Texas Knife Laws

txTexas knife laws are mostly found in the Court’s decisions, or case law, as the statutes are short and do not provide much information about what any of the terms mean. This article summarizes the case law and the statutes so that anyone can understand what is legal and what is not when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of Texas.

What is Legal to Own

What is Illegal to Own

  • It is illegal to own a gravity knife

The Texas state legislature does not limit other knives.

What the Law States

State legislature is covered by the Unlawful Carrying Weapons law as well as some case precedence.

§ 46.02.  Unlawful Carrying Weapons

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on
or about his or her person a handgun, illegal knife, or club if the person is not:

(1) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control; or

(2) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control….

§ 46.01.  Definitions

In this chapter:
…..(6) “Illegal knife” means a:
(A) knife with a blade over five and one-half inches;
(B) hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown;
(C) dagger, including but not limited to a dirk, stiletto, and poniard;
(D) bowie knife;
(E) sword; or
(F) spear.
(7) “Knife” means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument.
……..

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

Switchblade

The Texas code defines switchblade knife as a knife, which has a blade that folds, closes, or retracts into the handle, and that opens automatically by pressure applied to a button or other device located on the handle, by the force of gravity or by the application of centrifugal force (spinning the knife). The term does not include a knife that has a spring or other mechanism designed to keep the blade closed and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias and open the knife. A switchblade does not have to be operable in its original condition in order to qualify as a switchblade under the law. In Smith v. State, the Texas Court of Appeals upheld Mr. Smith’s conviction for carrying a switchblade with a broken release mechanism, because Mr. Smith had used a rubber band to hold the blade in place, and could still operate the knife as a switchblade. The Court held that there was no statutory requirement that the knife operated in its original intended fashion to obtain a conviction under the statute. Update – as of September 1, 2013, switchblades are no longer illegal in the state of Texas.

Throwing Star

In 1983, in Albert v. State, the Court found that the arresting officer’s testimony, calling the objects found under Mr. Albert’s floor mat “martial arts throwing stars” and describing them as “having seven or eight points, like a saw blade, and very sharp” was sufficient to conclude that the objects were throwing stars and therefore, illegal to carry.

Dagger and Bowie Knife

Former Texas Penal Code 1161, in connection with the law of assault with intent to murder, defined “dagger” and “bowie knife” as any knife intended to be worn upon the person, which is capable of inflicting death, and is not commonly known as a pocket knife. In Armendariz v. State, the Court upheld Mr. Armendariz conviction for unlawfully carrying a dagger. It found that the weapon Mr. Armendariz carried, which was slightly over seven inches in length when open, equipped with a double guard, had blade that locked in place when open, and was sharpened on both edges for slightly more than an inch from the point, was a dagger, not a pocketknife.

Butterfly Knife

In 2005, in an unpublished decision, the Texas Court of Appeals found, in Cook v. State, that a butterfly knife fell within the statutory definition of a switchblade, and was therefore illegal to possess or carry. However, because the law which made switchblade knives illegal was repealed in 2013, butterfly knives are now legal to own in Texas.

Restrictions on Carry

  • It is illegal to conceal or open carry any knife with a blade over 5 ½ inches long
  • It is illegal to conceal or open carry throwing stars or any type of throwing knife
  • It is illegal to conceal or open carry dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing knives
  • It is illegal to conceal or open carry a bowie knife
  • It is illegal to conceal or open carry a sword or spear

Carry restrictions do not apply to a person’s own vehicle or a vehicle that is under their control, as long as the weapon is being carried for a lawful purpose.

Definition of Blade

In Rainer v. State, Mr. Rainer was charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon for having a large hunting knife concealed on his person when he was arrested at a lounge for failing to appear in Court the Texas Appellate Court held that blade was defined in the dictionary as the cutting part of a knife, not the sharpened part. Therefore, the blade of a knife was the part of the knife from the handle to tip, and not just the sharpened portion.

Conclusion on Texas Knife Law

Texas knife laws are some of the most restrictive in the United States.

It is illegal in Texas to own a gravity knife.

It is illegal to open or conceal carry any knife with a blade over 5 ½ inches long, throwing knives or stars, dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing knives, bowie knives, swords, or spears.

Sources

  • Tex. Penal Code § 46.01 (2012)
  • Tex. Penal Code § 46.02 (2012)
  • Tex. Penal Code § 46.05 (2012)
  • Rainer v. State, 763 S.W.2d 615 (Tex. App. 1989)
  • Smith v. State, 1988 Tex. App. (Tex. App. 1988)
  • Albert v. State, 659 S.W.2d 41 (Tex. App. 1983)
  • Armendariz v. State, 396 S.W.2d 132 (Tex. Crim. App. 1965)
  • Cook v. State, 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 3053
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20 comments on “Texas Knife Laws
  1. Malcolm Werner says:

    It is sad to think that Jim Bowie was in possession of an illegal knife. Sounds like the Court might have sided with Santa Ana.

  2. Robert DeBeaux says:

    So simple, why then does the article at the top state that throwing stars are LEGAL, then in the Albert Vs. Texas states they are ILLEGAL. Plus it goes on to elaborate why throwing stars are illegal in carry, or conceal.
    Simple is not here.

  3. hillbillysurvival says:

    Texas law changes on September 1st. A lot of those definitions change. Also switchblades etc. will be legal. Can’t find link but law just signed by Governor Perry in the last month.

  4. Nick says:

    What’s the point. All knifes can kill just the same. Why limit some when it doesn’t friggin’ matter! If someone wants to kill, then they’ll kill.

  5. Michael Penson says:

    Heller. The right of self-defense is a Right since the cave man days and a rock v. spear.
    recklessly is the key word. Castle Doctrine is in effect. In the words of King Leonidas, “Molon Labe.”

  6. Key says:

    In reading the article on Texas knife laws, it states that it is “Illegal to Own” a switchblade, among a few other knife types. Later, state law (Section 46.02 Unlawful Carrying Weapons) is quoted that possibly is the genesis of this statement. I’ve read this law myself and want to point out that it doesn’t state that a switchblade (and other cited knife types) are illegal to “own”, rather it states that they are illegal to “carry”. I think that is an important distinction and while there may be another law that declares a switchblade illegal to own, I don’t believe the cited law states that.

  7. chris armstrong says:

    The thing to remember in Texas is that state law does not overrule local laws where knives are concerned. Your legal knife can become illegal by simply crossing a city or county boundary.

  8. Donna says:

    There have been changes in the laws as of September 1, 2013 concerning switchblades. Please check your information.

  9. Manny Omega says:

    Texas Switchblade laws have changed – Effective SEPTEMBER 1, 2013! Check the Texas.gov website for legal description(s) on carrying — I do not want to errantly tell you what the new laws are. Certain Texas city/municipalities – like San Antonio, still outlaw them. Beware local jurisdictions! You could, in Texas, always OWN/COLLECT switchblades & OTF’s (Out The Front) knives. You just cound not carry them!

  10. Craig says:

    So any fixed blade hunting knife is a Bowie?

  11. Craig says:

    Is it illegal to open Cary affixed blade Survival knife
    With a 5 1/2 in blade

  12. fled says:

    Up to a five and a half inch fixed blade knife is legal to carry in texas. Switchblade laws and gravity knife laws are simply playing on stupid semantics. I was carjacked by a guy with a commercial steak knife once. Plastic handle pointed serrated blade about $5 for a pack of 10. Beaurocrats are pure ignoramus’.

  13. Slashy McStabby says:

    Single edged blade of 5.5 inches or less is legal to carry, folding or not. New changes in laws on automatics, so check if carrying those.

  14. Skyler says:

    Armendariz v. State, 396 S.W.2d 132 (Tex. Crim. App. 1965) says that a dagger is a knife sharpened on both sides, and daggers are illegal.

  15. Dan Dayton says:

    In the years before Texas became a State, it became fashionable for Texas Legislators to carry Bowie Knives, on their persons at all times, even on the floor of the Senate. During a turbulent verbal altercation between two lawmakers,I’m told, a fight ensued, with these Bowie Knives, one Senator killing the other. No wonder Texas has such punitive knife laws, and yes, it is my understanding that not only are Bowie Knives illegal to carry within the state, but specifically named as permanently barred from legislative functions, altogether. I have not checked the new law changes enacted in 2013…

  16. Anthony says:

    So in texas is it illegal to carry a fixed blade with a blade length of 4″ and a total length of 10″ and an e.d.c.?

  17. Will says:

    Last that I heard, it is legal to openly carry a fixed blade knife with a blade length of less than six inches. I shall, and should recommend that we all check for any/all law changes since Perry has been in-house for such a long time. I have a good friend, looks like an old time mountain man, carries a knife within a sheath on his belt, less than six inches blade, everywhere that he goes daily. Never been messed with. This entire restrictiveness disgusts me. Texas! My home state, but talk about paranoid.

  18. Wayne says:

    Anthony/Will/Anyone else – Blade length and sharpened edges, not overall length, is what matters per Texas law, as of today.

    ANY single-edge knife with a BLADE length of 5.5″ or less is legal to carry, openly or concealed, in Texas.

    As of 01 Sept 2013, switchblades, balisongs and gravity knives became legal to carry in Texas, as long as they meet the other criteria for being legal to carry – 5.5″ max BLADE length AND SINGLE edge.

    No where in the Texas Penal Code is a “gravity knife” specifically prohibited to be owned. The only place in the Texas Penal Code that the words “gravity” and “knife” appear in the same place is in the definition of a switchblade knife and even then they were not prohibited from ownership, just public carry.

  19. johnny 3 tears says:

    I need my knives so I can kill me some negroes if they ever try to come after me!

  20. Pat McCrotch says:

    Considering that it is theoretically possible to throw any knife, wouldn’t that make all knives illegal to carry?

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