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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania knife laws are simple, in that most of the time, there is no law against it. However, there are some laws that specify certain knives to be illegal.

The most important things when choosing a pocket knife is its blade length and whether or not it's allowed in your state.  Below you can find details regarding both of those factors for Pennsylvania knife laws.

Pennsylvania Knife Laws Quick Look:

Preemption? No.

Concealed carry? Yes.

Open carry? Yes.

Schools? No.

Off-limits places:

  • Schools,
  • Government buildings,
  • Bars,
  • Places of worship,
  • Airport terminals, and other state-owned properties.

Length & critical dimensions: None

Legal Types of Knives In Pennsylvania

The types of knives legal in Pennsylvania include the following:

  • Pocket knives,
  • Switchblade knives,
  • Balisongs (butterfly knives),  
  • Karambits,
  • Bowie knives,
  • Pen knives,
  • Hunting knives

Illegal Types of Knives in Pennsylvania

The types of knives illegal in Pennsylvania include the following:

  • Dirk,
  • Dagger,
  • Switchblade knives with gravity-assisted opening mechanisms,

Pennsylvania Knife Ownership Law

You can own any of the types of knives listed above without needing to register or license them with the state.  You can also carry your knives concealed without needing a permit or license to do so.

However, even with these laws in place, you are not allowed to bring any of the legal types of knives on school grounds (K-12) or state-owned properties such as bars and airports.

Pennsylvania Knife Carry Laws

Some of the gun carry laws in Pennsylvania include the following:

Pennsylvania Knife Open Carry Laws

You are allowed to openly carry any of the legal types of knives in Pennsylvania. The only restriction on open carry is that you cannot carry your knives while in possession of a firearm (unless they're both completely visible). If you do decide to bring your knife with such a setup, make sure it's completely visible at all times

Pennsylvania Knife Concealed Carry Laws

You can carry any of the legal types of knives in Pennsylvania concealed without needing a license. However, you cannot conceal them while also in possession of a firearm

Pennsylvania Laws for Different Types of Knives

Different knife laws in Pennsylvania include the following:

Pennsylvania Automatic Knife Laws

It is legal to own, buy, sell, trade, or manufacture automatic knives in Pennsylvania. Automatic knives are not pre-empted by state law and they're also exempt from the switchblade definition.

Pennsylvania Switchblade Knife Laws

It is legal to own, buy, sell, trade, or manufacture switchblades in Pennsylvania. You can also carry a switchblade concealed without needing a license.  The one restriction related to this law is that you cannot carry your switchblades (concealed or not) on school grounds.

Pennsylvania Knife Preemption Laws

In Pennsylvania, there are a number of things that are regulated by the state and left unregulated by the city. However, no matter what kind of knife you're carrying (regardless if it's legal or illegal), you cannot bring it into a place where it is banned. Examples of this kind of place include schools, government buildings, and bars (remember that even your pocket knives are legal to carry in Pennsylvania).

Pennsylvania Fixed Blade Knife Laws'

It's perfectly legal to own, buy, sell, trade, or manufacture fixed-blade knives in Pennsylvania. You can also carry them concealed without needing a license.

Pennsylvania Knife Length Laws'

There are no blade length restrictions in the state of Pennsylvania (in other words, you can own any size knife).  

Pennsylvania Offensive Weapon Laws

The state of Pennsylvania has two statutes that relate to offensive weapons: a definition of what constitutes an "offensive weapon", and a statute related to carrying such weapons.

Both statutes make it illegal to conceal your offensive weapons (which includes knives).   They're also illegal to carry in a school or on any public property.

Pennsylvania Dagger Laws

All daggers are considered weapons, and it is illegal to conceal them or carry them in schools.

Pennsylvania Gravity Knife Laws

In the state of Pennsylvania, a gravity knife "is any blade that is released from its handle or sheath by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or another device."

Pennsylvania Knife Possession Laws

It's legal in Pennsylvania for anyone 18 years old or older to possess any kind of knife.  In certain situations, minors under the age of 18 can also possess knives:

  • Under 14 years old with a written permit from parent or guardian;
  • Between the ages of 14 and 16 with written consent from parents or guardians.  

However, they cannot buy or sell their knives.

Pennsylvania Knife Permit Laws

You are not required to have a permit or license in Pennsylvania to own, buy, sell, trade, manufacture, or carry any of the legal types of knives.  The only exception is if you want to bring these types of knives onto school grounds (K-12).

Pennsylvania Knife Law by Size

The only size-based restrictions that exist are related to carrying concealed weapons.  You can carry any type of knife (even a sword) concealed without needing a license as long as it's not on school grounds.

Relevant Pennsylvania Knife Law Statutes & Penal Codes

Pennsylvania knife laws and penal codes include the following:

  • § 908.1 Short title of chapter
  • § 908.2 Definitions
  • § 908.3 Unlawful activities related to weapons
  • § 908.4 Carrying firearms on public streets or public property in Philadelphia
  • § 911 Possession of instruments of crime
  • § 3901 Crimes involving weapons--generally
  • § 4104 Prohibited offensive weapons--definitions

Pennsylvania Knife Offenses, Defenses, Restrictions & Penalties

They include the following:

Legal Defenses for Knife Charges 

If you are under investigation for or charged with a knife-related crime, there may be some legal defenses that apply to your case.  Some of the most common legal defenses in these kinds of cases include:

  • 1. Self-Defense
  • 2. You didn't intend to commit a crime or you had a good faith belief that what you were doing was legal.  
  • 3. In many cases, there are substantial differences between the knife which was used and the description of the knife in your arrest report or search warrant.
  • 4. There was no probable cause for your arrest in the first place.
  • 5. You didn't knowingly break the law and you had a mistaken belief that what you were doing was legal (for example, if you thought it was legal to carry a bowie knife concealed).
  • 6. The arresting officer mistakenly believed that his or her actions were justified, but in fact, they were not.
  • 7. You or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder and it caused you to act irrationally or impulsively without understanding the nature of your actions.
  • 8.  You suffered from an involuntary muscle spasm in your arm when you stabbed someone, which made it impossible for you to control the knife's movement.
  • 9. Your knife was accidentally open or closed when you were arrested, but it wasn't actually a violation of any law.
  • 10. You are charged with violating the federal switchblade ban (18 U.S.C. § 1241).

Exceptions for Law Enforcement and Military Personnel

There are many exceptions to Pennsylvania knife laws for the following groups:

  • 1. Law enforcement officers can carry any kind of knife they want, even while off-duty and not in uniform.  
  • 2. Military members can also carry certain knives with them when on duty or leave.
  • 3. College and university students are permitted to carry pocket knives that are less than 3 1/2 inches long, so long as they're for educational purposes.
  • 4. Certain people can get a hunting license so they can carry different types of knives such as bowie knives, switchblades, etc., during the hunting season.
  • 5. It's illegal to carry a dirk knife (or dagger) openly or concealed with the intent to use it as a weapon, but there are several exceptions to this law for both civilians and military personnel.

Restrictions

  • It is a prohibition to possess a knife within 600 feet of a school or school parking lot.
  • It is a prohibition to possess a knife in a court of law.
  • It is a prohibition to possess a knife in a hospital.
  • It is a prohibition to possess a knife in a detention facility, prison or correctional facility.
  • It is a prohibition to possess a knife in a church or other place of worship while people are present and participating in services.

Penalties for Knife Related Offenses

While it's common to see light penalties for mere possession of a knife, some offenses can lead to steep fines and even jail time.

They include the following:

If you are convicted of carrying a switchblade or other types of knives in Pennsylvania (such as an automatic knife), you can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $2,500 fine and one year in prison.

Penalties for First Degree Misdemeanor Convictions

If you are convicted of any crime involving the illegal possession or sale of knives (such as an automatic knife), you can face additional penalties.   These include :

  • 1. A maximum $2,500 fine; and
  • 2. Up to one year in prison.

Penalties for Second Degree Misdemeanor Convictions

If you have a second-degree misdemeanor conviction involving knives, then depending on the specific circumstances of your case, you could be charged with:

  • 1. A maximum $5,000 fine; and
  • 2. Up to two years in prison.

Pennsylvania Knife Law FAQs

Some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about Pennsylvania knife laws include the following:       

  • How Long Can a Knife Be in Pennsylvania?

Knife length does not matter in Pennsylvania

  • What types of knives are legal to carry in Pennsylvania?

You can carry any type of knife you want, including switchblades, as long as it is not categorized as an offensive weapon.

  • What is the length limit for pocket knives in Pennsylvania?

There is no specific length limit for pocket knives in Pennsylvania.

  • What types of knives are illegal to carry in Pennsylvania?

Any knife that is designed to be a weapon, as well as any type of knife that has a locking mechanism.

  • Can I sell or transfer ownership of a knife in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is legal to sell or transfer ownership of a knife in Pennsylvania.

  • Is it Illegal to scare someone with (brandish) a knife in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is illegal to brandish a knife in public, which is considered assault. However, if you are threatened with force or violence and you draw your weapon for protection, then it will not be considered an offense.  

  • Can a minor carry a knife in Pennsylvania?

Yes. There are no specific laws for minors in regards to carrying knives.

  • Are swords legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes. The only thing that makes a sword illegal is if it qualifies as an offensive weapon. This means that the blade is made of metal and designed to be used for inflicting harm on another person and/or self-defense (sword can be concealed).

  • Are switchblades legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is legal to carry switchblades in Pennsylvania, as long as they are not classified as an offensive weapon (this includes a pocket knife with a blade that opens automatically by pressure on the handle or gravity).

  • Are folding knives legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is legal to carry folding knives in Pennsylvania, as long as they do not have a blade that locks into place.

  • Are fixed blade knives legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is legal to carry fixed blade knives in Pennsylvania.

  • Are butterfly knives legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is legal to carry butterfly knives in Pennsylvania, as long as the blade does not lock into place when it opens.

  • Are automatic knives legal in Pennsylvania? 

Yes. It is legal to carry automatic knives in Pennsylvania, as long as the blade does not lock into place when it opens.

  • Are spring-assisted knives legal in Pennsylvania?

No. It is illegal to carry spring-assisted knives in Pennsylvania.

  • Are double-edged knives legal in Pennsylvania?

No. It is illegal to carry double-edged knives in Pennsylvania.

  • Are gravity knives legal in Pennsylvania?  

Yes. It is legal to carry gravity knives in Pennsylvania.

  • Are throwing knives legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes. It is legal to carry throwing knives in Pennsylvania, as long as the blade does not lock into place when it opens.

  • Can I own a knife in Pennsylvania without a license?

Yes. It is legal to own a knife in Pennsylvania without a license.

  • Are karambits Legal in Pennsylvania ?

Yes. It is legal to own a karambit in Pennsylvania, as long as it does not lock into place when it opens.