Can I legally carry a knife in Michigan?

by: Jason Osbourn

04/24/2016 10:53 AM EST
  open carry  

It is a common misconception that Michigan law only addresses blade length, that a person can carry a knife so long as the blade is less than 3 inches. The truth is much more complex.

Open Carry

Michigan is, first and foremost, an open carry state. This means that a person can carry almost any type of knife as long as they do so openly such that it is easily seen by those with whom they come into ordinary contact. There are only two exceptions to this general rule.

The first is if the knife is mechanically operated, like a switchblade. MCL 750.226a imposes an outright ban on the sale and possession of any folding knife which can be opened by the flick of a button, pressure on the handle, or other mechanical contrivance. Penalty for violating this statute is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail and a $300 fine.

The other exception comes from MCL 750.226 and applies with the person carrying the knife intends to use it unlawfully against another. This rule applies to daggers, dirks, stilettos, razors, and knifes with blades longer than three inches. A person who has unlawful intent but carries a knife less than three inches is likely guilty of an attempt crime, but has not violated MCL 750.226.

Concealed Carry

MCL 750.227 makes it a crime to carry a concealed dagger, dirk, stiletto, double-edged nonfolding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon or to keep this type of weapon in a vehicle, regardless of whether it is concealed. Notwithstanding this rule, hunting knives carried for hunting purposes are permitted. In addition, a person can conceal these types of weapons on their person if they are in their own home, place of business, or other land owned by them. A Concealed Pistol License (CPL) applies only to handguns and does not permit its holder to conceal these other types of weapons on their person. Lastly, note that the list of weapons does not include folding knives and specifies no length requirement. Though folding knives with larger blades may fall under the category of “other dangerous weapon.”

The primary inquiry in a concealed carry case is “was the weapon concealed?” People v Jones, 12 Mich App 293 (1968) and Michigan Model Criminal Jury Instruction 11.2 make clear that concealment does not mean total invisibility. A weapon is concealed only if “it cannot easily be seen by those who come in contact with the defendant.” M Crim JI 11.2(3). This standard is tricky and intensely fact-specific. A knife may concealed if only a portion of the handle protrudes from a pocket. A knife held in a normal fashion is probably not concealed even though the possessor’s hand covers the handle. People v Kincade, 233 NW2d 54 (1975). MCL 750.227 only requires that the weapon be concealed for a moment. A person openly carrying a knife who conceals it temporarily is probably guilty of violating Michigan’s concealed-carry statute. People v Iacopelli, 30 Mich App 105 (1971).

The flowchart below illustrates how these laws work together. If you are charged with carrying a concealed weapon or have other legal questions, please call Newburg Law and we can assist you.