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Knife Laws in Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Pennsylvania Laws
Curio Exception
Is it legal?
Is it legal if I have a felony
Contact us

Are you wondering whether it’s legal to own, carry, and keep a knife in Pennsylvania? If so, then you may be surprised to know that the state has knife laws that protect ownership. Yes, in Pennsylvania, it is legal to own a knife.

Be that as it may, the legality of knife ownership comes with several caveats. And, it is in these legal gray areas where knife owners have found themselves at the receiving end of arrests and confiscations.

Owning a knife may not be illegal in Pennsylvania, but if you’re a knife enthusiast or an avid hunter, you need to know more about the state’s knife laws. In doing so, you will also have a better idea of when to seek a lawyer.

Read on to learn more about Pennsylvania’s knife laws.

Knives as Defined by Pennsylvania’s Laws

Title 18 of the Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania outlines the laws on the possession of illegal weapons. Section 908 contains the typology of weapons and the exceptions for the ownership and use of some.

According to Section 908, certain weapons have an illegal status based on the intention and purpose behind their possession. More specifically, the section classifies offensive weapons based on their capacity to “inflict serious bodily injury.”

Knives, in their potential to cause bodily harm, have been considered among many of the listed illegal weapons in the state, alongside:

– Firearms
– Homemade blades
– Razors
– Tasers
– Explosive

A knife’s potential to cause physical harm could make it a weapon that cannot be carried or kept. However, two other conditions need to be met for a knife to be considered offensive.

First, a knife or blade needs to be exposed automatically. This means that the knife needs to have a mechanism for concealment and exposure. Hence, switchblades may be considered illegal. But, hunting knives may not be since they are sheathed and have no automatic mechanisms for concealment and exposure.

Second, there must be no lawful use of the knife in order for it to be deemed offensive by the authorities. Hence, any knife owner can possess a knife so long as he or she has a lawful purpose for having it.

This brings us to the concept of curio exception.

Curio Exception

Law enforcement authorities in Pennsylvania can confiscate a knife or arrest its owner if an unlawful cause is suspected. By default, an unlawful cause is the presumption whenever a person is seen to possess a knife.

In specific circumstances, a person found to be in possession of a knife can invoke section 908 of the Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania on knives. According to Section 908, Pennsylvania’s offensive weapon statutes, there are three exceptions when it comes to carrying and owning offensive weapons.

The first exception, or Section 908 b-1, states defenses for having a knife. These defenses, or curio exception, include:

– The use of a knife for a theatrical performance
– Temporarily having the knife after taking it from an aggressor
– Lawful use

There are other defenses or reasons for having a knife. Whatever the reason or circumstances are, the explanation and evidence should point towards the absence of unlawful intent or use.

To illustrate, you and your attorney can argue that the knife was just purchased and will be used for a woodworking project. Granted that there is sufficient evidence to prove this, you may be exonerated from the charges of illegal possession of a knife.

Common lawful purposes for having a knife can include the following:

– Hunting
– Fishing
– Kitchen use
– Woodwork within one’s residence

There are other situations in which having a knife can be considered lawful. The main idea is that the knife must suit a purpose for which you would need it.

While owning a knife is not illegal, there are limits set on its usage. There are also limits on where you can carry a knife.

As mentioned earlier, an important condition to the legality of carrying a knife is the common lawful use. Equally worth considering is the default presumption of law enforcement when they see someone with a knife.

Hence, when a person is seen in possession of a knife, the lawful possession will be determined based on the reason the person has. In other words, a person with a knife would need to explain why he or she has a knife in a specific place.

Let us compare two scenarios.

Person A was seen leaving a hardware store with a knife he just purchased. Person A was asked by the authorities about why he had a knife. After presenting a receipt for the purchase of the knife, person A explained that he was walking home to use it on a house project.

On the other hand, person B was seen in possession of a knife near a public school. When asked about the knife, person B gave an explanation but seemed anxious and stuttered.

In the case of person A, carrying a knife can be deemed legal since the purpose and evidence prove the absence of unlawful intent. Person B may be arrested for illegal possession of an offensive weapon as there was no proof of common lawful use.

In short, the limitations on carrying a knife are ultimately premised on the owner’s intent, explanation, and supporting evidence. There are, however, places where it is unconditionally illegal to carry a knife. According to the American Knife and Tool Association, these are:

All primary and secondary schools (K-12)
Court facilities

Is It Legal for People With Felonies To Own a Knife?

The answer to this question is “yes.” Pennsylvania makes no distinctions when it comes to people with felonies or warrants owning knives. Whether or not a person with a felony can carry one in public is a different matter altogether.

People with felonies are banned by law to carry knives in public places. The prohibition for this group also extends to other types of offensive weapons in the state like firearms.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Knife Lawyer

Illegal possession of any weapon in the state is a criminal offense. If you have been caught with a knife, know that you have rights. One of them is calling an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

You need a criminal defense lawyer who will be in your corner, representing you towards the best legal outcome. If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania, give us at Worgul, Sarna, and Ness a call at (412) 214-9394 today.