Can Felons Carry Knives?

There are many reasons to want to carry a knife. They can be a handy tool, serve as personal protection, or for hunting purposes. To name a few.

What many people do not know is that it may be illegal to carry a knife around. Whether a felon or not. State laws can vary greatly, but many do specify certain knives as being prohibited.

So, can a felon carry knives? Let’s discuss this.

can felons carry knives

Right from the time of conviction, felons are severely restricted from access to weapons. Or anything that can be used as a weapon. So even in prison, they cannot have access to even a butter knife.

Though it may seem tame, authorities are aware of how easily it can be used to deadly effect. Hence the use of plastic cutlery in prisons.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 asserts that felons should not be sold to guns. While state laws on felons and weapons may vary, this federal law is absolute.

Meaning that even if state law allows a felon to have a gun, they may still be prosecuted under federal law.  Unless the reinstatement of gun rights was achieved through a governor’s pardon.

While the issue of gun rights is clear, there is some confusion as to other weapons, like knives.

While the Gun Control Act prohibits the sale of guns to felons, no federal law prohibits the sale of knives. With the only exception being the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 that bans switchblades and ballistic knives.

This means felons can legally purchase most other knives. Mainly, the seller will only need to see ID to verify the person is of legal age. Background checks are not done.

But there is some concern when it comes to possession. Different knives come with different rules.

Types of Knives

can felons carry knife

Some knives serve a particular utility purpose. They can be considered tools. Such knives can include chefs’ knives and pocketknives.

Fixed blade knives are those that do not open or close using any mechanism. Kitchen knives are amongst the fixed blade knives.

Folding knives are those that can have the blade folded into the handle. Pocketknives are foldable knives.

Knives can also be categorized according to their function. Hunting knives are straight blade knives used to dress game.

Utility or multi-tool knives are smaller and may have several blades and other tools foldable into the handle. Swiss army knives are a good example of this.

Many states prohibit the possession or carrying of knives that are considered deadly. This means they have no typical utility use and have blade styles that would make them dangerous. These are knives considered optimized to cause lethal or serious bodily injury.

Examples of such knives include double-edged daggers, bowie knives, stilettos, and switchblades.

Different states can have different definitions of what is a permitted and dangerous knife to have. it is vital to consult your state and county laws to ensure you are not doing anything illegal.

Besides the type of knife, states may also place prohibitions based on the length of the blade. Most states do not permit the carrying of knives with blades longer than three inches.

They may also place restrictions on whether some knives can be carried openly or concealed.

Can A Felon Legally Carry a Knife?

can felon carry knives

As said, states can have differing laws on what constitutes a deadly weapon. State laws mostly focus on the types of permitted knives and their blade lengths. Also, on whether to open or conceal carry.

Besides the Switchblade Knife Act, federal law is mainly focused on where one is permitted to carry knives. Federal buildings and airports are amongst the places one cannot carry knives into. Crossing state lines with certain knives can also be illegal.

State laws can vary greatly. Some focus on how the knives are carried. Some laws will make it illegal to conceal carry a knife but legal to open carry it.

Other states may forbid both open and conceal carry of certain knives. In many cases, the knives that are prohibited are those with no utility purpose. This means they can be deemed deadly and used as weapons.

In Colorado, felons are not allowed to possess weapons. This includes crossbows. They may however have a knife whose blade is no more than three and a half inches in length.

Outdoor activities are factored in here. So in Colorado, a felon may have a knife if for hunting or fishing sports purposes. It is however advisable to stick to knives that are still no longer than the prescribed length.

In California, most knives are permitted, with no restriction on blade length. Misleading knives are however illegal. These are knives made to look like something else or hidden within.

This includes cane swords, penknives, and lipstick knives. Open and concealed carry of utility-type knives is permitted. Those that are not used as tools but can be deadly are what is barred.

In New York state there is no restriction on knife blade length. But New York City does prohibit blades longer than four inches.


Felons can carry knives, but it will depend on what kind and its blade length. Familiarizing yourself with the state, county, and municipality knife laws is a must.

Given the confusion these laws can create, it may be worthwhile to consult a lawyer. More so if you need a knife for work purposes. This is common in blue-collar jobs like carpentry and construction.

Being caught with the wrong kind of knife and inappropriate blade length can mean being arrested. In some cases, it has been the third strike that led to felons earning life sentences.

Also, keep in mind where you carry your knife. there are places where even having a permit will not matter. This can include federal buildings and schools.

So when it comes to knives, learn the laws, avoid interstate transport, and stick to utility use.

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