Pocket knives have a variety of uses. They can be used to whittle, to remove splinters, to open packaging, to cut a passenger free from a seatbelt after a collision and for self-defense. Because a pocket knife – and any other kind of knife, like a kitchen knife – can be used as a weapon, most states have laws in place regulating their possession and use.
Ohio knife laws can seem simple at first glance, but they actually contain a significant amount of nuance. Whether someone’s knife is considered a weapon or a tool depends on multiple factors, including its blade length and how it is used.
Ohio pocket knife laws are complicated and can be confusing. Technically, nearly all knives are legal to own and carry, but in certain scenarios a person may face criminal charges for carrying or using a knife.
Ohio Knife Laws: An Overview
Ohio knife laws include Ohio sword laws and Ohio switchblade laws. In fact, Ohio does not differentiate between types of blades, putting personal tools like Swiss Army knives in the same category as swords used in martial arts practice. Most types of knives are completely legal to own in Ohio. What separates a legally owned and carried knife from an illegal one is whether it has been, or can be used, as a deadly weapon.
Ohio Sword Laws
There are no specific Ohio sword laws. In Ohio, there is no legal limit to how long blades can be, which means you may own swords like katanas, broadswords, longswords and jians. However, this does not mean you can necessarily carry a sword, especially a concealed sword. Ohio sword laws regarding the legality of carrying sheathed and otherwise concealed swords are complex, and in some cases, being permitted to own a sword does not mean you are permitted to carry the sword in public.
Carrying Weapons in Ohio
In Ohio, adults are generally permitted to own and carry weapons. However, there are numerous caveats to this. In Ohio, it is illegal to carry a concealed dangerous weapon. Those with permits to carry concealed firearms may do so legally, but there is no analogous permit to carry a concealed knife, sword or other type of blade.
Here is where Ohio knife laws can get confusing: Carrying a concealed tool is permitted, and many types of blades are justifiably considered to be tools. Following this logic, an individual arrested for carrying a concealed pocket knife may defend her case by demonstrating that the blade is a tool she uses regularly for work or for a hobby. She could face a criminal charge and potentially steep penalties if there is sufficient evidence to show that the pocket knife was indeed a dangerous weapon that she reasonably could have used to harm a victim.
Differentiating Weapons From Tools
In Ohio, many types of deadly weapons are legal to own, but illegal to carry concealed. However, certain weapons are banned outright for most citizens, including:
- Ballistic knives.
- Automatic firearms.
- Sawed-off firearms.
Individuals who are permitted to own and carry these weapons include licensed manufacturers and dealers, military personnel and state officers.
Ohio’s weapon restrictions do not end with these items. Under Ohio law, any item can be considered a deadly weapon if it is used, carried or possessed as a weapon capable of killing a human being. In other words, a pocket knife is not inherently considered a dangerous weapon, but it may be considered one when its owner is deemed to have brandished it as a threat to others. This distinction can be key in a trial related to an Ohio knife attack.
Certain types of knives are more likely to be considered weapons than others. A few examples include:
- Butterfly knives.
- Automatic knives.
Under Ohio’s deadly weapon law, even an item that is typically not thought of as a weapon can be turned into a deadly weapon if it is modified to serve this purpose. An example of this is a heavy lamp hurled at a victim or a detached table leg swung violently as a club.
Charges for Ohio Knife Offenses
When a person is accused of violating Ohio’s knife laws, he can face one or more criminal charges. And if a victim is injured or killed in an Ohio knife attack, the alleged perpetrator can face one or more criminal charges, such as:
- Felonious assault: The act of harming or attempting to harm a victim with a deadly weapon. This offense is typically charged as a second-degree felony, but may be charged as a first-degree felony when the victim is a law enforcement officer.
- Aggravated assault: The act of harming or attempting to harm a victim with a deadly weapon due to being provoked. This is usually charged as a fourth-degree felony, but may be charged as a second-degree felony when committed against a law enforcement officer.
Additionally, a person can face a negligent assault charge if his knife is involved in a victim’s injury, even if the injury was not a premeditated act of violence. Under state law, an injury resulting from negligence involving a knife is considered a type of Ohio knife attack for which the knife’s owner or the individual who used the knife negligently can face a third-degree misdemeanor charge.
Other knife-related charges an individual can face in Ohio include:
- Possession of a prohibited weapon. This is a fifth-degree felony.
- Using or carrying a weapon while intoxicated. This is a first-degree misdemeanor.
- Possessing a weapon in a school zone. This is a fifth-degree felony.
- Any unlawful transaction involving a dangerous weapon. This is a second-degree misdemeanor.
When someone accused of a knife-related offense is convicted, the penalties she faces depend on several factors, including:
- Any previous criminal record.
- The nature of the offense.
- Any aggravating or mitigating factors at play.
She could face one or more penalties, including:
Complying With Ohio Knife Laws
Ohio knife laws can be confusing, and differentiating weapons from tools is largely based upon law enforcement’s discretion rather than concrete facts. The most effective way to remain in compliance is to understand the laws and take active measures to avoid violating them, even inadvertently. One way to remain in compliance is to avoid concealing knives when carrying them. A belt holster that makes the knife clearly visible is one way to open carry a knife. Another way is to carry the knife in a pocket with its clip pointed outward, visible to all who pass.
When an individual in Ohio faces a knife-related criminal charge, it is in his best interest to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend against the charge. His lawyer may be able to help him successfully show the court that he is not guilty of a criminal offense.