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

Last updated on October 21st, 2023 at 12:47 am

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.

While Maryland has maintained consistent knife laws for a significant amount of time, it’s essential to understand the specifics of these laws whether you’re a resident, planning a visit, or just passing through the Old Line State. Ensuring compliance with both local and state regulations is crucial to avoid legal pitfalls.

Keep reading to stay on the right side of the law in Maryland!

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

Does Maryland Have Statewide Preemption Knife Laws?

Maryland lacks statewide preemption, implying that counties within the state can enforce stricter knife restrictions. This scenario leads to varying regulations across counties, making it a complex landscape for knife enthusiasts. A knife deemed legal in one county could be illegal in a neighboring one. Thus, it’s advisable to research the knife laws of each county you intend to visit, especially when organizing activities like hunting trips.

Legal Knives in Maryland

Maryland’s knife laws are quite lenient regarding ownership, covering a broad spectrum of knives, such as:

  • Balisongs or butterfly knives
  • Bowie knives and other large blades
  • Stabbing knives like dirks, daggers, stilettos
  • Switchblades and other automatic knives
  • Gravity knives
  • Disguised knives
  • Throwing knives
  • Undetectable knives
  • Manual penknives

Although there aren’t explicit restrictions on knife ownership, selling certain types like switchblades, gravity knives, ballistic knives, or knives with shooting blades faces limitations. It’s vital to remember that these regulations can differ from one county to another.

Maryland Knife Definitions

Grasping the specific definitions related to knife laws in Maryland is vital. Some definitions are provided within the law, while others are derived from case law:

  • Weapon – includes dirks, bowies, switchblades, star knives, sand clubs, metal knuckles, and nunchaku, but excludes handguns or penknives without a switchblade.
  • Penknife – defined through Bacon vs. Maryland, where the court stated that a penknife with a manual folding blade is not a weapon, irrespective of size.
  • Switchblade knife or switchblade penknife – a knife whose blade opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other devices on the handle. Another definition encompasses devices designed to propel a blade from a metal sheath using a high compression ejector spring, known as shooting knives, with ballistic knives also considered weapons under state law.
  • Gravity knife – defined in Savoy vs. State, where the court equated gravity knives to switchblades since both open by pressing a button, with the sole difference being that a gravity knife’s blade is suspended through gravity, thus classifying it as a weapon.

Carrying Knives in Maryland

Maryland law stipulates the manners and locales where you can carry a knife or dangerous weapon.

Concealed Carry

Generally, carrying a concealed dangerous weapon is prohibited. However, concealed carry of a pocket knife with a manual folding blade is allowed, regardless of size, unless used with unlawful or harmful intent.

Open Carry

Openly carrying any pocketknife with a foldable blade or other dangerous weapon is permissible, provided there’s no malicious intent towards others. Note, carrying dangerous weapons openly on public school property is illegal.

Carrying by Minors:

Minors, those under 16 years old, are prohibited from carrying any dangerous weapon one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset, with exceptions for certain activities like hunting or military/civic engagements.

Carrying by Felons:

While there’s no specific statute regarding whether felons can carry or own knives in Maryland, consulting with legal counsel is recommended due to potential varying restrictions across states and counties.


Certain individuals and scenarios are exempt from Maryland’s knife-carry laws:

  • Law enforcement officers, whether retired or active, with valid credentials
  • Officers within the state or any county therein
  • Individuals with a state-issued permit to carry a weapon
  • Participants in historical demonstrations authorized by schools to carry weapons or replicas
  • County Board of Education employees who guard schools

Maryland Knife Length Laws

There aren’t specific statewide knife blade length restrictions in Maryland. However, individual counties may have varying provisions regarding blade length.

FAQs About Maryland Knife Laws

Can A Minor Carry A Knife In Maryland?

Minors, defined as individuals under 16 years old, are restricted from carrying any dangerous weapon one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset, except for certain activities like hunting or civic/military activities.

Can A Felon Carry A Knife In Maryland?

There’s no specific law addressing whether felons can carry or own knives in Maryland. It’s advisable for felons to consult with a lawyer or their parole officer as different states and counties may have varying restrictions.

Can You Carry A Knife On School Property In Maryland?

No, it is illegal to carry or possess a knife, firearm, or any deadly weapon on public school property in Maryland. Exceptions are made for knives used lawfully in school-related activities such as food preparation, biology dissection, woodworking, groundskeeping, and fake knives for theatrical productions.

Are OTF (Out The Front) Knives Legal In Maryland?

OTF knives are generally legal to own in Maryland. However, if an OTF knife operates like a switchblade (i.e., the blade opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device), it may be subject to the same restrictions as switchblades in terms of selling and carrying.

Are Butterfly Knives Legal In Maryland?

Butterfly knives, also known as balisongs, are legal to own in Maryland. However, they might be subject to certain carrying restrictions based on the specifics of local county laws. It’s always best to consult with local laws or a legal professional to ensure compliance.

Does Maryland Have Knife Length Laws?

There aren’t specific statewide knife blade length restrictions in Maryland. However, individual counties may have varying provisions regarding blade length.

Maryland State Knife Law References

Official Sources of Maryland’s Knife Laws

Significant Court Cases

Case Name/TitleSummary
Lawrence v. StateThe court upheld strict liability for wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun.
Johnson v. StateWhile not much detail is provided, it’s a case listed under Maryland’s knife laws.
Michael Vanison v. State of MarylandThe court upheld a conviction of a prison inmate for possessing a makeshift knife.

Timeline of Major Changes in Maryland’s Knife Law History

  • 1957: Maryland restricted the concealed carry of switchblades.
  • 1991: In the case of Bacon v. State of Maryland, the court observed that penknives are considered to encompass any knife with the blade folding into the handle, and a lockable blade does not cause the knife to be other than a penknife.
  • Currently: There has been no change in Maryland knife laws for decades

The legal codes and court cases provide a framework for how knife laws are structured and interpreted in Maryland. The timeline shows the evolution, albeit limited, of knife laws over the years in the state.


At the end of the day, understanding Maryland’s 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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