Minnesota Knife Laws

The knife laws in Minnesota are very long and wordy. Unless you have formal training, the laws are almost cryptic. This article will explain the law in plain English as well as give you a detailed analysis of the law.

What is Legal to Own

  • Balisong knives are legal to own.
  • Dirks, stilettos, daggers, and other stabbing knives are legal to own.
  • Disguised knives like lipstick knives are legal to own.
  • Bowie knives are legal to own.
  • Throwing stars and throwing knives are legal to own.
  • All other knives are legal to own.
  • Only switchblades are illegal.

What is Legal to Carry

  • Knives with utility purposes are legal to carry.
  • Knives that can be used as weapons are legal to carry as long as you do not have intent to harm others.
  • It is illegal to recklessly use a knife that was designed to be a weapon.
  • It is illegal to carry a knife that was designed to be a weapon (and not a tool) with the intent to harm others.

Those are the general guidelines, read further to see the full details on what you can and can not own and carry.

What the Law States

Dangerous Weapons General (Paragraph a)

Minn. Stat. § 609.66 (2012)

609.66 DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Subdivision 1. Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes.

(a) Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a crime and may be sentenced as provided in paragraph (b):

(1) recklessly handles or uses a gun or other dangerous weapon or explosive so as to endanger the safety of another; or

(2) intentionally points a gun of any kind, capable of injuring or killing a human being and whether loaded or unloaded, at or toward another; or

(3) manufactures or sells for any unlawful purpose any weapon known as a slungshot or sand club; or

(4) manufactures, transfers, or possesses metal knuckles or a switch blade knife opening automatically; or

(5) possesses any other dangerous article or substance for the purpose of being used unlawfully as a weapon against another; or

[...]

(b) A person convicted under paragraph (a) may be sentenced as follows:

(1) if the act was committed in a public housing zone, as defined in section 152.01, subdivision 19, a school zone, as defined in section 152.01, subdivision 14a, or a park zone, as defined in section 152.01, subdivision 12a, to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $ 3,000, or both; or

(2) otherwise, including where the act was committed on residential premises within a zone described in clause (1) if the offender was at the time an owner, tenant, or invitee for a lawful purpose with respect to those residential premises, to imprisonment for not more than 90 days or to payment of a fine of not more than $ 1,000, or both.

The law bans the reckless use of knives, possession of switchblades and metal knuckles, as well as possession of “any other dangerous article” to harm others.

If you use your knife in a responsible way, I don’t see you having a problem with the first part of the law.

The ban on switchblades and metal knuckles were enacted because those items were closely linked to crime at one point in the past. This leads us to two questions: what is a switchblade and what is a metal knuckle?

What is a Switchblade in Minnesota?

The unpublished opinion of State v. Quimby in 2008 defined a switchblade is a sprint powered knife that opens when a button is pressed. This would mean that, in Minnesota, balisong knives, also called butterfly knives, are not banned.

Note that unpublished opinions do not establish precedence in the common law system. What this means is that a court can still find a knife as a “switchblade” even if it doesn’t match the definition set by State v. Quimby.

But, knowing what a court determined a switchblade to be in the past gives you an idea of what it’ll determine a switchblade to be in the future. Future behavior is best predicted by past behavior.

What are Metal Knuckles in Minnesota?

We all know what metal knuckles look like, they are those metal things that you thread your fingers threw to give your fist extra weight for a punch. However, if you have a metal knuckle that only has two holes, would it still be a metal knuckle? What if the metal knuckle is apart of a knife’s handle like what is commonly found in WWI trench knives?

Well, Minnesota courts have not decided on this yet but, in some states, WWI trench knives and other knives with knuckles are illegal where as, in other states, knuckled knives are not illegal.

Since this is still up in the air, I wouldn’t carry around my WWI trench knife or my push knife in Minnesota. Since there are no real utility uses for either knives, the police might give you an “extra through” examination to see what you’re up to once they find those knives. If there is possibility to prove that you have intent to harm, you can be charged with (a)(5).

Limits on Dangerous Weapons with Intent to Harm

Section (a)(5) bans the use of dangerous weapons to harm others. The definition of dangerous weapon is:

Minn. Stat. § 609.02 (2012)

609.02 DEFINITIONS

Dangerous weapon. –”Dangerous weapon” means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.

The law here is very broad. When one has intent to harm others, anything designed specifically to hurt others and capable of producing great harm is illegal to possess. Lets break this definition down piece by piece to fully understand what it means. (The phrase ”other device or instrumentality that…” means items similar to combustible or flammable liquids and do not extend beyond that–they are talking about bombs there).

For an item to be a dangerous weapon, it had to be made for the purpose of harming others. The case of P.W.E. in 2001 found that the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the knife’s purpose was as a weapon and not as a tool for it to fit in the definition of dangerous weapon. This excludes multi-tools, hunting knives, box cutters, and lots of other knives from being called dangerous weapons. Stilettos, dirks, daggers, push knives, WWI trench knives, lipstick knives, and other knives that lack utility use are dangerous weapons only if the state proves that such a knife can produce death or great bodily harm. (Also see C.R.M 2000).

Even if a knife is a dangerous weapon, you can still carry it if you do not have intent to use the knife as a weapon. This is a good time to discuss the legality of butterfly knife carry in Minnesota.

Are Balisong Knives Legal to Carry?

The law has not banned the carry of butterfly knives since it has only banned switchblades and the definition of a switchblade does not include butterfly knives. However, for example, a Benchmade 62 is 4.25″ in blade length which is enough to cause death or grave harm to others. Origionally, balisong knives were designed as tools but, during the 80′s, the image of balisongs and gangs started to merge. Because of this, some states have determined that balisong knives have no utility where as other states have found that balisongs are not weapons.

There are no cases in Minnesota law that defines if a balisong knife is a weapon or not but it is 100% legal to carry as long as you do not have intent to harm others. If you are accused of having intent to harm others, it is than up to the courts to decide if the  balisong knife you carried was designed as a weapon or not.

Carrying Dangerous Weapons Sureties

Minn. Stat. § 625.16 (2012)

625.16 CARRYING DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Whoever shall go armed with a dirk, dagger, sword, pistol, or other offensive and dangerous weapon, without reasonable cause to fear an assault or other injury or violence to person, family, or property, may, on complaint of any other person having reasonable cause to fear an injury or breach of the peace, be required to find sureties for keeping the peace, for a term not exceeding six months, with the right of appealing as before provided.

This law says that, if you carry, open or concealed, a dangerous weapon and someone gets scared, they can make the court force you to place a sureties (deposit) to ensure that you won’t hurt someone.

Dangerous Weapons in Schools (Paragraph d)

Minn. Stat. § 609.66 (2012)

609.66 DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Subd. 1d. Possession on school property; penalty.

(a) Except as provided under paragraphs (d) and (f), whoever possesses, stores, or keeps a dangerous weapon while knowingly on school property is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $ 10,000, or both.

(b) Whoever uses or brandishes a replica firearm or a BB gun while knowingly on school property is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

(c) Whoever possesses, stores, or keeps a replica firearm or a BB gun while knowingly on school property is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(d) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), (b), or (c), it is a misdemeanor for a person authorized to carry a firearm under the provisions of a permit or otherwise to carry a firearm on or about the person’s clothes or person in a location the person knows is school property. Notwithstanding section 609.531, a firearm carried in violation of this paragraph is not subject to forfeiture.

(e) As used in this subdivision:

(1) “BB gun” means a device that fires or ejects a shot measuring .18 of an inch or less in diameter;

(2) “dangerous weapon” has the meaning given it in section 609.02, subdivision 6;

(3) “replica firearm” has the meaning given it in section 609.713; and

(4) “school property” means:

(i) a public or private elementary, middle, or secondary school building and its improved grounds, whether leased or owned by the school;

(ii) a child care center licensed under chapter 245A during the period children are present and participating in a child care program;

(iii) the area within a school bus when that bus is being used by a school to transport one or more elementary, middle, or secondary school students to and from school-related activities, including curricular, cocurricular, noncurricular, extracurricular, and supplementary activities; and

(iv) that portion of a building or facility under the temporary, exclusive control of a public or private school, a school district, or an association of such entities where conspicuous signs are prominently posted at each entrance that give actual notice to persons of the school-related use.

(f) This subdivision does not apply to:

(1) active licensed peace officers;

(2) military personnel or students participating in military training, who are on-duty, performing official duties;

(3) persons authorized to carry a pistol under section 624.714 while in a motor vehicle or outside of a motor vehicle to directly place a firearm in, or retrieve it from, the trunk or rear area of the vehicle;

(4) persons who keep or store in a motor vehicle pistols in accordance with section 624.714 or 624.715 or other firearms in accordance with section 97B.045;

(5) firearm safety or marksmanship courses or activities conducted on school property;

(6) possession of dangerous weapons, BB guns, or replica firearms by a ceremonial color guard;

(7) a gun or knife show held on school property;

(8) possession of dangerous weapons, BB guns, or replica firearms with written permission of the principal or other person having general control and supervision of the school or the director of a child care center; or

(9) persons who are on unimproved property owned or leased by a child care center, school, or school district unless the person knows that a student is currently present on the land for a school-related activity.

(g) Notwithstanding section 471.634, a school district or other entity composed exclusively of school districts may not regulate firearms, ammunition, or their respective components, when possessed or carried by nonstudents or nonemployees, in a manner that is inconsistent with this subdivision.

Don’t being weapons to school kids. Go back a few paragraphs to see what dangerous weapons mean. The difference between the general definition of dangerous weapon and what is banned from schools is that, as long as a knife is able to do grave harm and has no genuine purpose to be at school, it is a dangerous weapon (A.J.S.D. 1998). The state does not have to prove that the knife was designed for harming others.

Dangerous Weapons in Court (Paragraph g)

Minn. Stat. § 609.66 (2012)

609.66 DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Subd. 1g. Felony; possession in courthouse or certain state buildings.

(a) A person who commits either of the following acts is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $ 10,000, or both:

(1) possesses a dangerous weapon, ammunition, or explosives within any courthouse complex; or

(2) possesses a dangerous weapon, ammunition, or explosives in any state building within the Capitol Area described in chapter 15B, other than the National Guard Armory.

(b) Unless a person is otherwise prohibited or restricted by other law to possess a dangerous weapon, this subdivision does not apply to:

(1) licensed peace officers or military personnel who are performing official duties;

(2) persons who carry pistols according to the terms of a permit issued under section 624.714 and who so notify the sheriff or the commissioner of public safety, as appropriate;

(3) persons who possess dangerous weapons for the purpose of display as demonstrative evidence during testimony at a trial or hearing or exhibition in compliance with advance notice and safety guidelines set by the sheriff or the commissioner of public safety; or

(4) persons who possess dangerous weapons in a courthouse complex with the express consent of the county sheriff or who possess dangerous weapons in a state building with the express consent of the commissioner of public safety.

Subd. 2. Exceptions. –Nothing in this section prohibits the possession of the articles mentioned by museums or collectors of art or for other lawful purposes of public exhibition.

Don’t being weapons to court or the state capitol buildings. The government doesn’t want people to disturb the processes of government. So much so that they made it a felony, a grave offense of at least 1 year in prison.

Conclusion

The simplified version of the law is: you can own any knife you would like in Minnesota as long as it is not a switchblade and you can carry any knife, open or concealed, as long as you do not have intent to harm others. There are more details than that and they were discussed in the article.

Note that this is not legal advice and there is no client-attorney relationship. There are also county laws that come into play as well so be sure to look up those. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment box below.

References

  • CARRYING DANGEROUS WEAPONS. Minn. Stat. § 625.16 (2012). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • DANGEROUS WEAPONS. Minn. Stat. § 609.66 (2012). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • DEFINITIONS. Minn. Stat. § 609.02 (2012). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • In re A.J.S.D., 1998 Minn. App. LEXIS 1062 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 15 1998). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • In re Welfare of C.R.M., 611 N.W.2d 802, 2000 Minn. LEXIS 342, 4 No. 25 Minn. Lawyer 11 (2000). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • In re Welfare of P.W.F., 625 N.W.2d 152, 2001 Minn. App. LEXIS 383, 5 No. 17 Minn. Lawyer 23 (2001). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • State v. Quimby, 2008 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1441, 12 No. 51 Minn. Lawyer 49 (2008). Retrieved on January 30, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
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13 comments on “Minnesota Knife Laws
  1. Trevor jech says:

    i just have some questions 1 what is the maxuimum length of blade you can carry 2 what are the laws about carring a fixed blade and how does the law measure them from the blade on a fixed blade or the entire fixed blade knife from the end of the handle to the tip of the blade 3 i heard rumers about some exeptions to the rule about auto knifes are there any and if so what are they

    please reply thanks
    trevor jech

  2. Owen says:

    Ramsey county, in their parks and rec laws, limit the “blade length”to no more than three inches. as for the other questions…not sure.

  3. Mark says:

    Hypothetical question. Say you normally carry a legal foldout (such as my benchmade stryker [one hand thumb deployed, but fully manual]) and your brother calls you and asks you to pick up your niece from school (he has called in advance so they know you’re coming). Not wanting to cause any problems, I leave it in the car and go in to pick her up. The question I have is (and it was not an issue, but could have been), since the car was on school property, was that a violation of the statute?

  4. Mark says:

    by the way, since I presented the question as a hypothetical, please mentally replace all the “I”‘s with “you”‘s :)

  5. Austin says:

    I have a question would it be legal to conceal and carry a 3 inch defence knife if like it says u dont use it recklessly or open or show it and don’t have a bad intent?

  6. Alex says:

    I have just one question.. I have a 5 inch blade on my newest knife. It’s a Tac Force TF711BK.. Here’s a link http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0074BF9R2/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?qid=1374242176&sr=8-2&pi=AC_SX110_SY190 is it illegal because if the fast opening? It is a folding knife. And my cousin says 5 inches is illegal…

  7. Xiccarph says:

    I would clarify that from what I know, it is not illegal to own items like switchblades/automatic knives or “metal knuckles” AKA brass knuckles in Minnesota. These can be bought endlessly at gun and knife shows, retailers, via mail order, and pawn shops in Minnesota. What IS illegal is to carry them in public. For knife aficionados and collectors, its perfectly legal to own as many of these things as you want.
    Its unfortunate that so many things have been banned or regulated because of “former use by gangs”…weapons charges are much more often than not plea bargained away. Crooks carry and maybe use these and get the charge dropped as its minor compared to whatever real crime was that they committed. Laws rarely impede the criminals, but restrict the victims.

  8. David says:

    This is really quite comprehensive as far as the statutes are concerned (anyone reading this must remember that there might be governing case law as well that has not yet been codified into statute, as well as home rule jurisdictions that can pass ordinances that act as governing law regardless of state law, and local ordinances that may also restrict things such as blade length, & whether a fixed blade is legal or not).

    But you forgot the statute that deals with throwing knives, which is Minnesota Statutes, section 624.63, “Dangerous Exhibitions”. The text of the law is as follows:

    “Every proprietor, lessee, or occupant of any place of amusement, or any plat of ground, or building, who shall use or allow it to be used for the exhibition of skill in throwing any sharp instrument at or toward any human being, or who shall aim or discharge, or allow to be aimed or discharged, at or toward any human being, any bowgun, pistol, or firearm of any description, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

  9. Dunamis says:

    Minneapolis and St. Paul have CITY ORDINANCES in addition to State law… example: is St. Paul… a fixed blade knife can have no more than a ONE INCH blade is carried in public… look it up..

    “…Knife shall mean dirk, dagger, stiletto, switchblade knife, spring blade knife, push button knife, a folding knife with a blade in excess of four (4) inches, a machete, a bayonet, or any fixed-blade knife, carried in a concealed manner or within reach of any person in a motor vehicle…”

    “…Concealed manner shall mean having the object on the person in such a manner so that it is not completely visible to any other person. Having a knife in a sheath shall be considered as having the knife concealed, irrespective of position of the sheath on the person…”

    “…
    Sec. 225.02. Possession of weapons and non-lethal firearms prohibited.permanent link to this piece of content
    (a)No person shall keep, carry or have in his possession on any public street or being a trespasser upon the premises of another or in a public place in the city any military-type weapon, or any assault weapon, or any stolen weapon, or any knife, except military personnel or peace officers engaged in the course of their duties,…”

  10. Zane says:

    So I have a 7 inch survival knife, and a 12.2 inch Bowie Knife (blade length), and I can carry them as long as they’re sheathed and my reason is self-defense? And I’m responsible? And I mean no harm to the good citizens of Minnesota? Sounds good to me. I’ve got more knives coming in too. Two more Bowie Knives and a Short Sword. So, my last question, is there a limit to how many knives a person(s) is carrying on their person concealed?

  11. Scott says:

    What if you have a conceal and carry permit?

  12. Corbin Peterson says:

    So, if I have a 7 inch Ka Bar I can carry it as long I am not intending to do any harm to anyone? Is it ok if I just have it for protection?

  13. Corbin Peterson says:

    So, if I have a 7 inch Ka Bar I can carry it as long I am not intending to do any harm to anyone? Is it ok if I just have it for protection?

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