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.

Comments

  1. SO it is legal for me to carry my bowie hunting knife that is obviously over 3″ in length so long as I am carrying it without harmful intent?

    1. Yes. Considered a hunting knife.

  2. I recently purchased a double edge karambit with a belt holster from Karambit.com, but was unclear on the difference between open and conceal carry. I understand that it’s illegal to conceal carry any double-edged, non folding, stabbing instrument, which is what I presume to be what category karambits fall under.
    I carry all my knives on belt holsters, and plan to do the same with my karambit. I’ve walked into grocery stores and baseball parks with a ten inch throwing knife on a belt holster without any problem.
    I guess what I’m trying to ask is if it’s on a belt holster, is visible, and I’m not deliberately trying to hide it; is it considered open carry?

    1. That’s how I look at it. Wouldn’t be concealed that way. I’m planning on wearing mine too. but I disagree with a karambit being included as a stabbing knife. It is really more for slicing if you have seen any YouTube Vids. Besides that, I’m claiming it as a hunting Skinner and gutting knife. Easily shown if they wanted an example. I personally would feel legit even as a concealed knife. Also I’m touting it as more of a tool.

    2. ask the officer just how you might “stab” someone with a blade that is curved like that. I’d definitely fight a charge in court, based on what I’m reading here.

    3. I’m not sure there is a distinction between open carry and concealed carry with knives. I think thats just for guns. You are either carrying or not, with knives. (I’d guess its becasue you can conceal most all knives without much trouble, even pretty big ones)

  3. All I want to know is whether it’s legal to carry a folding knife that has a blade over 3 ” in length

    1. if you live in michigan folding knives are fine but needs to be 3 inches, MCL 750.226 No. Michigan law specifies that a person, with intent to use the knife unlawfully against another, shall not go armed with a knife having a blade over 3 inches in length.

      This is if you are living in michigan

    2. so if there’s to intent to use against the law, it’s ok to carry a knife over 3″ long. Also if the knife has more than one blade.

      *Rick Fisher….” It’s not if you win or lose….It’s how you play the game…”*

    1. You can carry both spring assisted (no problem at all) and fully automatic knives in michigan. Must be some ancient law that people have in their mind. Just talked to a local gun & knife shop owner.

    2. can or can’t? It deffinately says can not be spring assisted or auto.

  4. My 17 year old son went to Gander Mountain to buy a multi tool as a christmas gift for his older brother. The store would not sell it to him as they said it had a knife on it. I went back to the store to purchase it for him and to discuss it with the manager. She told me that they will not sell anything with a knife blade on it to anyone under the age of 18 as it was the law. My response to this that this may be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. A minor could buy a hatchet, steak knives, paring knife or a butcher knife but they are not allowed to purchase a multi tool in an outdoor recreation retailer. My question is; is this a true law on the books or is this a company policy that Gander Mountain has?

    1. I’m 40+ and was carded for a wrist rocket the other day. It was a thing on their registers that asked for bday if it was a weapon. I laughed but showed and bought it anyway. 18+.Tractor Supply! Bet it is a state law. But many teens accept their fathers pocket knives as a keepsake?

    1. I believe concealing it would be the issue. Should think of a holster, either sideways or whatever on belt. I didn’t look at actual knife, just stating it how I understand ot.b

    2. it is literally a one sided hunting knife. They are the easiest to see that’s legal. Re-read above about concealment of it.

    3. hunting knives can be concealed. Stated above.

    1. Knives vs guns. Apples and oranges.

  5. Is it illegal to conceal carry a 1in S&S precision mini shiv in my boot??

    1. if it has no real point (shiv?) id pick a more rounded point. Also no two sided knives. I’m not sure of your model but those are.the laws.

  6. I have an Uncle Henry 183uh fixed blade with a leather sheath I use to carve wood,cut fruits and vegetables.
    Is that legal to carry on my belt in its sheath?

  7. Ok I am sure someone has asked this before but here I go…..I have a small foldable knife that has a blade with a small tang on the back to open it. It is not a button nor will the blade automatically pop open it is part of the actal blade. But it does allow you to “flip” it open.. Is this considered a automatic/switch blade under the law? It is legal to sell them they are in every convenient store and mall kiosk in the state so I would assume they are legal to carry.

    1. id say legal. It really is not auto, spring or gravity assisted. I’m no pro though.

  8. How old do you have to be to carry a pocket knife under 3 inches?

    1. I believe you have to be atleast 15 in michigan

  9. Can a 15-16 year old carry a balisong with it clipped to there pocket or in a sleeve on the belt? Also what is considered open Cary and closed carry with a knife?

    1. Concealed carry, not open carry, open carry is for firearms. and yes as long as it is concealed and not used for unlawful meanings.

  10. Is it legal to own these and throw them at a target in my backyard?

    1. if the blades ar 3 – 4 inches and are concealed yes, i would contact your local police station and ask them.

    2. legal at home yes. Might have trouble if you carried them out and about. Especially if concealed.

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