Knife Laws in New Mexico

New Mexico’s knife laws are fairly restrictive except in the matter of open carry, harking back to the days when switchblades and brass knuckles caused near-panic due to fears of their use by criminals. All switchblades and knives related to them – including balisong knives (referred to as “butterfly knives” in New Mexican statutes) – are illegal to buy, sell, own, or carry. Most other knife varieties are legal in the state, however, even including such exotics as throwing knives and throwing stars.

New Mexico permits open carry of even large knives but essentially outlaws concealed carry with its legislation. Carrying a knife in your car presents some of the thorniest questions of New Mexican knife law due to precedents set by court cases.

Naturally enough, the Land of Enchantment does not have a preemption law, so municipalities and counties are free to add their own knife ordinances.

Legality of Knife Possession

Many types of knife are available to New Mexico residents and visitors as fully legal blades for owning, using, buying, and selling. In addition to pocket knives and other utility knives (including hunting knives), people are allowed to own Bowie knives and other fixed-blade single-edge knife varieties; daggers, dirks, KA-BAR knives, and similar fixed-blade double-edge knives; stilettos; machetes and swords; and even throwing stars and throwing knives.

All legal knives can be carried openly without breaking the law, with the usual exceptions for schools, school grounds, courthouses, and prisons.

Switchblades are illegal to own, carry, manufacture, buy, or sell in New Mexico. These include any knives whose blades are opened via a spring-loaded mechanism triggered by a button or similar mechanism, gravity, centrifugal force, or, as State v. Riddall demonstrated, a combination of these methods. State v. Riddall established that the state considers balisong knives to be illegal switchblades despite their functional differences, making them illegal to own or carry in New Mexico.

Knife Length Limit

New Mexico enforces no length limits on knives, mainly because it deems all knives to be deadly weapons regardless of their length because of their ability to produce dangerous cuts or stabs.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Section § 30-7-2 of the New Mexico Statutes of 2011 declare blanket illegality for carrying any deadly weapon concealed (with the exception of peace officers and a weapon carried in a car, a special case described below). Though the section lists daggers, dirks, switchblades, Bowie knives, and several other types of knife, it also says that any weapon that produces dangerous cuts or dangerous thrusts are also ineligible for concealed carry. Since even a regular pocket knife can make a dangerous cut or thrust, this constitutes a universal ban on concealed knife carrying.

The New Mexico Statutes of 2011, section § 30-7-1, defines carrying a deadly weapon as having the said implement either on your person, or easily accessible for use. A knife anywhere within lunge reach of your car seat therefore counts as being carried, including when it is locked in the glove compartment.

Carrying a knife in a car is complicated by the intersection of statutory and case law in New Mexico. NMS section § 30-7-2 permits carrying a deadly weapon (including knives) concealed in a private automobile for lawful protection of the owner’s or another individual’s life and/or property. The case of Butler v. Rio Rancho Public School in 2002 established that this right does not extend to school parking lots, however.

Other Knife Law Considerations in New Mexico

Local ordinances often add more strictures which a knife owner is obliged to comply with in New Mexico. For example, Bernalillo County outlaws carrying any knife 5” or longer which is capable of inflicting harm on either humans or animals, while the town of Eunice outlaws possession of 4” or longer lock-blade knives. In addition to avoiding open carry, knife owners are best served by learning and observnig these local ordinances to avoid entanglements with the criminal justice system.

Resources and Further Reading