As one of the prime areas of the country for outdoor enthusiasts, Florida offers myriad recreational activities that require the use of a knife. From cutting through fishing lines to establishing a roped perimeter for a sand volleyball match, knives are a common part of everyday Floridian life.
The Florida State Constitution has laid the legal groundwork for legalizing most styles of knives. Article 1, Section 8 states “The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”
How does Florida regulate knife ownership, with careful attention paid not to discourage recreational use, as well as the constitutional guarantee of using knives for self-defense?
An Overview of Florida Knife Laws
Florida has some of the most friendly knife ownership laws in the United States. Only ballistic knives carry restrictions, including the maximum number of ballistic knives one person can sell.
Every other style of knife in Florida carries no sales restrictions. Florida law defines ballistic knives as knives that detach and propel the blade from the knife handle. Uniform knife prohibition laws apply to school grounds and government property, as well as to anyone under the age of 18.
Here are the knives that are legal to own in Florida:
- Pocket Knife
- Butterfly Knife
- Bowie Knife
- Misleading Knife
Open Carry in Florida
The definition of open carry varies between states, with legal precedent establishing the meaning of the term. In Florida, judicial precedent clearly defines open carrying of a knife to involve securing a knife in “plain sight.” Attaching a knife to a utility belt is considered in “plain sight,” while Florida courts have ruled placing a pocket knife in a shirt pocket means “partially hidden.” In Florida, you must display a knife in “plain sight” for it to qualify as open carry.
Every style of knife Florida law has defined to be legal qualifies for open carry.
Concealed Carry in Florida
Florida law prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons. State statute number 790.01 defines a weapon to be “any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slingshot, billie club, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapons except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.”
Florida law does not clearly define “common pocketknife,” although several judicial decisions have established some legal guidance. The question as to what constitutes a pocketknife is often left up to a judge or jury, which adds little substance to concealed weapon statutes banning specific weapons.
State statute 790.06 mandates anyone that wants to conceal carry a legal knife in Florida must apply for a concealed carry license. Regulators vet concealed carry applications by examining arrest records and ensuring a concealed carry permit does not include carrying at elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and any business that sells alcoholic beverages.
Permitted Knife Length in Florida
The only law that regulates knife length in the State of Florida concerns pocket knives. Common pocket knives must measure less the four inches to qualify for concealed carry. Any pocketknife measuring more than four inches is considered a banned weapon under concealed carry statutes.
However, courts have interpreted how to measure knife blades differently. Some courts measure a knife blade from the bottom of the exposed section of the blade to the blade tip. Other courts begin blade measurement at the base of a blade hidden by a knife handle.
One Type of Knife Forbidden By Florida Law
Since 1985, Florida law has prohibited ownership of ballistic or self-propelled knives. The only regulation pertaining to knives in the State of Florida address ballistic knives, as written into the state’ penal code. “It is unlawful for any person to manufacture, display, sell, own, possess or use a ballistic self-propelled knife which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile and which physically separates the blade from the device by means of a coil spring, elastic material, or compressed gas.
A ballistic self-propelled knife is declared to be a dangerous or deadly weapon and a contraband item. It shall be subject to seizure and shall be disposed of as provided in s. 790.08(1) and (6).”
Florida Knife Laws in 2018 and Beyond
There is not any proposed legislation in the Florida House or Senate that addresses knife ownership or any other facet of Florida knife law. Despite efforts to overturn the ballistic knife ban, it appears the statutes regulating self-propelled knives should remain the same. Some legislators want to create uniformity in Florida weapons law by preventing municipalities from passing tougher restrictions on concealed carry weapons.
None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.