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Criminal Defense, Weapons Crimes

Staying Sharp on Ohio’s Knife Laws

Knife Law in Ohio

Earlier this year, Ohio legislators repealed a statewide ban on the manufacture and sale of automatically opening pocket or folding knives; changed the definition used to classify a knife as a deadly weapon; and, made way for the legal conceal and carrying of knives under state law. While these changes have generated some confusion, below is what you need to know about Ohio’s current conceal and carry laws as applied to knives.

The New Law

Previously, Ohio law prohibited anyone in the state from carrying a concealed “deadly weapon” other than a handgun. The recently passed House Bill 140, however, codified into law that knives, razors, or cutting instruments not used as a weapon do not count as a deadly weapon.

Ohio’s Concealed Carry Law as Applied to Knives

Ohio law only restricts the concealed carry of knives that are considered a “dangerous ordnance,” which include any knife that has a detachable blade which is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism, otherwise known as a ballistic knife. Beyond this designation, Ohio’s concealed carry law simply makes it illegal to conceal and carry any “deadly weapon.”

In Ohio, a deadly weapon is any instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and, designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon. Some knives by their nature are considered deadly weapons, including dirks, daggers, switchblades, Balisongs, butterfly knives, gravity knives, and Stilettos. However, the new law takes into consideration the purpose of the knife’s possession, specifically whether it was used as a weapon.

Factors Courts Use to Determine Whether Knives are Deadly Weapons

Ohio courts have ruled that the use of a steak knife to threaten trespassers, the transportation of a small knife to school, and the carrying of a knife for self-protection all were instances of deadly weapons. A 2010 case, State of Ohio v. Cattledge, from the 10th District Court of Appeals, relied on the following factors to determine whether a folding knife was a deadly weapon:

  • Whether the blade is easily opened with one hand;
  • Whether the blade locks into position and cannot close without triggering the lock;
  • Whether the blade is serrated;
  • Whether the blade’s tip is sharp;
  • Whether an additional design element on the blade, such as a hole, aids in the unfolding of the knife with one hand; and,
  • Whether the knife does not resemble an ordinary pocketknife.

In another case from the same year, the 2nd District Court of Appeals in State of Ohio v. Thompson laid out additional factors that can be used when determining if a knife is a deadly weapon, such as:

  • Who is carrying the knife;
  • The circumstances under which the knife is being carried (time, place, situation); and,
  • The reason the instrument holder claims to be carrying the knife.

Some examples of the court declining to find knives as deadly weapons include cases where knives are being carried by fishermen and hunters, paramedics, and campers. If an individual carries a knife for ordinary work-purposes (i.e. a firefighter) but then needs to use their knife for legitimate self-defense purposes, courts have indicated that the original purpose of carrying the knife would control the legal analysis.

Other Restrictions

It is important to note that because knives fall under the general umbrella of Ohio’s concealed carry law, any restrictions applying to that law likewise apply. These applications include prohibitions on specific locations, such as within a school zone or courthouse, limitations on possession if the owner has a disability, and additional constraints applied by local municipalities.

* * *

Ohio’s knife laws can be seen as muddled and confusing. Attorney Brad Wolfe is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Cleveland, Ohio. If you have been charged with a weapons-related crime, or are under investigation, Brad is available 24/7 at (216) 815-6000.
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