Know Your Ohio Knife Law

I often post about knives here on GunIQ. Why? They’re great gadgets, important tools, and collectible. I do not carry a knife as a weapon, but rather as a tool. Please know that knife laws in Ohio are more difficult to get your head around than gun laws. It is sometimes difficult to know in advance whether the knife will be a weapon or not.

The clearest info may be found in the case State v. Cattledge, but it’s still not clear. Some of the below characteristics MAY cause your knife to be judged an illegal weapon:

1. Blade easily opened with one hand.
2. Blade locks into the open position.
3. Serrated blade.
4. Sharp blade tip.
5. A design element such as a hole that speeds opening. (Think Spyderco.)
6. Does not resemble an ordinary pocket knife. (What’s that?!)

Here’s the Ohio Revised Code that applies followed by a number of court cases that will help explain how the law is applied to edged weapons.

R.C. 2923.12(A)(1) provides:
(A) No person shall knowingly carry or have, concealed on the person’s person or concealed ready at hand, any of the following:

(1) A deadly weapon other than a handgun[.]

In State v. Anderson (1981), 2 Ohio App.3d 71, the court determined that a folding knife with a locking, four-inch blade, but which could not be easily opened with one hand, was not a deadly weapon.

In In re Gochneaur, 11th Dist. No. 2007-A-0089, 2008-Ohio-3987, the court determined that a three-inch blade, which locked into place once opened, was a deadly weapon. The court indicated that the evidence showed the blade opened easily with one hand by simply flipping the switch on the handle.

In State v. Flowers (May 1, 1985), 1st Dist. No. C-840564, the court held the trial court’s determination that appellant’s knife was designed as a weapon was not supported by sufficient evidence. The knife in question was a folding knife with a serrated, four-inch, curved blade. However, the tip of the knife blade was not sharp, the blade could only be opened by using two hands, and the blade did not lock in the open position.

State v. Sears (Feb. 27, 1980), 1st Dist. No. C-790156. In Sears, the court found the knife in question was not a deadly weapon. The knife was a folding knife, required two hands to open, had a four-inch blade, and locked in place. The court discounted the relevancy of the locking feature, stating that anyone who had ever utilized a folding knife knew this feature made the knife more useful for a multitude of lawful purposes and does not make the knife per se designed for use as a
weapon. The court indicated the knife was otherwise “just like any other pocket knife.” Id.

In State v. Manning (Feb. 16, 2001), 2d Dist. No. 18347, the court found the knife in question to be a deadly weapon. In Manning, the blade on the knife was less than two inches in length, was pointed and sharp, was concealed inside a cylinder that could easily and quickly be manipulated to make the knife available to use as a weapon, and could be opened using only one hand.

In State v. Graham (Oct. 23, 1998), 6th Dist. No. S-97-050, the court found there was sufficient evidence that the knife at issue was a deadly weapon. The knife was a folding knife with a four and one-half inch blade and had a hole incorporated into the
knife’s blade designed to permit the knife to be opened with one hand.

In State v. Wheeler (Mar. 19, 1999), 2d Dist. No. 17197, the court found insufficient evidence that the knife at issue was a weapon. The knife was a “butterfly” knife, which is a knife sheathed by a two-part, hinged handle that is exposed by
disengaging a clasp and pulling apart the unhinged portions of the handles to make a united handle. The knife required two hands to open. The defendant, who was a tool and die worker, made the knife, and the court noted he used the knife for carpentry, as a scriber, for shaving boards, opening packages and bags, and deburring steel at work.

In Mayfield Heights v. Greenhoff (Nov. 14, 1985), 8th Dist. No. 49741, the trial court found there was insufficient evidence to find the two knives at issue were deadly weapons. One knife was a pocket knife with a three and one-half inch blade, and the other was a two-inch folding razor. The appellate court examined the weapons and found that neither object had features that would demonstrate it was per se designed for use as a weapon. The court called the pocket knife an “ordinary” pocket knife that required two hands to open and had no spring attachment. The razor folded into a two inch sheath. Without further evidence of any other characteristics, the court found neither to be a deadly weapon.

In State v. Ratcliff (Oct. 26, 1983), 4th Dist. No. 82 CA 13, the court found the knife was not a deadly weapon. At issue in the case was what the court termed an “ordinary” pocket knife, which required two hands to open and could not be locked in an open position. The blade itself was about two and one-half inches long, with the total length of the open blade and knife being just less than six inches.

Defend Yourself, but I recommend using a firearm….

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