Knife Laws in Florida

Perhaps surprisingly in a state which emphasizes self-defense rights strongly and applies “Stand Your Ground” laws broadly, Florida’s knife laws leave a considerable amount of concealed carry legality up to court interpretation. Curiously, box cutters and multitools can be concealed due to their use as working tools. Much of Florida’s legislation regarding knives is quite knife-friendly, with only ballistic knives banned from possession and carrying and a sweeping open carry law for all legal purposes.

Complicating this neat picture is a checkerboard of local ordinances, due to the absence of a centralizing state preemption law. Most ordinances focus on defining pocket knife length for concealed carry or listing areas where knives are forbidden (in public parks or at parades, for example). A few are more restrictive, placing a slight burden on knife owners to track local rulings alongside state laws.

Legality of Knife Possession

The Sunshine State’s legislature passed laws allowing legal possession of any kind of knife except for ballistic knives, which are expressly outlawed in section § 790.225 of the 2011 Florida Statutes. This section forbids making, owning, buying, selling, displaying, or using a ballistic knife within the state of Florida. This illegality holds regardless of the means of separating the knife blade as a projectile, whether spring-loaded, via gas pressure, or other techniques.

Beyond this lone ban, any knife is legal to buy, sell, or own in Florida. A pocket knife, balisong knife, gravity knife, switchblade, sword, undetectable knife made from nonmetallic substances, hunting knife, Bowie knife, KA-BAR knife, throwing star, sword-cane, knife-cane, and any other type of blade is lawfully permitted.

Any type of knife, excepting ballistic knives, may be openly carried in Florida.

Knife Length Limit

Florida imposes no length limits on knives for purposes of possession, buying, selling, display, or open carry. Length limits only come into play with concealed carry. A few local ordinances may represent exceptions to this law.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Common pocket knives, plastic knives, blunt table knives, box cutters, tile cutters, and multitools all qualify for legal concealed carry in Florida. The law only codifies the concealed carry right for common pocket knives, while leaving these undefined. Florida Statute § 790.001 defines a weapon as any knife excepting blunt-bladed table knives, plastic knives (presumably those found in disposable utensil sets), or a “common pocket knife.” Statute § 790.01 goes on to state that carrying a concealed weapon is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Since the law provides no definition of a “common pocket knife,” semi-conflicting court precedents exist. The case of L.B. v. State, heard before the Florida Supreme Court in 1997, decided that § 790.001 is unconstitutionally vague, leaving the defendant’s fate to the “whim of a jury” after an arrest for possession of a concealed pocket knife on school property. L.B. v. State established 4” as the maximum permitted blade length for a pocket knife. However, the later case of Porter v. State in 2001, Case Number 5D00-1866, established that if the blade is an open position while in concealment, the pocket knife counts as a “weapon” instead.

Further muddying the waters, F.R. v. State, 3D11-186 in 2012, ruled that a knife with such features as a hilt, or a partially serrated or serrated blade, or a grooved handle or “notched grip,” or a blade capable of locking in the open position is not a common pocket knife and therefore cannot be carried concealed, even if its blade is less than 4” long.

The 2004 case of Holley v. State established that a box cutter or a razor knife may be legally carried concealed due to their utilitarian purpose.

Other Knife Law Considerations in Florida

Florida state law is favorable to knife ownership, including many types of exotic knives, and features a very wide and permissive open carry regime. Concealed carry remains more problematic, due to multiple reinterpretations of the definition of a “common pocket knife” through successive Florida Supreme Court precedents. Prudent knife owners should conceal only plain pocket knives with smooth (non-serrated) blades under 4” in length, with no extra features and the blade in the closed position, in order to avoid possible legal entanglements.

Resources and Further Reading