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.

Comments

  1. trever

    so i was thinking about buying a boisong knife (live in ST.paul area) and i have no clue what the max blade lengh is?

  2. Jeremy

    I own a 68 inch katana, blade is 49 inches and isnt sharp, and I wanted to know if I will be able to carry this on Halloween. It will obviously be visible and was wondering what the law for this is. I live in St Louis County

    1. Aaron

      I realize this post is 7 months old by now, but I figured I’d drop my 2 cents for the sake of the subject matter.

      Even if the law doesn’t say you can’t carry a sword in public, it’s best to use common sense here. Halloween is always a time of heightened security awareness for civilians and law enforcement alike. Weather it’s sharp or not, carrying your katana with it’s blade included is almost guaranteed to get you into some pretty serious trouble, even if you never take it out.

      If you’re committed to your costume though, I recommend looking up how to deconstruct the sword (if you dont know how to already), and replacing the blade with a stiff slat of wood or plastic that reaches about 4 to 6 inches from the guard.

      This way you can carry the handle connected to the scabbard and retain the authenticity of your costume, and if anybody gets nervous or the police feel like they need to pull you aside, you can show them that you took the blade out and the item is just for show.

      Worst case scenario there is that they confiscate the “sword” so it doesn’t scare anybody, and send you on your way.

      After the night is over you can put the sword back together at home and retain the value of your investment.

      If the costume somehow requires that you have the blade, however, then it’s probably best to pick something else. You could risk taking the sword, blade and all, with you and getting caught, but It’s just not worth potentially getting charged for possession of a dangerous weapon.

  3. Army the Shipbuilder

    I would like to know about laws relating to age for purchasing knives.

  4. Trent

    Be really careful having “self-defense” as your reason for carrying a knife. That kind of suggests you are carrying a weapon. Do you do anything else with your knife? Open letters, cut rope, splice wiring, whittle sticks? I would strongly suggest one or all of these be your stated reason for carrying a knife. If you happen to be unlucky enough to find yourself in a self-defense situation, anything you have at hand is open game for protecting yourself. That includes that knife you carry around for cutting the occasional rope and opening your mail.

    1. Aaron

      I’m not trying to be a knife snob here, I feel like there’s an important thing to point out about the knife in your link.

      I know it’s listed as a hawkbill, but it’s really a karambit, which are frequently, and incorrectly, listed as hawkbill knives. A modern karambit is essentially designed as a weapon.
      Even if its legitimately being carried as a tool, it’s big and it LOOKS like a weapon, which will sometimes be enough to cause legal trouble for the person who has it.

      Additionally, the finger ring in karambits are sometimes counted as knuckle-bracers, which can result in sort of a two-for-one weapons charge situation.

      This is a proper hawkbill knife, if you REALLY need to carry something as a weapon, this will have a comparable effect. It’s not as exciting or intimidating, but the person getting slashed by it might not be very concerned about how neat it looks.

      http://www.amazon.com/SZCO-Supplies-Hawkbill-Pruning-Knife/dp/B007C1R6AC/ref=sr_1_9?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1462611525&sr=1-9&keywords=hawkbill+knife

      But I feel like i have to point out that there are safer and more legitimate ways to carry weapons into public if you’re concerned enough about your personal safety to want to do so.
      Ironically, a conceal-carry permit and a firearm are a much safer pair than a big knife and an excuse.

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