Knife Laws in Maine

Maine’s knife laws follow the pattern of several other states by permitting people to openly carry a broad array of knives (the same assortment it is legal to own) without regard to their blade length, while tightly controlling concealed carry. The laws for concealed carry are quite restrictive, yet have some extra exemptions built in to recognize the “outdoorsy” character of Maine and the activities people frequently engage in there. Naturally, some locations like schools are off-limits for carrying purposes.

A few knife varieties are banned outright by the law. These are kinds that enable instant blade deployment, including gravity knives, switchblades, and other kinds of automatic knives. While these knives are forbidden to own or carry, an unusual exemption makes them legal for one-armed people to own, though they would presumably need to be acquired out of state.

Legality of Knife Possession

People are legally permitted to own most kinds of knives in Maine, and these can all be openly carried (with the exception of such blades as sword canes, which can be owned and carried on the person’s property, but not in public, since they are concealed by design). Section § 2001-A in Title 25 of the Maine Revised Statutes makes it illegal to “display knives in a threatening manner” while carrying them, however. The law does not indicate whether this means brandishing them menacingly at a person, or simply carrying them in a prominent fashion (though some prominence is needed to avoid charges of concealment).

Among legal knives in Maine are pocket knives, Bowie knives, daggers, single-edged and double-edged fixed blades, KA-BAR knives, sword canes, swords, machetes, stilettos, throwing stars, throwing knives, belt knives and other disguised knives, hunting knives, utility blades, and similar implements. Most of these are not eligible for concealed carry.

Several types of knives are illegal to own, buy, sell, trade, receive, or give away in Maine, all of them selected by their method of opening. Section § 1055 in Title 17-A of the Maine Criminal Code, “Possession or distribution of dangerous knives,” makes it unlawful to own or distribute knives whose blades open with the use of automatic spring-loading in the handle triggered by a button, switch, or similar trigger. It also outlaws knives whose blades are opened by either gravity or centrifugal force. In short, you are forbidden to own or use gravity knives, switchblades, balisongs, or close equivalents in Maine.

Subsection 3 of section § 1055 makes an unusual, possibly unique, exception to this law. One-armed people are permitted to own and transport gravity knives, switchblades, or balisong knives provided that the blade of the knife is 3” long or shorter. This rule recognizes the difficulties such people have opening a knife without two hands present to do so. However, since the permitted knives cannot be legally sold inside Maine’s borders, the individual must presumably need to purchase these blades in New Hampshire, where all types of knives are legal to buy since the bipartisan passage of new legislation in 2013.

Knife Length Limit

No maximum blade length is established by Maine’s knife laws, and even concealed carry eligibility is determined by other parameters. The only knife length limit is the 3” limit for exempted switchblades and gravity knives carried by one-armed individuals.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Concealed carry rights are sharply limited in Maine. It is illegal to conceal dirks, daggers, stilettos, Bowie knives, or any other knife “usually employed for attack or defense of a person.” Making no reference to knife length, this law is generally interpreted as chiefly exempting regular folding pocket knives from the concealed carry ban.

An exemption is made, however, for knives used to hunt, trap, or fish. Hunting, trapping, and fishing are described precisely in Title 12, section § 10001 of the Maine Revised Statutes, and correspond exactly to what they would be expected to mean. Hunters, fishermen, and trappers can carry appropriate knives concealed while actually engaged in these activities. The knives would be illegal to conceal while shopping, visiting a bar, or undertaking other everyday activities, however.

Other Knife Law Considerations in Maine

A 2015 bill is set to repeal the ban on switchblades and other automatic knives assuming that it goes into law as planned on September 15th of that year. Following September 15th, 2015, LD 264, entitled “An Act To Restore the Right To Possess Certain Knives That Are Used by Many Citizens as Tools,” will repeal the dangerous knife provision of section § 1055, allowing possession, buying, selling, and open carrying of switchblades, balisongs, and gravity knives in the Pine Tree State.

Concealed carry laws will remain unchanged, however. Since there is no statewide preemption clause anywhere in the statutes, it is possible that some municipalities could pass local ordinances forbidding use of switchblades, gravity knives, and other automatic knives.

Resources and Further Reading