There are knife laws you need to understand before having a blade on you in Michigan State. Generally, Michigan State protects your constitutional right to own knives but has several restrictions on where and how you carry your sword around.
We know legal issues aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and matters can become more complicated in urban areas such as Detroit with municipal restrictions. Thus, we aim to break down the Michigan knife laws for you to understand easily. We let you in the correct position of Michigan State regarding blade possession, ownership, and handling.
Stick around, we burst some misconceptions, and understand what the 2017 amendments mean to a knife enthusiast.
A Brief History of Knife Laws
European smiths invented switchblades in the mid-18th century for use on flintlocks and coach guns. The switchblades remained for use as folding spike bayonets in firearms until the mid-19th century.
During the 19th century, artisans from Europe and America competed in custom-making switchblades for common use. By the 1950s, these automatic blades had become the favorite weapon for teenage gangsters, prompting control laws.
New York passed the first law in America banning manufacture, sale, and possession of switchblades in March 1954. Later in August 1958, U.S. defined a switchblade and provided several restrictions on control and ownership through The Federal Switchblade Act. In 2009, an amendment to the 1958 Act authorized States to pass regulations on switchblades. The amendment also made ‘spring assisted’ knives legal.
In October 2017, Michigan State passed amendments to previous knife laws, making Michigan a knife-friendly state. Public Act 96 of 2017 allowed the sale and possession of switchblades and pocketknives.
Relevant statutes you should be aware of:
- MCL 750.222a: Defines double-edged and non-folding stabbing instruments
- MCL 750.226: Defines the legality of a weapon based on the intent of the carrier
- MCL 750.227: Restricts carrying and concealing weapons in vehicles and on person
- MCL 750.231: Creates exceptions to several acts
- MCL 750.237a: Creates weapons-free zones
- MCL 380.1313: Elaborates on dealing with weapons in possession by pupils
Michigan Knife Laws Explained
What You Can Legally Own
Michigan State has no restrictions regarding the minimum age for possession or transportation of knives. Though there are restrictive municipal laws in urban centers, Michigan allows people to own the following knife styles:
- Throwing and stars
- Metal detectors undetectable
- Butterfly (Balisong)
Michigan outlaws ownership of double-edged knives whose blades deploy out the front of the handle.
Open vs. Concealed Carry
Michigan permits the open carrying of almost all knife types. The “open-carry” means your blade is easily visible to anybody who meets you. For example, you are within legal limits walking with a switchblade strapped to your shoulder, but when you put on a jacket covering it, you then stand in violation of Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) 750.227.
The general open-carry rule has only two exceptions. First, MCL 750.226(a) bans the sale and possession of all mechanically operated folding knives. Technically, all knives with a pressured spring and opens automatically when a button, lever, or switch on the handle or bolster is pressed.
The other exception is from MCL 750.226, which defines the legality of a knife based on the motive of having it with you. The statute outlaws carrying knives with blades longer than three inches with the intent of harming other people.
While you can open-carry many knife styles, the law becomes trickier when it comes to concealed carrying. Section 750.227 outlaws concealed carrying some knife styles, either on yourself or in your car. Though the blade length is unspecified, you cannot conceal carry daggers, dirks, stilettos, double-edged non-folding pointed instruments, or other dangerous weapons. The statute allows concealed carrying of hunting knives and for hunting purposes only.
In summary, below is what is legal or illegal to carry.
- All knives legal to own are legal to open carry, apart from those banned by MCL 750.226a.
- Hunting knives can be carried concealed or openly.
- It’s illegal to conceal carry dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing blades.
- It’s illegal to carry openly or concealed any automatic non-folding knife.
- It’s legal to have a spring-assisted knife.
- It’s unlawful to take a knife with the intent of harming other people.
Carrying Knives in Your Car
Michigan Penal Code 750.227 includes a clause on carrying knives in personal vehicles. Whereas it clearly defines what a double-edged, non-folding knife (any blade designed to stab), the blade types you can carry in a car are not well defined. For instance, you can conceal carry pocket knives in your jacket pocket but not in the glove compartments inside your vehicle.
To carry a concealed-carry eligible knife in a car, you have to keep it where no vehicle occupant apart from the car owner can access it. For example, it’s legal to carry a concealed-carry eligible knife in a case inside the vehicle’s trunk.
Legal Knife Length
Michigan laws have few defined restrictions on knife length. For instance, all fixed-blade knives of any size are legal to open carry, irrespective of if they are double-edged. However, section 750.227(1) outlaws any concealed carrying of fixed-blades, except for hunting knives.
Another contentious aspect is the definition of “a dangerous weapon” as stipulated by MCL 750.227. In People v. Brown, 406 Mich. 215(1979), the court ruled that a machete was not a dangerous weapon per se as the defendant had intended to use it for bush clearing. The prosecution had no evidence to show the defendant intended to harm other people.
Intention to Harm
MCL 750.226 defines clearly the illegality of using weapons against another human. Knives above three inches automatically fall under dangerous armaments when the intent of carrying them is to harm people.
The extended meaning of this law is that the intent overrides any legal rights of carrying a knife. For example, in the 1979 People v Iverson case, the jury clarified that a pocketknife becomes illegal to have once the intent is to harm another person. The burden of proving objective falls on the prosecution.
Michigan Laws on Knife-Free Zones
Section 750.237a establishes weapon-free school zones where you cannot bring a knife. You will be in violation if you brandish a knife inside school buses or school property with students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The law leaves colleges to define their own rules.
Other weapon-free places include public buildings, airports, public parks, and public transport.
The Michigan Penal Code sets the punishment for violating knife laws to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine not exceeding $2,500 US.
Michigan law 750.231 provides exemptions for law enforcement agencies, Reserves, and military members from code 750.227 unless they are gaining access to a weapon-free school zone. Other school-specific exemptions are in section 750.237(a) of Michigan Laws.
The clauses in Michigan knife laws relating to the concealment of a knife are generally unclear. For most concealment cases taken before Michigan courts, the jury had to apply decisional law unless the prosecution presented clear evidence.
For example, in the case of State v Jones 162 N.W. 2d 847 (1968), the jury defined concealment as “hiding a knife such that it’s indiscernible by people casually meeting the carrier, or coming into an ordinary contact”. Therefore, having a pocket clip carrier for your blade may pass as concealed carrying.
Michigan knife laws allow for ownership of most knife styles, including switchblades which were illegal before 2017. The only prominent restriction is on carrying dangerous knives, with no strong emphasis on blade lengths.
The Michigan State is clear on the legality of carrying knives and the intent. The intent of carrying a knife overrides any legal right of possessing it. Also, there are well-defined places where you can’t take knives and other weapons, such as public places and lower-grade schools.
Generally, Michigan State is a knife-friendly place, and most probably, all your blade collections are legal to own and open-carry.