Knife laws in Michigan can create confusion, as an urban area such as Detroit and Lansing pass statutes that are much more restrictive than the knife laws passed at the state level. The major cities in Michigan have followed the legal lead set by San Francisco and New York City.
However, Michigan knife laws typically protect the right of citizens to bear arms, as clearly written into the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
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The robust outdoor recreational industry-especially fishing and hunting has played a huge role in drafting knife laws that are favorable to outdoor recreational enthusiasts. From wilderness areas located in the Upper Peninsula to well-stocked ponds in the backcountry of the Lower Peninsula, Michigan Knife laws remain citizen and visitor friendly. However, this does not mean that some state legislators have stopped trying to curtail your constitutional rights.
Legal Knives to Own
Despite conflicting municipal laws that cause confusion among residents of and visitors to the State of Michigan, state law clearly permits ownership of the following styles of knives:
- Butterfly Knives (Balisong)
Michigan does not permit ownership double-edged, out of the front knives.
Open Carry Knife Laws in Michigan
As of early 2019, the State of Michigan law considers every legal knife to be eligible for open carry. However, open carry laws represent the state law that has the most conflict with municipal and residential district laws. Local knife ownership laws that address open carry typically are stricter than what state law allows. In fact, the difference between state and municipal open carry laws has triggered the most lawsuits filed in state courts.
Concealed Carry Knife Laws in Michigan
Michigan Penal Code 750.227 clearly addresses the legality of the concealed carrying of knives:
(1) A person shall not carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, a double-edged non-folding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon, except a hunting knife adapted and carried as such, concealed on or about his or her person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person. […] (3) A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00.
The Michigan Penal Code does a better job of clarifying the definition of a double-edged, non-folding knife than the definitions written into other state laws.
(1) As used in this chapter, “doubled-edged, non-folding stabbing instrument” does not include a knife, tool, implement, arrowhead, or artifact manufactured from stone by means of conchoidal fracturing.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an item being transported in a vehicle unless the item is in a container and inaccessible to the driver.
In other words, any weapon designed to stab is considered illegal to conceal carry in the Wolverine State. This means the only knives eligible for conceal carry possess blunt ends that are incapable of breaking skin without the use of tremendous force. Moreover, folding knives of any kind are illegal to conceal carry in Michigan.
How Does Michigan Knife Laws Address Vehicles?
The quirk with Michigan open knife carry laws is how the state deals with the issue of transporting knives inside vehicles. Although a knife such as a pocketknife is eligible for concealed carry, it cannot be concealed carried inside a vehicle. This means you cannot store an eligible concealed carry knife in the glove compartment or between the front and back seats.
Legally owned knives must be secured in a concealed place that no one but the owner of the car can access. For example, you can place an eligible conceal carry knife inside a vehicle by placing the knife into a secured case and then storing the case in the trunk of the car.
Michigan Law and Knife Length
As of January 2019, Michigan law does not place restrictions on knife length. The only time state statutes mention knife length occurs in the section of the penal code limiting knife length to three inches if the intent of the knife owner is to harm another person. State law muddies the knife length restriction further by stating all dangerous weapons are considered illegal regardless of the length of the knives.
Notice to Harm
MCL § 750.226 covers firearms and other dangerous weapons used with illegal intent. Michigan law defines the illegality and the punishment handed out by using a dangerous weapon against another human. Knives measuring more than three inches are automatically considered dangerous, even if there is no intent to harm someone.
Yet, the clause defining dangerous weapons finishes with this: “or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument.” What does this mean? Case law, which establishes legal precedents, gives us a clue as to the meaning of the entire dangerous weapons provision.
The 1971 case of People v Iverson ruled that carrying a hunting knife is not considered a crime unless the purpose of carrying a hunting knife is to harm another person. State law is clear that intent to harm takes all legal knife ownership rights off the table.
The problem is the prosecution must prove intent, which typically relies on anecdotal evidence and not the type of hard evidence like threatening emails and handwritten letters. There is also sometimes the blurring of the distinction between accident and premeditation.
Michigan Knife Laws in 2019
As we enter 2019, the political climate appears to be much calmer when it comes to knife laws. Other than a strengthening of the school weapons free provision in 2018, the Michigan legislature mostly stayed with the legal status quo. In October 2017, the Michigan legislature approved the legality of several types of knives, which represented the most sweeping change to knife laws in decades. Such sweeping change is not expected to materialize in 2019 from either side of the political aisle.
Please note: None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.