Washington Knife Laws

Although gun control laws have been circling the public conscience the past few years in the United States due to the increased amounts of mass shootings, a lot of people have somewhat forgotten about knife laws and regulations. A knife is inherently less dangerous than a gun, but can still be used for crime, and of course, they also serve other purposes that aren’t necessarily violent.

This dilemma about the purpose and uses of knives is at the heart of the knife law debate in the state of Washington, as it is one of the most outdoor-oriented states in the country. In recent years, Washington has doubled back on their lenient knife regulations and has since made carrying and other knife restrictions much more serious offenses.

Below, we are going to discuss an overview of Washington’s knife laws, including vital information about what is legal in terms of carrying and other restrictions, so that you or the people you know can be more prepared and cognizant knife owners.

What is legal?

The truth of the matter is, Washington has some rather confusing knife laws that seem lenient, but under certain circumstances can be very strict.

In the state of Washington, it is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or any kind of stabbing knife, a bowie knife, stiletto, a disguised knife and even throwing stars. What is illegal is to conceal carry a dirk, dagger or any dangerous weapon If you are a knife owner, you must open carry in Washington in order to obey the law.

It’s also important to clearly state that it is illegal to own any kind of switchblade or spring blade knife in Washington or possess any kind of knife or dangerous weapon on school grounds.

Also, Washington has no knife length limits, but the counties and municipalities throughout Washington have varying knife length restrictions. Depending on where you are within the state, a certain knife can become legal or illegal to own.

It is technically legal to open carry any kind of legal knife throughout the state, but there is also a twist to this law because there is a restriction stating that if anyone is to be alarmed or intimidated by the presence of an open-carried knife, then the knife owner can be charged with a Dangerous weapons penalty.

It is imperative that every Washington knife owner understands that they can, in theory, be arrested if someone gets frightened and calls the police on them because they are open carrying. Causing fear or some kind of alarm without intent is not an adequate legal defense. Because this law is open-ended, knife owners who aren’t necessarily doing anything dangerous could technically face criminal charges.

Concealment Restrictions

As stated in the previous section, it is illegal to conceal carry a knife in Washington, and the actual concealment law states that it’s a crime to “furtively carry…with intent to conceal any dagger, pistol, dirk or any dangerous weapon.” 

It’s important to break down the sections of this statement to further understand the legal meanings behind each part of this knife concealment restriction including:

  1. Furtive carry;
  2. Of a dagger, pistol, dirk or other dangerous weapon
  3. With intent to conceal

As you can probably already imagine, there are many discrepancies that can arise while enforcing a conceal carry law like this, as it’s hard to prove whether or not an individual is furtively carrying their knife and the term dangerous weapon can be vague.

Furtive & Dangerous Weapon Meanings

Although Washington’s actual statutes haven’t necessarily defined dangerous weapons, there has been a vague definition given that states that a dangerous weapon is an object capable of inflicting great bodily harm. That is also comparable to the definition of a deadly weapon as an instrument that has the capacity to inflict death.

The meaning of furtively carrying within the concealed carry statute goes straight to the definition of furtively, which technically means secretly. Therefore, to furtively carry a knife means to conceal it in a secretive way. Based on this, any kind of concealed carry is automatically a furtive carry.

Exceptions to Concealed Carry

There are a few exceptions to the concealed carry of knives in Washington, and they include those who are inside their homes, at their place of business, or those who are defending themselves or others from an unlawful force.

A 2003 proceeding, State v. Smith, concluded that someone’s backyard doesn’t coincide with in their home and so someone who is carrying or displaying a knife anywhere within the outdoor areas of their property is not exempt from the carry and display statutes.

Even though Washington is known for its great outdoors and hunting there are several restrictions against knife owners that all knife owners need to be aware of, so be smart. If you do choose to open carry a knife, be sure you are not carrying the knife in a way that could potentially alarm other people.

Contact an Experienced Spokane Criminal Attorney

Knife charges are serious and you should seek immediate assistance from a competent criminal defense attorney if you are facing these charges. In most cases, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Contact Twyford Law Office at (855) 980-0678 if you have been arrested for a dangerous weapons charge; we will work hard to protect your rights and provide zealous advocacy.