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)

Comments

  1. Washington states laws could be interpreted to make just about any knife illegal. Thanks for info. I always length was the major difference, but according to the article, size isn’t even mentioned.

    1. I was held at knife point for hours . He had it to my throat several times said I was going to die . I was bruised , punched , my rotator and bicept muscle torn .My bedding and bed cut to pieces , He stabbed my phone , counter tops , kitchen table , kicked my walls , washer and dryer . Destroyed mirrors dressers, pictures, and my TV . Made me take my clothes off . Well apparently in Wa. State even if your are already a convicted felon if the tip of the knife breaks off while trying to kill someone as long as its under 3 inches long . It’s not considered a deadly weapon . He walked with 7 weeks of jail time and a 5 Yr restraining order and was suppose to move to California . Justice ?

  2. WHAT in the world is ‘so long as it is not carried in a way that may cause others alarm’ this could mean anything…. A fixed blade in a sheeth, folder on a clip in your pocket, a sling shot in your pocket, open carry of a firearm or concealed, someone gets a peek or even one who just wants to make an issue to cause trouble in your life. If one has a concealed permit is any of this a concern???

    1. Yes, it is incredibly subjective. Please be a rich person with a good lawyer who can get busted for this and fight it to the state supreme court. 🙂

  3. I drive a Truck from NC to CA, sometimes to WA, using I-40 for northern CA or I-20 for southern CA. These two interstates cross many states so, Im reading state by state.

    I’ve seen the word “Alarm” more then once, as in causing others “alarm”.. Websters dictionary defines alarm as a few things including “sudden sharp apprehension and fear resulting from the perception of imminent danger”.

    My question:
    What if a person in Washington State, seeing my knife legally open carried, and has not taken their prescription Prozac medication and feels “alarmed” ? Am I at fault?

    1. In this crazy state, the answer is probably, yes Frank.

    2. Crazy or filled with a bunch pussified smile and talk shit about you behind your back type of sin-tax loving democrat maniacs who never seen a stop sign or a red light in their life.

    3. I used to take Prozac and I still take other anti-depressants, but I personally find 0 alarm in a knife. If I saw someone with a knife I’d be more inclined to inquire about it because I am a weapon collector and enthusiast.
      Although I find this same problem, I don’t know what “Alarm” would entail or “concealment” because I might have it in a sheath or holster of some sort (holster referencing sheaths that resemble a gun holster, not a literal holster)

    4. What if you are a martial artist and are practicing sword forms in your own backyard or giving a private lesson and your neighbor is a communist dickhead? Yes you can aparently be arrested for this or practicing knife throwing in your backyard! This is why people should never vote for liberals!!!

    5. For the love of liberty, PLEASE stop being paranoid!
      Actually, you’d be on private property, and your own to boot, so you’d have a very strong case that they were infringing on your rights more than you were on theirs. Many of my friends practice martial arts, collect weapons, LARP, and otherwise swing “dangerous-looking” objects around. None of them have ever gotten in trouble with the police about this, even when having airsoft battles within a few miles of the biggest prison in the south sound region, where our state capitol is. They did, of course, call to inform the prison admins of what they’d be doing in advance.

      Most of my friends have been independent-to-liberal from the start, but all of them, even the ones who used to vote republican, have turned Democrat in disgust at the hypocrisy, corporate toadying, bigotry, and callousness that now drive every trend in the Republican Party.
      And even if what you said were true, I’d say it’s a lesser evil than allowing reckless corporations to screw over the entire economy and environment.

      Please, never vote for conservatives.
      Convincing liberals to do the right thing is much, much easier.

    6. liberals haven’t done one thing right ever so how are you going to convince them to change.

    7. Unh, no. There is at least one city (I don’t recall which offhand) in this country where it is legal to own a firearm and keep it in your home, but you cannot have it on your person in your yard, or even in your (attached) garage. A court ruled that the yard and the garage were not part of the “home” in which the firearm owner could lawfully possess the gun. There is no reason why this same irrational thought process couldn’t be used against knives.

    8. But your yard and garage is also private property just as your home is which would make it legal and thus should stand for most states and cities that you can legally possess these weapons outside your home. Not to mention in most states it is also legal to discharge a firearm in your backyard if you are in county property (unless otherwise noted or near a church.)

    9. what a bunch of nonsense. You are clueless about the law.

    10. the state supreme court ruled in 2012(?) that your backyard does not qualify as “in your home”

    11. Im not being paranoid you constitution hating liberal pansey d-wad.

      Keep letting those dbags take our rights and keep lying about and insulting people who UNLIKE YOU are trying to protect our constitutional rights.

      The letter of the state law would allow law enforcement to arrest individuals for that…clearly this is unconstitutional……but keep voting in liberal hippy dippy panseys that want to disarm everyone and see how much of your rights get taken away.

      Btw if you Larped with actual swords then tachnically you violated the law whether it was enforced or not.

      Something is very wrong when I can legally carry my Glock and walk into the woods and legally take out a goose or a duck with a 10 gauge but I cant practice with a knife, sword, or a nunchuck on my own property or someone elses with permission.

      Btw Nunchucks arnt illegal in Washington but they are illegal in California.

      Stupid pc biggoted hypocritical liberal hippy dippy pansey bullcrap.

      It must be all that acid those hippy dbags chugged down to “expand their mind”.

    12. Please stop being paraniod? Oh great more of this stupid manipulative “no one wants to take your guns” bs.

      Stfu. Look at how those crappy knife laws are written in your state. Go get a liberal to change them I DARE YOU!

      You cant because they actually do want to take away our crap and dont give a crap about the constitution…but you wont vote for people who want to protect your rights because you are a brainwashed shill.

    13. They are not required by law to take their medication. “sudden sharp apprehension and fear resulting from the perception of imminent danger” sounds like paranoia and any such enforcement of this as a law is strictly Totalitarianism and should not be accepted.

  4. I know the blade length issue is a city of Seattle code/law, not a state law.
    So on top of state laws, there are local county and city laws to contend with as well.

    1. Seattle has a city ordinance that prohibits concealed weapons of six feet in length. Does that give you an idea of the brain power of politicians?

    2. You wanna cite the code there? I can’t find it. All I see is no fixed blades, no folders longer than 3.5″

  5. 9.41.250 says a knife with “bias toward closure” is not a “spring blade knife”. This means that assisted openers are specifically legal. (New law, in effect July 2012)

    1. What about a karambit,that is a folder?
      Can I put it in my pocket? Or do I have to display it somehow? Is the clip on the outside of my pocket enough?

    2. Does it fold? I’ve seen karambits that fold and that are fixed. State law doesn’t care. Seattle hates fixed blades, though, and who knows which of the other hundreds of laws you might be breaking…there’s no pre-emption! If the local law prohibits concealed carry, then the visible clip should be good enough.

    3. If I recall there is still a legal fixed blade or sheathed blade length for legal carry of 3.5″ and this is open carry.

    4. Don’t know what jurisdiction you’re talking about here. Seattle generally prohibits the carry of a fixed blade knife. No distinction is made whether open or concealed. There are occupational exemptions and for hunting/fishing. SPD is quite happy to bust people for it, too. Two state supreme court challenges have failed to loosen this prohibition. (It should be noted that both of these cases involved idiots claiming a 2A right to carry around a paring knife which the courts ruled was not a weapon protected by 2A. Now, if you want to try this with a “real” knife and not a bit of improvised kitchenware, I’m sure we can get a legal defense fund up for you.)

      Remember ALWAYS that logic is not a necessary component of the law

      See CIty of Seattle vs Montana (1996) and Seattle vs Evans (2015)

      Folding knives in Seattle are limited to 3.5″, whether open or concealed. There is no specific length limit in state law, fixed or folding, which is unfortunately not preemptive.

      (I am not a lawyer. Do not trust me. You have a responsibility to look this stuff yourself as part and parcel of being a free and informed citizen. If you see something you don’t like, please contact your elected representatives and complain to them. That’s what we pay them for!)

  6. These laws go against the right to keep and especially BEAR arms. That they have stood for so long illustrates the way that the Left has corrupted the courts with liberal activist judges.

    1. You are very right i im no adult but I do know my rights and I Belive carring a switch blade is no different than any other knife as long as you know how to keep it out of others harm

    2. The idea that that some weapons are “bad” because certain types of “bad” people use them (like 1930s gangsters used Tommy guns), and that their possession and use can be prevented by laws (to which only the law-abiding adhere), is a sad one that goes back a long time.

    3. The constitution has been null and void for at least 100 years.

  7. i am a knife collector and do not have a switchblade in my collection and find this law in wash.state to be idiotic.anyone can get a gun on any street corner in any city but you cant have a spring blade knife???

    1. “anyone can get a gun on any street corner in any city”

      Wrong. There are laws concerning the types of firearms that can be legally purchased and owned (for instance, there is no free commerce in NFA Class III weapons – such trade is tightly regulated) and “anyone” cannot “get a gun” legally; felons and others are considered “prohibited persons” who are not allowed to possess firearms. (You are certainly talking about legal transfers. If not, then it would also be true that “anyone can get a knife – of any kind – on any street corner in any city,” so long as you’re considering illegal knives and illegal transfers as well. But you’re not, because your premise – which is correct – is that there are laws covering the legal ownership and transfers of knives, while imagining that such rules don’t apply to firearms. They do.)

      Additionally, since the passage of I-594, private sales of legal firearms between legal owners requires a background check. So your statement was wrong with respect to certain firearms and certain purchasers, and is now generally wrong for all types of firearms transfers in Washington State.

      The point is that there are laws covering the possession and transfer of both knives and firearms, and it’s wrong to think that firearms are not regulated in a manner very similar (including nonsensical and illogical laws) to knives.

    2. Im pretty sure he meant anyone can illegally get a gun on any street corner..which would be almost correct

    3. Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as they say. “Any street corner” is an exaggeration in any city in America, and his comparison of legal knives with illegal guns is dishonest anyway!

    4. As I pointed out, if he was comparing legal knife ownership to illegal gun acquisition and ownership, the comparison is unfair and is pointless (it doesn’t make sense to discuss the burdens imposed on a legal activity – knife collection – by complaining that others conduct another activity – illegal firearms sales – without similar burdens). If he was comparing legal knife ownership to legal firearms ownership, he was wrong. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he at least was trying to make sense, and just happened to be wrong, rather than considering that he was not just wrong, but being nonsensical too.

    1. Knife laws can be defined by the state since there is no federal say against it, also counties/cities can define as well so no its not wrong and no this is the US, a country within the continent America

    2. Switchblades are generally a shitty knife. The blade might be double sided but no thought put into practicality. What I mean is that they are designed to be opened quickly for some retard with a sharp pointed blade meant only for piercing or stabbing. There are far better knives with schraded edges or hooks for cutting wood or gutting fish that are (like trucks) more practical than switchblades (that are impractical like sport-cars.)

  8. I would not refer to an “ordinary” slip joint pocket knife as a weapon should one be stopped. If the police officer asks “are you armed?”, the response is “no, but I do have a pocket knife that I carry as a too”. You might be asked to surrender it while you are talking to the cop, but it will be returned, and if you are charged, you, and the cop, will be able to say “it’s not a weapon”.

    1. They have gone to Hell with a joke. I am 69 years old and have carried a knife since I was 5 years old and living on a farm in Indiana. In those days and that place, whittling was a skill every boy had to learn. In addition, you can sharpen pencils (the term pen knife refers back to the days of quill pens, which had to be cut occasionally to use as a pen), clean fingernails, use when fishing or hunting. It was a strange boy back then who did not have a pocket knife, but now they kick kids out of school for a simple pocket knife. A knife is a tool, nothing more or less.

    2. And I wish that kids were encouraged to learn those skills today, but, we aren’t. I live in a smallish west coast city, went to a pretty good high school, and only had room to take one practical elective – I chose drafting – and I wish like hell that I’d had more exposure to crafts. The local scout troop wasn’t worth much at cub level, all the awkwardness with none of the outdoor adventure. I was terribly shy and dropped out after less than a year.

      If you’re so concerned about kids losing the ability to handle tools safely (I can sympathize), then please, get involved in your local school board! Debate, compromise, think hard about what skills give children the most value, and keep pushing everyone else in your community to really think about it as well!
      Please help the next generation learn how to fend for themselves and help others at a younger age than I did!

    3. I never refer my pocket knife as a weapon. I refer to it as a cutting tool. Tool is the keyword.

  9. If you were to openly carry a recurve bow, and possibly a dozen throwing knives in a wrist sheath and leg sheath. Would that be illegal? I think so but I can’t be sure

    1. I think you are trolling here. Why are you carrying all that?

  10. What about balisongs in washington state? are those legal to own or carry or what?

    1. Yes they are. I own one myself, and actually use it fairly often at work.

    2. You’re 100% sure of this? ” 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).” doesn’t include balisongs? I really hope not because I want to carry my new alphabeast

    3. I wouldn’t carry one. Well, I would, because I’m stupid that way, but I’d be certain I was committing a gross misdemeanor every minute I was doing so….

  11. So with my Wa State carry permit, I can carry a 44 Mag under my jacket, but not an automatic knife?

    1. Correct. You are issued a concealed pistol license in Washington, not a concealed weapon permit such as what Idaho issues.

    2. No, there is no concealed Weapon Permit in Washington. You have a Concealed Pistol License, as stated on the license itself.

  12. my butterfly knife has a latch that you must undo before you can use it. Is it still illegal?

    1. According to a video put out by kniferights.org, which is sort of an NRA for knife laws, balisongs are illegal in the UK, Canada, the US and the Philipines. They are fighting to get stupid knife laws repealed. They should be like Arizona, which has no knife laws, and knives are covered by a Concealed Weapon Permit. Knife owners are urged to join Knife Rights, and join the fight against really stupid, obsolete, and irrelevant knife laws.

    2. The latch makes no difference. I don’t think state law lets you have that, latch or no latch, but I am not a lawyer.

    3. Balisong knives are illegal in just about every place is my understanding. The latch is a necessary part of the knife, to keep it from opening until you want it to.

  13. What defines “alarm” in this use, because that is a very vague term in this case. Just possessing a knife like a balisong or a throwing knife would cause some alarm to people who aren’t accustomed to it or find carrying weapons wrong and could easily lead to an arrest whether or not any intent whatsoever was shown. And what about concealment? Does a waistband style sheath count as concealed? (I personally prefer pockets but if concealing them in public is a crime then I’m wondering if a sheath counts as “concealment”)

    1. Alarm can probably be considered pretty loosely. Depends on judge/ jury I guess. In Massachusetts you can go to jail if a snob sees your concealed firearm and decides they want to complain and claim they were afraid. I think it is a similar case but it could also be “reasonable alarm” which might mean you would have to be a minority or have a tattoo or something (only half kidding). If people can see the sheath it is not concealed. With two caveats; they must be able to recognize it as a sheath to a knife. Also, another article on this site mentioned that not being able to see the handle was concealed- not sure if it was only in that state though.

    2. It’s incredibly subjective and I can hardly wait for some very rich person with a good lawyer to get busted for it and get this cleared up. I will say that I have never seen anyone exhibit “alarm” with a knife of mine, even in lefty Seattle. Just be cool, OK?

    3. Thank you for the info on assisted opening. I was told by a Centralia PD officer that assisted opening knives were illegal in Washington, just as if they were switchblades. Cost us a lot of sales.

    1. In theory, yes. But there is no statewide pre-emption of knife laws. You may not carry a KA-BAR in Seattle, for instance, open or concealed. (Like you can conceal that sucker…) There may be any number of other local laws that bite you in the a$$. Research, research, research!

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