Illinois Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English)

Last updated on October 20th, 2023 at 08:40 pm

This article was created to be a brief synopsis of the law according to my understanding and is not legal advice. Knifeade is not a legal service provider. Using this site does not create a client/lawyer relationship. Because knife laws can be interpreted differently by different people and entities it is recommended that you consult legal counsel for specific information and guidance.

In Illinois, the right to keep and bear arms is recognized, but there are certain restrictions when it comes to carrying knives, firearms, and other dangerous weapons. This article aims to demystify the knife laws in Illinois which can sometimes be complex due to the inclusion of intent within the legislation. For a comprehensive understanding, consulting a lawyer or someone in law enforcement is advisable.

Our Top Rated “50-State-Legal” Knives

*These knives are listed based on their broad legality across states, but always consult your local laws before making a purchase.

Does Illinois Have Statewide Preemption?

Illinois lacks statewide preemption for knife laws, allowing local cities, towns, and counties to impose their own restrictions on the possession and carrying of knives. This layering of laws can make understanding knife ownership more intricate as individuals must comply with both state and local regulations.

Legal Knives in Illinois

In Illinois, you can legally own and carry the following types of knives, provided the blade length is 3 inches or shorter:

  • Balisong (Butterfly) knives
  • Bowie knives
  • Disguised knives (e.g., cane knives, belt knives, lipstick knives)
  • Pocket knives
  • Folding knives
  • Utility knives
  • Hunting knives
  • OTF (Out the Front) knives, including switchblades, gravity knives, and other automatic knives

Illegal Knives in Illinois

The law prohibits the possession of the following knives in Illinois:

  • Ballistic knives
  • Throwing stars

Possession of Switchblades

Since 2017, Illinois law permits the ownership and carrying of switchblade knives provided you possess a valid Firearms Ownership Identification (FOID) card. You can apply for a FOID card if you are 18 or older with parental consent, or 21 or older. It costs $10, with a waiting period of 30 days for processing.

Illinois Dangerous Weapons 

In Illinois, a knife with a blade length exceeding 3 inches is generally classified as a dangerous weapon. However, in Chicago, the blade length restriction is 2.5 inches due to local ordinances. Other items classified as dangerous weapons include:

  • Daggers
  • Dirks
  • Axes
  • Hatchets
  • Blackjacks
  • Metal knuckles

Illinois Knife Carry Laws

The laws are clear about the illegal carrying or possession of certain weapons in Illinois:

  • It’s generally illegal to carry or possess any dangerous weapon, with knives having blades longer than 3 inches falling into this category.
  • Carrying or possessing a dangerous weapon with the intent to use it against another person is prohibited.
  • It’s illegal to carry or possess a dangerous weapon while masked to conceal identity.

Illinois Concealed Carry Laws

While Illinois state law doesn’t explicitly address concealed carry of knives, local ordinances, particularly in Chicago, have regulations on concealed carry, especially for knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches.

Illinois Knife Length Laws

As mentioned, a knife with a blade longer than 3 inches is considered a dangerous weapon in Illinois. However, in Chicago, the blade length restriction is tighter, with a limit of 2.5 inches.


Certain individuals are exempt from the knife laws in Illinois, including:

  • Government employees
  • Peace officers
  • Law enforcement personnel on active duty

Illinois Knife Laws by Demographic

Let’s delve into how knife laws in Illinois apply to different demographics.

Age Restrictions on Knife Possession

There isn’t a specific state-wide age restriction for carrying knives in Illinois, but local laws may apply, especially in cities like Chicago.

Can a Felon Carry a Knife in Illinois?

It’s illegal for a convicted felon to knowingly possess a dangerous weapon in Illinois. Unlawful possession could result in a felony charge, with sentencing varying based on the specifics of the case.

Illinois State Knife Law References

Official Sources of Illinois’ Knife Laws

  • Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS): The primary legal code, specifically under 720 ILCS 5/24-1, which outlines the unlawful use of weapons including knives.

    Significant Court Cases

    Case Name/TitleSummary
    People v. SitoA case where the court defined the blade as any non-handle portion of the knife.
    People v. YostYost was charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder in connection with a fatal stabbing of his former girlfriend. Issues arose regarding counsel representation and a motion for a new trial was filed.

    Timeline of Major Changes in Illinois’s Knife Laws

    • Pre-2017:
      • Prior to 2017, possession and carrying of switchblades, ballistic knives, and throwing stars were prohibited as per Illinois State Law 720 ILCS 5/24-1.
      • A specific law targeted at minors was implemented, under statute 105 ILCS 5/10 22.6, which states that any student in possession of a knife while on school grounds could be expelled for a duration between one and two years.
    • August 11, 2017:
      • Illinois Senate Bill 607 (SB 607) was signed, allowing the possession and carrying of automatic knives for citizens possessing a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card (FOID), without requiring a firearms concealed carry permit.
    • 2017-2021:
      • The laws remained relatively consistent, with restrictions on switchblades, ballistic knives, and certain other types of knives unless carried for self-defense purposes, as per Public Act 100-0082 of Illinois.
    • August 27, 2021:
      • Amendment Senate Bill 607 was signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, which was issued on January 1, 2022, legalizing the possession, sale, carry, and manufacture of switchblades for individuals with a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card.


    At the end of the day, understanding Illinois’ knife laws doesn’t seem overly complicated. With that being said, I’m just a normal dude, and working my way through all of the legal jargon was a grind.

    So, while I did my best, always check your state website for the most up-to-date information!

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