Ohio Knife Laws – Figuring out What is Legal & What is Not

Knife Laws in Ohio
By Pranay Das Updated

The way a knife is viewed varies from one state to another in the U.S. It depends on the varying degree of regulations that each of the states imposes on its knives. The Ohio knife laws are inherently vague and its statues suffer from the lack of a clear language and proper definitions. In order to get more clarity, we need to take a deep dive into understanding what is considered legal and illegal when it comes to knives in the state of Ohio.

Ohio Knife Laws

The state of Ohio legally permits its inhabitants to own or carry any type of knife. However, the confusion arises from one of its conditions. The law prohibits the concealed carrying, sale and transferring of ownership of dangerous ordnances or deadly weapons.

Now, let us understand how the law defines dangerous ordnance or deadly weapons.

As per Section 2923.11, any device, tool or instrument that has the capacity to inflict death and that has been designed and adapted for being used as a weapon qualifies as a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance.

In fact, a simple folding knife can be considered deadly if:

  • its blade tip is sharp,
  • it can be opened with one hand, such as with a switch,
  • its blade is serrated,
  • its blade locks into a position and cannot be closed without triggering a lock,
  • it has an additional design on its body, such as a hole, that helps in unfolding the knife with one hand, and/or
  • It does not resemble an ordinary pocket knife.

This makes the Ohio knife laws one of the most confusing in all of America with grey areas surrounding its definitions.

If you are to encounter a situation in Ohio where a law enforcement officer is asking you to explain why you are carrying a particular type of knife, you are bound by law to make your intentions be known to him/her. In other words, you have to be completely transparent to them.

Another major setback for knife owners in the state of Ohio is that it has no knife law pre-emption. This means that each of its towns/counties has a separate ordinance of its own. Each of them has its own law when it comes to the usage, carrying and possession of knives. This makes defending a case that involves knives all the more complex in Ohio.

Penalties for Violating Ohio Knife Laws

As per Section 2923.20, a violation of the Ohio knife law is considered to be a misdemeanor of the second degree.

It also states that if someone is carrying a knife that can be opened with one hand, they can be charged with a penalty for the possession of a deadly weapon.

The penalties that you may face if you are accused of a knife-related crime in Ohio will depend on the following factors:

  • The nature of the offense.
  • Any mitigating or aggravating factors at play.
  • Your previous criminal record, if any.

Based on the aforementioned factors, you may face one or any combination of the following penalties.

  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Incarceration
  • Restitution

Limitations on the Length of the Blade in Ohio

There is no law that specifically mentions the lawful length for a blade to be considered non-deadly. However, it is generally accepted that any blade measuring less than 2.5 inches may qualify as a work tool. This is again subjective, as it varies from county to county.

Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry of Knives in Ohio

Any type of knife can be owned and carried in the open. There are not any restrictions on that. The limitations arise when knives are carried in a concealed manner. Section 2923.12 defines that you cannot carry your knife in a concealed form if it is considered to be dangerous ordnance.

Types of Legal Knives in Ohio

Ohio is made up of 88 counties, each having a varying degree of restrictions on the legality of a particular type of knife. Still, the legal knives, as per the state law (with limitations), are as follows:

  • Pocket Knife/Folding Knife – Also known as penknife or jack-knife, it is a foldable knife with its blade(s) contained in the handle.
  • Bowie Knives – Named after American pioneer fighter Jim Bowie, it follows a pattern of the fixed-blade fighting knife.
  • Butterfly Knives – Also known as a Balisong, it has two handles that counter-rotate around its tang. Its blade is hidden within the grooves of its handles.
  • Machete – Primarily used by hunters, it is a broad blade that can be used both as a short sword and an axe.
  • Sword – Probably the most recognizable form of a long blade, it is a slashing weapon.
  • Stiletto – Featuring a long slender blade, it is generally used as a stabbing weapon.
  • Dagger – It is marked by its two sharp edges and its sharp point.
  • Dirk – A longer version of the dagger, it was a popular weapon used in hand-to-hand combat during the early 19th century.

Types of Illegal Knives in Ohio

It is legal to own most types of knives in Ohio. However, carrying a knife in a concealed manner raises the chances of your knife to be considered by the law as a ‘deadly weapon’.  And that is when your knife becomes illegal.

It is entirely up to the law enforcement officer that you are dealing with who gets to decide whether your knife is ‘deadly’ or not. Obviously, any rulings against you will take into consideration your use and intent.

It is illegal to manufacture, possess for sale, furnish and/or sell the following knives to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized or police work.

  • Switchblade – Also known as a pushbutton knife, it comes with a sliding blade concealed in its handle that can be opened by a lever or a switch.
  • Gravity Knife – It is a type of knife whose blade is contained in its handle that opens up by the force of gravity.
  • Ballistic Knife – It comes with a detachable blade that can be ejected by pressing a trigger or switch.

Restricted Places to Carry Knives in Ohio

Although Ohio permits you to carry knives in an open manner, there are certain places where you are not allowed to carry knives, irrespective of the fact that whether you carry it in an open or concealed manner.

These places include:

  • Educational institutions such as schools and colleges.
  • Any form of public transport.
  • Municipality offices, administrative buildings, police stations, courtrooms, and other types of government properties.
  • The premise of federal properties such as banks, post-offices or airports, among others.
  • Polling places on Election Day.
  • A public event

Penalties for Carrying Knives in Restricted Places

Carrying knives in restricted places in Ohio is considered to be a fifth-degree felony. The penalties will include a fine of $2,500 or imprisonment of six to 12 months or both.

Exceptions/Other Restricted Circumstances

The presence of a knife during the commission of a crime increases the severity of the penalties against you. A misdemeanor charge can escalate into a felony if you are found with a knife while committing a crime.

Furthermore, Section 2923.15 also prohibits you to use a firearm or dangerous ordnance while under the influence of alcohol or any drug of abuse. Violation of this section may lead to a misdemeanor of first degree.

Penalties for Carrying Knives While Committing a Crime

Robbery is considered a third-degree felony that can carry up to five years in jail. However, if you possess a knife while robbing, it increases the charges against you to a second-degree felony. This may include an increased jail-time.

To Conclude

Ohio knife laws can be confusing, to say the least. Differentiating between tools from weapons mainly depends on the discretion of the law enforcement officer rather than concrete facts. In addition, individual cities of Ohio have their own individual knife laws.

One way to stay within the safety of legal boundaries is to avoid concealing knives. Besides, when carrying knives, you must be able to convince the law that you do not intend to use your knife as a weapon.