Washington Knife Laws

waWashington knife laws are vague and difficult to piece together. This article puts all of the laws together in an easy to understand way, so that anyone can figure out what is legal and what is not when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of Washington.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
  • It is legal to own bowie knife
  • It is legal to own a stiletto
  • It is legal to own a disguised knife, such as a lipstick or belt buckle
  • It is legal to own throwing stars

What is Illegal to Own

It is illegal to own a switchblade or other spring blade knife in the state of Washington.

Restrictions on Carry

  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dagger
  • It is illegal to conceal carry any dangerous weapon
  • It is illegal to open or conceal carry any weapon into a Courtroom

It is also illegal to carry or display a dagger, sword, knife, or other cutting or stabbing instrument in a manner or under circumstances that would cause alarm or show an intent to intimidate another. In 1994, in State v. Spencer, the Supreme Court of Washington held that there must be a sufficient basis for the alarm, such that a reasonable person would be alarmed. Also in 1994, the Court held, in State v. Byrd, that because the display of a weapon in a manner that caused reasonable fear or alarm could be done without intent, a violation of the statute did not require intent. This means that one does not have to intend to cause alarm or fear in order to be guilty of a crime under the statute.

What the Law States

§ 9.41.250. Dangerous weapons — Penalty

(1) Every person who…

(a) Manufactures, sells, or disposes of or possesses any instrument or weapon of the kind usually known as slung shot, sand club, or metal knuckles, or spring blade knife

(b) Furtively carries with intent to conceal any dagger, dirk, pistol, or other dangerous weapon

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

A spring blade knife is defined by Washington statute as a knife with a blade that is automatically released by a spring or other mechanical devise or with a blade that opens, falls, or is ejected by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward, or centrifugal movement (spinning the knife). No other knife is defined by the statutes or by the case law. When the legislature fails to define a term, the Court will generally use the plain English meaning of the word, which is the meaning giving by Webster’s dictionary.

Definition of Dangerous Weapon

Washington statutes fail to define dangerous weapons, but in 2002, in an unpublished opinion, the Court, in State v. Bonebright, citing two other cases, stated that Courts have generally defined a dangerous weapon as an object capable of inflicting great bodily harm. It also said that Division One of the Court had noted that the term “dangerous weapon” is similar to the term deadly weapon, which is defined in RCW 9.94A.125 as an instrument that has the capacity to inflict death.

Meaning of Furtively in Statute

In 1995, in State v. Myles, the Supreme Court of Washington discussed the use of the word “furtively” in the conceal carry statute. Ms. Myles, a 16 year old, had been discovered swearing at a group of people, with a paring knife in her pocket. The juvenile Court found that the knife was a dangerous weapon and convicted Ms. Myles of possession of a dangerous weapon. Ms. Myles appealed the conviction to the Court of Appeals, who reversed the conviction. The state then appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington. Ms. Myles argued that the statute required a furtive act in order to convict a person of possession of a dangerous weapon. The Supreme Court looked to the dictionary for a definition of furtively, which means secretly. It held that the word applied to the conduct of carrying a concealed weapon, which, when concealed was necessarily ‘secret’ and not to the intent. Therefore, it upheld the conviction.

Exceptions to Conceal Carry or Display

Conceal carry and display laws do not apply to those who are in their own homes, at their fixed place of business, or defending themselves against a presently threatened use of unlawful force. In 1983, the Washington Court of Appeals, in State v. Haley, found that a deck attached to the house and accessible from several rooms of the home, was a part of the home, and exempt from the display statute. In 2003, however, the same Court, in State v. Smith, ruled that a person’s backyard was not ‘in their home’ and therefore, a person was not exempt from the carry or display statute while in their backyard.

Conclusion on Washington Knife Law

It is illegal to own a switchblade or other spring blade knife in the state of Washington.

It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk, dagger, or other dangerous weapon. It is legal to open carry any type of weapon, so long as it is not carried in a way that may cause others alarm.

Sources

  • Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 9.41.250 (2013)
  • Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 9.41.270 (2013)
  • State v. Spencer, 876 P.2d 939 (1994)
  • State v. Byrd, 774, 868 P.2d 158 (1994)
  • State v. Smith, 93 P.3d 877 (2003 Wash. App.)
  • State v. Haley, 665 P.2d 1375 (1983 Wash. App.)
  • State v. Bonebright, 2002 Wash. App. LEXIS 1487
  • State v. Myles, 903 P.2d 979 (1995)
  • George

    It is better to be alive than an unprepared victim.
    Bottom line is you still have the right to defend yourself, legally or otherwise.

  • MegaBajojo

    What About pocket knives? I was told You could carry them if the blade wasnt longer than your four fingers. So would they be illegal to carry???

    • Christopher Osburn

      There is no specific length limit in state law. Many, many cities do have length restrictions. These are always given in inches. If a police officer tries the four finger rule, ask him to call a supervisor with larger hands. 😉 They need to use a ruler. I haven’t seen a length limit smaller than 3″ in the three counties around Seattle. It’s pretty easy to check the law in your city or county.

  • Allen Benge

    My wife and I sold knives and swords in the shop we had in the Yard Bird mall. A very popular type of knife right now is the assisted opening knife. We had several that had the assisted opening feature as well as a seat belt cutter and window breaker. Various models were specified for police, fire, medical, military and so forth. When i was a deputy sheriff in Arizona, I would have loved to have such a tool, as it can be opened with one hand (valuable in many emergency situations). I think we need to urge our legislators to revisit the assisted opening style of edged pocket tool.

    • Christopher Osburn

      Current state law permits assisted openers, since July 2012

  • J Biggs

    Check out the last sentence . Any Idea?

    RCW 9.41.250
    Dangerous weapons—Penalty.
    (1) Every person who:
    (a) Manufactures, sells, or disposes of or possesses any instrument or weapon of the kind usually known as slung shot, sand club, or metal knuckles, or spring blade knife;
    (b) Furtively carries with intent to conceal any dagger, dirk, pistol, or other dangerous weapon; or
    (c) Uses any contrivance or device for suppressing the noise of any firearm unless the suppressor is legally registered and possessed in accordance with federal law,
    is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.
    (2) “Spring blade knife” means any knife, including a prototype, model, or other sample, with a blade that is automatically released by a spring mechanism or other mechanical device, or any knife having a blade which opens, or falls, or is ejected into position by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward, or centrifugal thrust or movement. A knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires physical exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife is not a spring blade knife.
    [2012 c 179 § 1; 2011 c 13 § 1; 2007 c 379 § 1; 19

    • Christopher Osburn

      Just means assisted openers are legal

  • JB

    I live in an apartment building in Seattle, Recently the fire department was at our complex for a medical call, At the time I was caring my “Cold Steel, 39LSF Leatherneck” on my belt and not concealed. One of the firemen came up to me and told me that I should conceal “that pig sticker” before a police officer see’s it, because it is illegal to carry. It was kind of a shock being that I was caring it like I would if I was out camping. I also said that I have a concealed permit, and he said that the permit is only for hand guns. I also observed a guy with a hand gun holstered (not concealed) walking around FredMeyers without anyone saying a thing, so are they saying that I could walk around a public store with a unconcealed hand gun but not a unconcealed knife in a sheath ??? (What is this world coming to ?)

    • Christopher Osburn

      There is an ordinance in Seattle prohibiting carry of fixed blade knives regardless of length (SMC 12A.14.080 B “Dangerous Knives”). Exemption for immediate occupational use or if you keep it in a toolbox or tool roll. Everything the firefighter told you is correct. Not to say it’s logical, mind you, but the constitution does not require the law to be logical. Also see court case Seattle v. Montana 1996. (Montana is a surname, not the state.) Get a nice folder (under 3.5″, also a city ordinance).

  • Shaden Collard

    i used to live in washington and im going back up for christmas and i was looking this up because i wanted to know if id get in trouble for carrying my pocket knife because where i currently life the law is anyone can legally carry a pocket knife if the blade is 3.5 inches or shorter

    • Christopher Osburn

      There is no length limit in state law. Many cities have a length limit. It depends on where exactly you are going this christmas and what knife you want to carry

  • Allen Benge

    I was informed that the city of Seattle had a city ordinance prohibiting the carrying of any concealed weapon over six feet in length. Since this sounds ridiculous, and I have been questioned on it, I would like to know how this is cited in the City Ordinances.

  • http://www.180movie.com John Wesley

    Liberal commie democrat sobs. Wtf? No exemptions for hunting or camping? Scumbags.

    Came here because I wanted to know the maximum legal lenth knife I could carry while hunting in Washington but I guess I cant even carry a knife at all because it is illegal to conceal it and if I open carry it while hunting and run into a commie liberal who is hikeing or whatever and they are “intimidated” then I just broke the law.

    Idiots! Never trust a liberal to write a law!

    Also a resident of Washington cant practice knife throwing or swordsmanship in their own backyard under these laws…because if their neighbor is “intimidated” unintentionally they just broke the law.

    So if a martial artist is practicing sword form or cutting in his or her backyard and the neighbor wants to get him into trouble he is screwed? Commie scumbags!

    • RobertVeggies

      Kindly shut up and stop trolling.

    • Izstaria

      Shut up already. Idiot.

  • http://www.180movie.com John Wesley

    Guess if I ever hunt in Washington I’ll have to clean with a sharp hatchet. I might accidentally intimidate a liberal commie and get into trouble if I use a knife.

  • James Wade

    I think it’s extremely bullshit to illegalize conceal carry a knife while it’s in the sheath especially if you are wearing snow pants like me. Only I don’t carry a knife around. Knifes are a last resort when your weapon runs out of bullets or in odd cases if the weapon jams and the only thing you have that don’t need bullets are a knife.

    • Allen Benge

      Once more, knives have not been really meaningful as a weapon (except in military usage) for a long, long time. A knife is a tool, not a weapon. Do you know what a weapon is? A weapon is a tool that is used with evil intent, except in self defense. A guy in Phoenix went to a pawn shop and asked to see a knife. The clerk said she didn’t have a key. He then picked up a circular saw and asked if he could test it. He pulled the guard back, ran it up to speed and stuck it in his neck. you do not need a gun to kill or commit suicide. It is not the fault of an inanimate object, but the intent of the person wielding it.

  • Carlos Hernandez

    How old do you have to be to buy a knife in WA?

    • Christopher Osburn

      I’m not seeing anything in a quick glance at state law, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss something. I know Seattle has a specific ordinance requiring you to be 18. I would be surprised if any retailer sold to a minor just out of caution (and liability insurance premiums).

      In Seattle, a custodial parent or guardian may provide you a knife before you turn 18–just ask them to buy it for you.

  • Tahatch Bearwolf

    My rights are non negotiable, anyone using any “law” or other excuse to try to infringe upon them deserves to be resisted and defeated with whatever force is nessicary. Anyone disagreeing does not belong in America.

  • hogtyed

    According to our WA State Constitution
    SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

  • Jamie Longan

    Unless there is a new law that I am not aware of I would like to make a correction that it IS legal to own a switch blade/type knife but not legal to carry/conceal/possess in public regardless of concealed or not. “Own” and “Possess” are two different things.

  • Jackasmacka

    so let me get this right, you can walk around with a 1.5 foot bowie knife where everyone can see it and it will still be legal?