Understanding The Knife Laws in Maryland

knife laws in Maryland
The knife laws in Maryland can be best described as mysterious, and old age. For anyone who is a newcomer, it is difficult to understand the laws without seeking help. The article will be focusing on exploring the Maryland knife laws by simplifying them to their very core.

We are also covering everything that is allowed to own, legal to conceal carry, as well as everything that is prohibited by the law.

Knives or Blades That Are Legal to Own

Below, you can find all the knives or blades that are not illegal to possess in Maryland.

  1. Balisong Knife/Butterfly Knife.
  2. Slimmer knives like stilettos, daggers, and dirks are legal to own.
  3. Switchblades, automatic knives, and gravity knives.
  4. Ballistic knives are also legal to own.
  5. Knives that are disguised in belts or lipsticks are legal.
  6. Throwing knives are legal.
  7. Undetected knives are legal.
  8. Bowie knives along with other bigger knives are legal.

As per the law, the state of Maryland imposes no limit on what type of knife you want to carry.

Limitations on The Carrying of Knives

This heading talks about the types of knives you can carry with you.

  • You are not allowed to carry a dirk, throwing star, gravity knife, switchblade, or a bowie knife even in concealment.
  • The law does not allow you to open carry a dirk, throwing star, gravity knife, switchblade or a bowie knife with intentions of harming someone.
  • The law permits you to open or conceal carry any small sized knife you want.

What The Law States

The Maryland knife law has some standards for different weapons; weapons that are considered dangerous according to the law are found below.

Dangerous Weapons

According to the law:

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 4-101 (2012)

  • 4-101. Dangerous weapons

(a) Definitions. —

(4) “Star knife” means a device used as a throwing weapon, consisting of several sharp or pointed blades arrayed as radially disposed arms about a central disk.

(5) (i) “Weapon” includes a dirk knife, bowie knife, switchblade knife, star knife, sandclub, metal knuckles, razor, and nunchaku.

(ii) “Weapon” does not include: 1. a handgun; or 2. a penknife without a switchblade.

(c) Prohibited. —

(1) A person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon of any kind concealed on or about the person.

(2) A person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon, chemical mace, pepper mace, or a tear gas device openly with the intent or purpose of injuring an individual in an unlawful manner.

(3) (i) This paragraph applies in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Caroline County, Cecil County, Harford County, Kent County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, St. Mary’s County, Talbot County, Washington County, and Worcester County.

(ii) A minor may not carry a dangerous weapon between 1 hour after sunset and 1 hour before sunrise, whether concealed or not, except while:

  1. on a bona fide hunting trip; or
  2. engaged in or on the way to or returning from a bona fide trap shoot, sport shooting event, or any organized civic or military activity.

(d) Penalties. —

(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.

(2) For a person convicted under subsection (c)(1) or (2) of this section, if it appears from the evidence that the weapon was carried, concealed or openly, with the deliberate purpose of injuring or killing another, the court shall impose the highest sentence of imprisonment prescribed.

As per the law, carrying of dangerous opens, open or concealed with the intention of harming someone is prohibited. According to the law, dirks, bowie knives, switchblades, and throwing stars are the types of blades or knives that are considered dangerous. The law also mentions that a penknife which does not have a switchblade cannot be called a deadly weapon. Hence it is not prohibited.

Penknives are smaller as compared to the pocket knife, it is almost a word that is barely heard by people who are not knife collectors or enthusiasts. In the old days, when the letters were written using feathers, penknives were used increase the sharpness on quills. Penknives used to look like x-acto knives, but over the time, they have changed, and are now known as folding knives.

The famous case of Bacon vs. State that took place in 1991 realized that a penknife is a weapon that can harm regardless of its size, and mechanism. Bacon was then found innocent because he had a buck knife; a knife that locks into the place when unfolded.

This only means that you can keep any size of pocketknife you want, there shouldn’t be any switch that can automatically, or easily open the knife. Alternatively, you are carrying it with the intention to hurt someone. There have been other cases regarding the lethality, and the danger that circles around the penknife.

From this section, it is easy to determine that switchblades, dirks, and throwing stars are illegal to carry regardless of how you carry them. We are also aware of the fact that pocketknives of any size are legal to keep.

How to Tell If a Knife is Dangerous or Not

In the Savoy vs. State in 1964, it was found out that; gravity knife is a harmful weapon. A gravity knife or a switchblade is a knife that retracts when the button is pressed. Pressing the button lets go off a spring, and the blade comes out. The main difference between a switchblade and a gravity knife is that in switchblade, the blade comes out with the help of a spring, whereas the gravity knife uses the force of gravity to push the blade out.

Now that we are aware of the fact that switch blades, gravity knives, bowie knives, and dirks are never legal to carry. However, many knives are available on the market, and it is actually hard for the lawmakers to classify them all as legal, or illegal, and safe or unsafe weapons.

It is up to the state to prove that an object is a weapon. This is reflected in Anderson vs. State in 1922; if an object isn’t classifed as a weapon according to the law, then the responsibility of proving that it is a weapon and it can be harmful falls on the state.

This means that if a wooden stick is not considered a dangerous weapon, and you beat someone with it, you won’t be charged for having a deadly weapon in your possession. However, you will be guilty of having an intention of harming someone. This also means that knives that are designed for the purpose of cooking can’t be classified as weapons.

When finally the state is successful in proving that item is a weapon, it must also determine that the object is a harmful weapon. It is up to the state to demonstrate how the item has the potential of being a dangerous or a lethal weapon, as well as a use that displays the lethality of the weapon.

The state also has to justify, without any doubt that there was an intention to harm someone using a knife. Because by just having a knife in your possession, you are not breaking the law regardless of the scale or the size of the knife.

No Knives in School

The heading is self-explanatory; Maryland has a law against knives in school premises and can be read in details below.

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 4-102 (2012)

  • 4-102. Deadly weapons on school property

(a) Exceptions. — This section does not apply to:

(1) a law enforcement officer in the regular course of the officer’s duty;

(2) a person hired by a county board of education specifically for the purpose of guarding public school property;

(3) a person engaged in organized shooting activity for educational purposes; or

(4) a person who, with a written invitation from the school principal, displays or engages in a historical demonstration using a weapon or a replica of a weapon for educational purposes.

(b) Prohibited. — A person may not carry or possess a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon of any kind on public school property.

(c) Penalty. —

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.

(2) A person who is convicted of carrying or possessing a handgun in violation of this section shall be sentenced under Subtitle 2 of this title.

The Law Does Not Allow Sales of Ballistic Knives or Switchblades

The Maryland knife law also does not allow the sale of switchblades and ballistic knives. Full details can be found below.

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 4-105 (2012)

  • 4-105. Transfer of switchblade or shooting knife

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not sell, barter, display, or offer to sell or barter:

(1) a knife or a penknife having a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device in the handle of the knife, commonly called a switchblade knife or a switchblade penknife; or

(2) a device that is designed to propel a knife from a metal sheath by means of a high-compression ejector spring, commonly called a shooting knife.

(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or a fine of not less than $ 50 and not exceeding $ 500 or both.

As per the law, the sale of ballistic knives and switchblades have been banned in Maryland. Speaking of the case law that we discussed before, it is evident that gravity knives are classified as switchblades as well. This means that gravity knives are also prohibited.

However, it is important to notice that the law is not stopping you from owning these knives. Ownership of these knives is legal, selling them is not. This means that if you have ordered such a knife from Amazon or some other seller, the law requires you to leave the knife at home.


After carefully reading through the somewhat archaic laws, it is safe to conclude that all the knives are prohibited from Maryland schools. As for outside of school, knives or blades like bowies, dirks, gravity knives, and switchblades are prohibited from concealed, or open carry. These knives are also banned to open carry when you have the intention to hurt someone.

Penknives that are with no switchblades and several other knives are allowed to carry as long as they are concealed. There are no size limitations regarding the length of the blade as long as there’s no intent to harm.

You also need to know that there are some county laws that you have to take into consideration. What might be allowed in the state law might not be in the county law. Therefore, before you do carry the knife, it is essential that you check that out.


  • Anderson State. 328 Md. 426, 614 A.2d 963 (1992). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • Bacon v. State, 322 Md. 140, 586 A.2d 18 (1991). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • Dangerous weapons. Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 4-101  (2012). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • Deadly weapons on school property. Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 4-102  (2012). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • Handy v. State, 357 Md. 685, 745 A.2d 1107 (2000). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • Savoy State, 236 Md. 36, 202 A.2d 324 (1964). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.
  • Transfer of switchblade or shooting knife. Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 4-105  (2012). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from LexisNexis database.

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