Most everyone has owned or carried a pocket knife, which can be useful for a variety of innocuous reasons. However, pocket knives, or any type of knife, can be used as deadly weapons.
Some states have laws in place for simply carrying knives, but Ohio does not, unless a knife is used to harm someone. In 2021, a new law was passed, allowing Ohio citizens to carry any type of knife on their person; the same law allows for the manufacture and sale of those knives.
Is It Illegal to Own or Carry a Knife in Ohio?
Anyone can own any kind of knife in the state of Ohio, but until early 2021, there were some knives that were illegal for Ohioans to carry because they were classified as deadly weapons according to state law. Stilettos, switchblades, gravity knives, butterfly knives, daggers, dirks, ballistic knives, and other stabbing knives were once considered “deadly weapons.”
However, if a knife is not used as a weapon, it is no longer considered a deadly weapon by simple virtue of what it is, according to House Bill 140. The state defines knives as:
- Pocket knives that automatically open.
- Folding knives.
- Other knife-like cutting objects.
Use of a Deadly Weapon
The use of a deadly weapon, referred to in statutes as a "dangerous ordinance,” is the most serious level of assault crimes in Ohio. It is a felony, the degree of which depends on the circumstances of the assault. An Ohio deadly weapon is typically an object that is:
- Capable of causing death.
- Adapted or designed for use as a weapon.
- Carried, possessed or used as a weapon.
Carrying a Concealed Weapon
A person facing arrest for carrying a concealed weapon in Ohio must have it hidden from view. It has to meet the state’s legal definition for being a weapon. A knife, unless it is used as a weapon, is not considered a concealed weapon, so a person carrying a knife cannot be arrested for just carrying it.
Effect of House Bill 140 on Ohio Knife Laws
House Bill 140 also eliminated “the prohibition against manufacturing, possessing for sale, selling, or furnishing certain weapons other than firearms or dangerous ordnance.”
The bill, which passed nearly unanimously, now allows for the manufacture, sales and carry of billy clubs, blackjacks, brass knuckles, cestuses, sandbags, springblade knives, switchblade knives and other similar weapons in the state.
Local Laws Regarding Knives in Ohio
On September 13 2022, Ohio cities were prohibited from passing their own laws restricting residents from carrying knives. Senate Bill 156 was sponsored by Republican Senator Kristina Roegner, who believes varying regulations between municipalities created confusion, as laws would differ from place to place and legalities would be tough to follow or enforce.
Until SB 156 passed, Ohio cities like Akron, Cleveland and Dayton had wildly different laws regarding the sale, use and possession of knives. The new bill superseded those local laws and allowed Ohio residents affected by them to sue their city for damages.
While the bill restricts local regulations on knife-carrying, it does regulate the types of knives people can carry and doesn't apply to areas zoned for agricultural or residential use by their local governments.
Penalties for Using a Knife as a Deadly Weapon
If a person uses a knife as a deadly weapon, they face a felonious assault charge. The classifications for felonious assault in Ohio are:
- Third-degree felony assault: Penalties of up to three years in prison and maximum $10,000 fine.
- Second-degree felony assault: Penalties of up to eight years in prison and maximum $15,000 fine.
- First-degree felony assault: Penalties of up to 11 years in prison and maximum $20,000 fine (this classification involves severe personal injuries or attacks on law enforcement.)
Knives in Ohio Government Buildings
Despite the change in the law, safety in government offices is still a paramount concern in Ohio. All individuals entering a courthouse in the state will have their purses and any packages they carry checked.
All knives, including pocket knives, and guns are prohibited in government buildings, as are carpet knives, chemical mace, knitting needles, nail files, pepper spray and scissors.
Security will hold onto the prohibited items that are not illegal to carry, such as pocket knives. These will be kept in the screening area, and their owner will get a receipt for the item while in the courthouse. When they leave, they will hand in the receipt and receive their item.
Knives in Ohio Schools
School grounds are also places where individuals cannot carry knives in Ohio, including in school buildings, places where school activities occur, school buses and school property overall.
Flying With a Pocket Knife
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows travelers to pack knives in their checked bags, including pocket and Swiss army knives, but they cannot put them in a carry-on or otherwise bring them onboard a plane. Flyers are allowed to carry only plastic or round-bladed butter knives in carry-on bags.
If the TSA finds a passenger with a pocket knife, the passenger can either place it in their checked bag, leave their knife with someone dropping them off at the airport, leave it in their car, or mail it from the airport elsewhere.
If they leave the knife at airport security, the TSA will destroy or donate it. While pocket knives are prohibited items, they are not illegal – passengers won't be arrested or charged for having one.
- USA Today: Knife Carrying Restrictions on Aircraft
- Montgomery County: Courthouse Security
- NOLO/Criminal Defense Lawyer: Felony and Aggravated Assault in Ohio
- CBS News: New Ohio law seeks uniform regulations for carrying knives
- Ohio Senate: House Passes Roegner Bill Updating Ohio's Complex Knife Laws
- Ohio House of Representatives: AN ACT To amend section 9.68 of the Revised Code regarding the regulation of knives.
- Ohio Capitol Journal: Lawmakers could soon pass bill blocking Ohio cities from outlawing carrying knives
- American Knife and Tool Institute: Ohio Knife Laws
- Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules: Section 2923.11 | Weapons control definitions.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.