Michigan Knife Laws: Are Switchblades Legal in Michigan?

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.

Legal Knives in Michigan:

  • Common folding knives, such as pocket knives and Swiss Army knives, are legal to carry and possess in Michigan as long as they are not used with the intent to commit a crime.
  • Fixed blade knives, such as hunting knives and kitchen knives, are also legal to carry and possess in Michigan as long as they are not used with the intent to commit a crime.

Illegal Knives in Michigan:

  • Switchblades, gravity knives, and automatic knives are illegal to carry and possess in Michigan.
  • It is also illegal to carry or possess a knife with a blade longer than 3 inches in a weapon-free school zone.

Michigan Legal Knife Age

The legal age to purchase or carry a knife in Michigan is 18.

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 the manufacture, sale, and possession of switchblades in March 1954. Later in August 1958, the 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:

  • Switchblade
  • Automatic
  • Gravity
  • Daggers
  • Dirks
  • Stilettos
  • Throwing and stars
  • Bowie
  • Belt
  • lipstick
  • Metal detectors undetectable
  • Butterfly (Balisong)
  • Machete

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 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) is, 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 right 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 the objective falls on the prosecution.

Penalties for violating knife laws in Michigan

Violating knife laws in Michigan can result in fines and imprisonment. Carrying a switchblade, gravity knife, or automatic knife is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of $2,000. Carrying a knife with a blade longer than 3 inches in a weapon-free school zone is also a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of $2,000.

Legal Knife Lengths in Michigan

Michigan laws have few defined restrictions on knife length. All fixed-blade knives of any size are legal to open carry, however, according to Section 750.227(1) of The Michigan Penal Code, it is a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine not to exceed $2,500 to carry any dagger, dirk, stiletto, double-edged, or other dangerous weapon.

The law also goes on to say that any knife over 3 inches, when used against another person, is a defacto dangerous weapon. In Detroit and Lansing, it is illegal to carry any knife having a blade of over three inches in length, whether sheathed or not. It is important to note that these laws are subject to change and may vary from city to city.

Carrying a Hunting Knife Concealed

Many people in Michigan are familiar with the state’s laws regarding the concealment of a knife. It is generally prohibited to conceal-carry a double-edged knife, but there is an exception for hunting knives. Michigan law allows the concealed carry of a hunting knife as long as it has a blunt end that is incapable of cutting skin without the use of tremendous force.

This means that while a pocket knife or folding knife may be concealed, a dirks, stilettos, daggers, and other stabbing items cannot be concealed. All fixed-blade knives are legal to open-carry, regardless of their length or whether they are double-edged. It should be noted that there are some discretionary laws regarding the legality of knives, so it is important to check your local laws before carrying any knife.

Michigan Knife Blade Length Laws

Michigan Knife Blade Length Laws provide further clarification on the legality of carrying certain knives. According to Section 750.227(1) of The Michigan Penal Code, it is illegal to carry any knife with a blade length over three inches if you intend to use it unlawfully.

However, all fixed-blade knives can be openly carried, regardless of their length or whether they are double-edged. In Detroit and Lansing, it is illegal to carry any knife that has a blade length over three inches, sheathed or not. These laws are in place to protect citizens from potential harm and to ensure that knives are used responsibly.

Michigan Knife Length Laws

Michigan knife length laws are some of the most straightforward in the country. All fixed-blade knives can be open-carried, irrespective of their length or whether they are double-edged. However, there are some restrictions when it comes to concealed carrying.

According to Section 750.227(1) of The Michigan Penal Code, it is a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine not to exceed $2,500 to carry any “dagger, dirk, stiletto, double-edged, or knife having a blade over three inches in length” concealed. In Detroit and Lansing, it is illegal to carry any knife having a blade of over three inches in length, whether sheathed or not.

Michigan Automatic Knife Laws

Michigan has always been quite lenient when it comes to knife laws, and the October 2017 amendment to the law removed the prohibition on automatic knives. All knives, apart from OTFs, are legal to own and carry as long as you do not have the intent to use them in a criminal manner.

Spring-assisted knives, such as switchblades and ballistic knives, that were previously illegal, are now legal for possession and everyday carry in the state of Michigan. Open-carrying any knife is allowed as long as it is done with lawful intent. However, concealing any knife is still prohibited by Michigan Statutes Section 750.227.

Michigan Concealed Knife Laws

Michigan has a few restrictions on the concealed carry of knives. Generally, it is legal to conceal-carry a pocket knife, as long as it only has one edge. But it is illegal to carry stabbing knives, a double-edged/non-folding instrument (any length), or any other dangerous weapon concealed or openly in a vehicle. It is important to know that even though it is legal to open-carry any kind of knife in Michigan, the same cannot be said for concealed carry.

Michigan Legal Knife Age

Michigan also has no age-based restrictions on the sale and transfer of knives. Though there are restrictions on the sale of OTF knives, all other knives can be sold and transferred to anyone, regardless of their age. Furthermore, there is no minimum age requirement for possession or transportation of a knife, making it easy to find the right knife for anyone in Michigan.

Butterfly Knife Laws

Though the Michigan knife laws do not explicitly mention butterfly knives, they are legal to own, carry and use in the state. Balisongs, also known as butterfly knives, are two-handled folding knives with a blade concealed between two counter-rotating handles. They are often used as tools for flipping and tricks, but can also be utilized for practical purposes. In Michigan, it is legal to own and carry a balisong knife as long as it meets the state’s size requirements. It is important to note that it is illegal to carry any dangerous or deadly weapon (including a knife) concealed without a permit.

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.

Punishment

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.

Exemptions

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.

Concealment

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 carry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size knife is legal to carry in Michigan?

The legal knife blade length in Michigan is 3 inches or less.

Can you carry an OTF knife in Michigan?

OTF knives are illegal to carry and possess in Michigan.

Can a 15 year old carry a pocketknife in Michigan?

The legal age to purchase or carry a knife in Michigan is 18.

What is the longest knife blade you can carry in Michigan?

The longest knife blade you can carry in Michigan is 3 inches or less.

What knives are banned in Michigan?

Switchblades, gravity knives, and automatic knives are banned in Michigan.

Bottom line

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.

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.

6 thoughts on “Michigan Knife Laws: Are Switchblades Legal in Michigan?”

    • Yeah. That’s what I said in the article above, besides all knives are legal to own and to open carry, apart from those banned by MCL 750.226a.

      Reply
      • Is it legal to own a Klingon Bel’leth? I am not sure what this blade is classed into. This maybe something new. If I accidentally bought one in case Michigan doesn’t allow it, I do not have any criminal history. This would be a display Bel’leth.

        Reply
  1. Don’t ever try to defend yourself with one when attacked though. You’ll go to jail and you will be charged with assault. Michigan doesn’t recognize self defense.

    Reply
  2. Jarheads like their Kaybars and various commandos like their Fairbairns and those with more money than is good for them like their Gerbers. Some guys like particularly sharp hunting knives.
    I presume these are legal to own, but can they be carried and if so, concealed or open?

    Reply

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