The state of Utah stands out in the United States for its leadership in the modern movement to expand knife rights. It is the second state to adopt a preemption law, helping lay the groundwork for other preemption rulings in other states during the following years.
Knife laws in Utah permit the ownership and concealed or open carry of any kind of knife, provided that it is not carried for a reason that makes it a dangerous weapon. Circumstances, intent, and actual use determine a knife’s legality for carrying and possession, not its design, method of opening (if folding), or length.
Utah also has a complex set of laws governing knife carrying by “restricted persons” such as felons. Most kinds of knife carrying and ownership are legally denied to restricted persons, and carrying a knife for self-defense by one of these individuals make the knife an illegal dangerous weapon, as established by case law precedent. Those with a clean record, however, enjoy wide liberties when it comes to knife ownership in the Beehive State.
Legality of Knife Possession
A knife is legal to own – and to carry open or concealed – provided that it is not a dangerous weapon. As long as they are not being owned or carried as dangerous weapons, pocketknives, balisong knives, gravity knives, Bowie knives, daggers, dirks, swords, hunting knives, fishing knives, single-edged fixed blade knives and double-edged fixed blade knives such as some KA-BAR knives, sword canes, belt-buckle knives and other disguised blades, martial arts throwing stars, and other bladed implements are legal under Utah law.
A dangerous weapon is defined by Utah Criminal Code section § 76-10-501 as an object able to cause death or serious injury, what unlawful purposes it was used for, whether it has a lawful purpose, and whether its possession or carrying represents a threat to public safety. In practice, this means that a citizen going quietly about their business with an openly carried Bowie knife or a concealed KA-BAR knife, or any other blade, is unlikely to run afoul of the law. The knife is not being carried or used to threaten public safety and is not being used for unlawful purposes (threatening, assault, murder, etc.), so it is not generally considered a dangerous weapon.
The law gets considerably stricter for “restricted persons” who have committed a felony or otherwise are deemed high-risk for knife ownership. Though knife ownership and carrying are not entirely banned for these people, owning or carrying a knife is likely to be ruled as a criminal violation unless the individual can prove the blade had an actual, valid, lawful use. Section § 76-10-503 of the Utah Criminal Code divides “restricted persons” into Category I and Category II restricted persons.
Category I – for whom ownership or carrying of a dangerous weapon is a third degree felony – are violent felons, parolees, and illegal aliens in the United States. Category II – whose ownership or carrying of a dangerous weapon is a Class A misdemeanor – are people who have been convicted of a felony, drug users, are actually carrying a controlled substance at the same time as the knife, mentally incompetent, not guilty by reason of insanity, mentally defective, has been subject to involuntary commitment to a mental institution in the past, has received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military, or has renounced their U.S. citizenship.
The case of State of Utah v. Jennings, 2003, established that a restricted person cannot legally carry a knife for self-defense and will be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, depending on their category, should they do so.
Knives are also considered dangerous weapons when on school property, and cannot be carried there except if authorized by school authorities, as the Utah Criminal Code’s section § 76-10-505.5 describes. Carrying a knife at a school is a Class B misdemeanor.
Knife Length Limit
The blade length of a knife is not an issue under Utah state law.
Concealed Carry of Knives
Any knife that is not a dangerous weapon can be carried concealed in Utah (or openly, as desired by the owner).
Other Knife Law Considerations in Utah
The Beehive State’s adoption of preemption makes it exceptionally easy for a knife owner to navigate its legal waters. H.B. 271 of the 2011 General Session passed and made it illegal for municipalities, counties, and other smaller governments to pass laws about knives more restrictive than state laws. This demolished the mosaic of local ordinances on July 1st, 2011, and state law is currently the only knife law with which a knife owner need concern themselves in Utah.
Resources and Further Reading