Ohio Knife Laws

ohioOhio knife laws are vague and the statutes lack definitions and clear language. This article will examine the Court decisions, or case law, that provide some of those definitions and brings more clarity to the code. After reading this article, even those not trained in the law will know what is legal and what is not, when owning and carrying knives in Ohio.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own a switchblade or gravity knife
  • It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife as well as Balisong trainers
  • It is legal to own a ballistic knife
  • It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
  • It is legal to own a Bowie knife
  • It is legal to own a stiletto

What is Illegal to Own

Limits on Carry

Ohio law does not restrict the concealed carry of any specific knife except for what it calls a “dangerous ordnance” which includes ballistic knives. The concealed carry statute simply makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Ohio Supreme Court said in State v. Anderson, that to convict a defendant of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, the state must prove that the instrument is capable of inflicting death and that it is either designed or adapted for use as a weapon or that it is being carried as a weapon. Some knives that are very likely to be found to deadly weapons, and therefore illegal to conceal carry include:

  • Dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives
  • Switchblades
  • Balisong, or butterfly knives
  • Gravity knives
  • Stilettos

The law does restrict both open and conceal carry of any dangerous weapon in a school zone or a Courthouse, but you may open carry any type of knife on your person or in your vehicle.

Definition of Deadly Weapon

Ohio Statute defines deadly weapon as any instrument, device, or thing that is capable of inflicting death, and designed or adapted for use as a weapon, or that is possessed, carried, or used as a weapon. In State v. Hall, Ms. Hall was convicted of aggravated menacing, or causing another to believe that she would harm them or their property, when she became involved in an altercation while armed with a steak knife. The jury found that a steak knife fit the definition of a deadly weapon, and the Ohio Court of Appeals agreed. In the case of a student who brought a pocketknife to school in the case of In re Carson, the Court found that the pocketknife, whose blade was one and a half to two inches long, was meant to be used as a weapon. It further found that the pocketknife was capable of causing a deadly wound, and thus was within the definition of a deadly weapon. Just a year before the 2007 Carson decision, in State v. Port, the Ohio Appellate Court found that a Winchester seven and one half inch pocketknife was a deadly weapon, because Mr. Port claimed to be carrying it for protection. The Court reasoned that since the definition of deadly weapon provides that any device carried or used as a weapon is a deadly weapon, the fact that Mr. Port carried the knife as a weapon made it a deadly weapon. In 2010, in the case of State v. Cattledge, the Ohio Appellate Court found that the following characteristics may support the finding that a folding knife is a deadly weapon:

  • a blade that can easily be opened with one hand, such as with a switch, a spring-loaded blade, or a gravity blade capable of one-handed operation
  • a blade that locks into position and cannot close without triggering the lock
  • a blade that is serrated
  • a blade tip that is sharp
  • an additional design element on the blade, such as a hole, that aids in unfolding the knife with one hand
  • the knife does not resemble an ordinary pocket knife

Mr. Cattledge’s knife was found to be a deadly weapon because it was seven inches long with a locking blade and button, which allowed the knife to be opened with one hand.

Not all knives in Ohio are considered deadly weapons. In 2010 in State v. Thompson, the Court of Appeals of Ohio found that Mr. Thompson’s knife was not a deadly weapon. In its decision, the Court said that when determining whether an instrument was a deadly weapon, the trial Court should consider several factors including who is carrying the devise, the circumstances under which it is being carried, including the time, place, and situation that the person is found carrying it, and the reason he or she claims to be carrying it. The Thompson Court recognized that many knives are useful tools for hunters, fisherman, and campers, and workers, and said that not all knives could be considered to be designed for use as a weapon.

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

Ohio Code § 2923.11, defines a ballistic knife as any knife that has a detachable blade, which is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism. Neither the statues nor the case law define any other type of knife.

Definition of Concealed

In 1929, in Porello v. State, the Supreme Court of Ohio found that concealed “on or about his person” meant that the weapon was kept in close proximity so as to be convenient and within immediate reach. In State v. Pettit, in 1969 the Court was asked to define ‘concealed’ and decided used the definition given by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in Shipley v. State. The Shipley Court said that a weapon was concealed so situated as not to be discernible by ordinary observation by those near enough to see it if it were not concealed. It specified that absolute invisibility was not required, stating that ordinary observation did not extend to an unusually careful, thorough, or detailed search.

Conclusion on Ohio Knife Law

Ohio law allows for the ownership and open carry of any type of knife.

Conceal carry statutes in Ohio do not specify any type of knife, other than ballistic knives, that one may not conceal carry. Instead, it makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Courts have called everything from a pocketknife to a steak knife a “deadly weapon”. The test however, is whether the instrument is deadly AND is made or modified to be a weapon or is being carried as one.


  • ORC Ann. 2923.11 (2013)
  • State v. Hall, 2008 Ohio 1405 (2008 Ohio App.)
  • In re Carson, 2007 Ohio 5687 (2007 Ohio App.)
  • State v. Port, 2006 Ohio 2783 (2006 Ohio App.)
  • Porello v. State, 121 Ohio St. 280 (1929)
  • State v. Pettit, 252 N.E.2d 325 (1969 Ohio App.)
  • Shipley v. State, 220 A. 2d 585 (1966 Md. App.)
  • State v. Anderson, 440 N.E.2d 814 (1981).
  • State v. Cattledge, 2010 Ohio 4953, (2010 Ohio App.)
  • State v. Thompson, 925 N.E.2d 188 (2010 Ohio App.)


  1. Would it be illegal to carry a folding credit card knife being sold (and planning to be used) as a utility knife?

  2. as a heathen priest, u i carry a small fixed blade, on my belt in open view,,,

  3. The key is to put the gaps where they won’t be seen, as within the bureau or face outline. In the last picture above, where the gaps are appearing on the outside of the bureau, there will be an end board going over that side. In another photo the bureau being constructed will go side-by-sde against another. This is the reason pocket-opening joinery is frequently utilized as a part of implicit cupboards, where the sides of the bureau are typically covered up, and if there are some pocket gaps inside the face outline nobody will truly mind.

    Coincidentally, in the event that you should have the pocket gaps where they can be seen, there are exceptional attachments you can purchase to fill them, in an assortment of woods, yet the fittings will in any case appear as large ovals. I think you can purchase them from Rockler, Woodcraft, and so on., and presumably Kreg as well.

  4. I would like to know if its legal to carry a bowie knife i hike alot in the deep forest and wilderness it can be used as a survial tool or protect my self from large wild animals.I know i can’t own a firearm being a convicted felon thanks

  5. I have a Bowie knife in original Bowie knife and it is a good working tool I use that for a lot of things I used to fly fish when I go fishing I also use it to help cutting beef I also help my grandparents around the house cutting up cardboard boxes for stuff because they have back problems and a bunch of other health stuff I don’t see why you can’t just carried out in the open as long as you don’t reach for it or going to threaten someone I’m 18 but yet I know the rules and I know it’s illegal to harm someone which I would never do I’m a good soul I would never hurt anyone especially someone I don’t know these knives that I use are good tools and that’s all they ever been for me is for someone especially for me when I’m at the ranch house helping out cutting bail twine and whatever else I need it for these things are very useful and it sucks that I can’t use them power for any other purposes that mean even if I’m defending myself from a rabid dog or an animal it really sucks you know

  6. So, what if you are a minor? Does that mean that the open carry part doesn’t apply no matter what?

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