The knife laws in Ohio are under pending changes as of January 11, 2021. On this date, governor DeWine signed SB 140, which will go into effect 90 days after the signature. SB 140 amends sections 2923.12, 2923.18, and 2923.20 of the Revised Code to exempt knives not used as weapons. Additionally, switchblades and spring blade knives will no longer have restrictions for possession.
The new amendments will also discontinue prohibitions against selling, possessing for sale, manufacturing, or furnishing certain weapons other than firearms or dangerous ordnance. After the amendment solidifies as law, Ohioans may be less likely to violate the law by carrying simple pocket knives.
What Types of Knives Are Legal To Own in Ohio?
Current Ohio law allows legal ownership of switchblades and gravity knives, balisong (butterfly) knives and balisong trainers, ballistic knives, dirks, daggers, bowie knives, stilettos, and other stabbing knives. Ohio knife law contains few restrictions on the types of knives that a person can own.
In Ohio, legality issues arise depending on where and how a person is in possession of a knife rather than the type of knife that person has. For instance, any concealed carry of a knife in Ohio could potentially lead to a charge, even if the knife is not fully concealed. The state allows some exemptions for officers of the law.
What Types of Knives Are Illegal To Carry in Ohio?
Under current Ohio knife laws, it is not illegal to own any specific types of knives. However, situations may become increasingly complicated when concealing the knife and taking it off your own property. Under its current laws, any kind of knife may fall into the “deadly weapon” category.
The law defines deadly weapons as “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.” While some states provide statutory clauses to make exemptions for standard pocket knives, Ohio is not among them.
Concealed carry for any kind of knife in Ohio can potentially cause problems for the carrier. Ohio law defines concealment as any obscuring of the knife which is indiscernible to an ordinary observer from a distance where the knife would be viewable if openly carried.
This definition for concealment does not require that the knife be entirely hidden, which brings about the issue of pocket carry. Many kinds of knives include a pocket clip, which allows the carrier to clip the knife to the top of a pocket for easy access. Even if the clip shows outside of a person’s pocket, that person may have trouble on their hands.
While a readied knife could be a separate issue for the carrier in and of itself, a clipped knife may still fall under the category of “concealed deadly weapon.” As long as the knife is not noticeable to the ordinary observer, concealment will be a point of contention.
Determination of a weapon’s deadliness is entirely up to the law and judicial officers. Still, to err on the side of caution, a person should not conceal any type of blade or bladed instrument with a serrated edge, quick-open (or “automatic” blades), or razer-point blades.
Specific Codes and Restrictions
Under its current regulations, Ohio knife laws prohibit the transfer of switchblades, gravity knives, spring blades, and similar knives. Exceptions to this law include the transfer of the knife to a law enforcement officer.
While it is not unlawful to own an automatic knife under Ohio knife laws, it is illegal to possess an automatic knife with the purpose of selling. Similarly, it is unlawful to sell an automatic knife or transfer an automatic knife to an individual other than a law enforcement officer.
Under these laws, switchblades, spring blades, and gravity knives are a few types of knives that the state considers to be automatic. However, open carry of these types of knives is not prohibited if the knife is not concealed in any way. To be cautious, a person should not keep an automatic knife or deadly weapon “ready at hand,” even in their own home.
Naturally, Ohio knife laws make many exceptions for those who are law enforcement officers or military personnel. Officers, agents, and employees of Ohio or any other state within the United States may have the authorization to carry concealed weapons and act within the scope of their duties.
Knives on Federal Property
Knives are unlawful on federal property unless carried by an exempted officer, agent, or employee.
Ohio Knife Laws, Offenses, and Penalties
Those in violation of Ohio knife laws for concealed carry of a deadly weapon will receive a charge for a first-degree misdemeanor. This charge carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in prison and/or a fine of $1,000. Violations that occur in a school zone elevate the charge to a fifth-degree misdemeanor, the maximum penalty for which is up to 12 months in prison and a fine not to exceed $2,500.
Legal Defenses for Knife Charges
Affirmative defenses for knife charges under Ohio knife laws where the possessor was otherwise legally able to possess the knife include carrying the knife:
- to or from the person’s place of business or occupation puts the person in a situation where they are particularly susceptible to crime and therefore have justification in possessing the knife
- for defensive purposes while engaged in a lawful activity but have reasonable cause to fear for their own safety, the safety of a family member, or reason to fear a criminal attack on their home
- for any lawful purpose while in their own home
As affirmative defenses, a person must use them following the knife charge rather than at the time of the charge. The defendant is responsible for providing proof that backs up their defense. However, if a defendant claims that the knife in their possession is only for everyday use, the burden of proof would fall to the prosecution to determine if the knife meets legal requirements.