Texas 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
- It is legal to own throwing stars or any type of throwing knife
- It is legal to own dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing knives
- It is legal to own a bowie knife
- It is legal to own a sword or spear
- It is legal to own a switchblade knife
- It is legal to own a pocketknife
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife
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
(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
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.
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.
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.
- 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