elimate the need to read and reread each line of each statute several times before understanding. Thank you and great job. I would love to see something like this for a city or county level.

  6. Chuck says:

    Nothing was said about sword’s. Or are they simply fixed blades?

  7. chase wietsma says:

    Are spring assisted knives illegal to carry?
    Also wondering would it be considered a switchblade or automatic knife?

  8. Ricebrnr says:

    Nice summary but you missed one very important statement.

    There is NO STATEWIDE PREMPTION! Knife laws can change from city to city including and up to outright bans. So beware.

  9. Evan Bluhm says:

    I have a KA-BAR knife and the blade is 8 inches but is a hunting knife can i still legally carry it with me?

  10. Ottawa County is Unjust says:

    Dealing with a case in Ottawa County where the prosecutor who at the moment is keeping charges standing against my 14 year old Son because the Officer called My Son’s knife a dagger. The knife is a dual edge spring assisted folding knife. When I emailed the Governors Office they replied with the Following about dual edged knives:

    “MCL 750.227 does not ban all double-edged knives. MCL 750.227 prohibits a person from carrying a dagger, dirk, stiletto, a double-edged [and] nonfolding stabbing instrument of any length or any other dangerous weapon concealed on or about his or her person or whether concealed or otherwise in a vehicle, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person. The exception within the statute for hunting knives only applies to a “hunting knife” and only if the person can show he or she was using and carrying the hunting knife as a hunting knife. The portion of the statute that refers to “any other dangerous weapon” applies to stabbing instruments, including knives, when such stabbing instruments are used as a weapon or carried for use as a weapon. Therefore, double-edged folding knives are legal to possess concealed in Michigan, provided the person is not using the knife as a weapon or carrying it for use as a weapon.”

    He was riding his bike down the sidewalk minding his own business. No unlawful intent was found. Yet the charges stand? I was told by the arresting Officer on the night it happened that knives over 3 inches are illegal in Michigan as are all dual-edge knives, and if he was over 18 he would be in JAIL. He then went on to exaggerate the blade length by 2 inches in the Police report, with pictures. The paper ruler in the Police report makes a 3.75 inch blade 5.75 inches long. No justice for knife rights in Zeeland.

  11. Bob in MI says:

    I know logic does not always work, but trying to be logical with respect to a one-handed opening knife, I would think a mechanical contrivance would have to be something separate from the blade. Now, what does that mean for thumb studs? Are they separate from the blade or a mechanical contrivance? But to my main point, a blade with a lever integral to the blade for one handed opening should not be a mechanical contrivance since nothing apart from the blade is being used to open the knife. Thumb studs would seem more suspect than such a blade design. Any legal opinions available?

  12. Jeff says:

    MCL 750.227 prohibits a person from carrying a …. non folding stabbing instrument … or any other dangerous weapon concealed.

    That includes tomahawks.

    It also says concealed or otherwise in a vehicle. There is no exception for transporting it. So even if carrying it openly, you have to walk from your home to wherever you are going.

    Lastly, there is no preemption and local laws are often much more strict (many cities ban carrying knives over 3inches and some ban all knives for carry).

  13. Logic does not work in Ottawa county, but according to the US code the title “Switchblade” does not apply to the action of a ‘spring assisted’ knife as described below:
    15 U.S.C. § 1244 provides that the federal Switchblade Knife Act does not apply to: … 5) a knife “that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.”[59]
    So according to the law the knife is being opened by the blade and not “mechanical contrivance”, as the blade is already opened manually before the action comes into play… a thumb stud or ‘flicker’ on the back of the blade should make no difference per the law. Review MI case law, People of the State of MI vs Mata, 51st district 2003.

  14. Ottawa County is Unjust says:

    Thanks to help from some great people at AKTI.org with understanding what Michigan Knife Laws actually are. And persistent demanding from Me that those Michigan Laws be upheld in Ottawa County. More than five months after it all started, the charges are finally been dropped. Formal charges that had been brought by the Zeeland Police against My 14 year old Son for having a knife in his pocket, a completely legal knife under Michigan Law. My Son was simply riding his bike in the city of Zeeland MI on April 13th 2013 when a Zeeland Police Officer saw a knife in his pocket and stopped him. The Officer who stopped My Son not only did not know Michigan Knife Laws. He would also exaggerate the length of the blade on My Son’s knife by a full 2 inches in the Police Report. That night in April, Zeeland Police Officer Bowyer used a “printed out downloaded ruler from the Internet” to measure the blade. He did this because, according to the Police Chief, “he could not find a ruler anywhere in the Police Station that night.” This length issue would make the case drag on and on. Mostly because the Prosecutor would never take the time to see the actual knife and would only go by the Police Report and pictures that showed the blade 2 inches longer than it actually was. And that large of a knife concerned the Prosecutor. These charges should have never been brought against My Son and should have been dropped as soon as the Prosecutor reviewed the charges and the situation of this case, even with the exaggerated blade length. No unlawful intent was found as Michigan Law requires for the Law to have actually been broken. But the Ottawa County Prosecutor would not drop the charges. So I went round and round with the courts. I was told My Son would be in JAIL if he was over 18, for simply having the knife he had on him while he was riding his bike that night. But remember no Law was found to actually have been broken. In fact to get further confirmation no laws were broken I found on the Michigan State Police web site that it states that it is NOT illegal to have knife with a blade over 3 inches in Michigan. And an email from the Governor’s Office confirmed my interpretation of Michigan’s knife Laws as they relate to dual edged folding knives. They confirmed that dual edge folding knives are not illegal in Michigan, unlike what the local Prosecutor was telling us. All in all it has been a long frustrating summer of waiting and wondering when Justice would come, if ever in Ottawa County. After spending countless hours learning and trying to understand Michigan Knife Laws, before I found AKTI.org. Losing countless hours of sleep and spending thousands and thousands of dollars on Lawyer bill’s. Finally we were offered a 60 Day deferment. As long as My Son did “nothing else wrong” in 60 days from his Pre-Trial, the charges would be dismissed. It was 74 days after the Pre-Trial before the Prosecutor would drop the charges, but at least they have finally been dismissed.
    Please take the time to visit AKTI.org and learn more about knife laws and knife safety. Maybe even consider becoming a member and supporting this great organization. “Can you Imagine Your Life without a Knife?”

  15. Jarod says:

    I have read a lot of people saying that a hunting knife is considered a dagger in Michigan, but that is from 2-3 years ago. Have the laws changed to allow it? Also is it legal to carry my hunting knife in a sheath on my belt?

  16. BobM says:

    @Jarod, if I understand the laws right, it’s legal to open carry pretty much anything here, so long as it’s not outright banned.

    But there’s LEGAL and then there’s what police will stop you for. Open carrying an 8 inch hunting knife might be legal, but that doesn’t mean you won’t go through what “Ottawa County is Unjust” did, being detained, spending months and thousands on legal defense, before having all charges dismissed.

    It’d be nice if prosecutors and police were actually held liable for knowing the laws they are enforcing.

  17. Matt says:

    You referenced People v Grandberry when you said that tomahawks are legal.

    According to this, http://www.leagle.com/decision/1980871102MichApp769_1780 that case dealt with a prison shank.

  18. Jason says:

    So it is legal for me to carry a 4, 5, 6″ single blade folding knife on my belt as long as i dont carry it with intent to harm?

  19. stu says:

    Nice! Thank you for clarifying the law, i carry a knife everyday for practical and defensive purposes now i can’t state my case if every approached by law enforcement

  20. Aaron says:

    I’m curious. Does Michigan allow a person to carry a Katana (or similar sword like weapon) on their person in public. With no intent to harm of course. I want to buy one and simply walk around with it but I’m not sure if it is illegal or not.

  21. chris says:

    The grammar on this page sincerely makes me doubt the accuracy of the information given.

  22. Josh says:

    I am 14 and going on a backpacking trip in a public park can I open carry a large fix blade knife

  23. victory says:

    What about a peace bound sword for a costume?

  24. Caleb says:

    Does a m1a1 carbine bayonet count as a doublebladed knife

  25. paul jezierski says:

    Under the ‘open carry’ in Michigan, can I open carry my kabar? even though it is In a Sheath? and in full view?

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