Delaware Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Openly: Any knife in most places
  • Legal to Carry Concealed with No Permit: Any ordinary folding pocketknife, defined as having a blade of 3” or less
  • Legal to Carry Concealed with Permit: Any knife except switchblade, gravity knife (incl. butterfly knives), knives with integrated knuckle duster handguards, throwing stars and undetectable non-metallic knives
Delaware flag

Illegal to Possess

  • Switchblades
  • Gravity Knives
  • Butterfly knives
  • Knives with integral knuckle duster handguards
  • Throwing stars
  • Undetectable non-metallic knives

Delaware Knife Law Overview

Delaware is a mixed bag of knife laws, but is one of the more permissive of the historically and infamously restrictive New England states.

Delaware has blanket restrictions on certain types of knives no matter what, others you cannot carry concealed without a permit. You can always carry concealed a typical, ordinary pocketknife, which Delaware defines as a folding knife with a blade of 3” or less.

The rest of Delaware’s laws cover some specific instances like selling prohibited knives or the usual prohibited places like schools. We’ll open up all of the relevant Delaware statutes on knives just below.

Relevant Delaware State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 11 DEC 222
  • 11 DEC 1441
  • 11 DEC 1442
  • 11 DEC 1443
  • 11 DEC 1446
  • 11 DEC 1446A
  • 11 DEC 1457

The definitions Delaware used for terms relating to knives and other weapons can be found in Title 11 Section 1457 of the State Code. Read up here:

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 222. General definitions.

(4) “Dangerous instrument” means any instrument, article or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury, or any disabling chemical spray, as defined in paragraph (7) of this section or any electronic control devices including but not limited to a neuromuscular incapacitation device designed to incapacitate a person.

(5) “Deadly weapon” includes a “firearm”, as defined in paragraph (12) of this section, a bomb, a knife of any sort (other than an ordinary pocketknife carried in a closed position), switchblade knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, slingshot, razor, bicycle chain or ice pick or any “dangerous instrument”, as defined in paragraph (4) of this section, which is used, or attempted to be used, to cause death or serious physical injury. For the purpose of this definition, an ordinary pocketknife shall be a folding knife having a blade not more than 3 inches in length.

(22) “Physical force” means any application of force upon or toward the body of another person.

(23) “Physical injury” means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

(26) “Serious physical injury” means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ, or which causes the unlawful termination of a pregnancy without the consent of the pregnant female.

According to the above, “deadly weapons” which are the sort that Delaware likes to restrict, is any kind of knife save an ordinary pocketknife, which Delaware classifies as a folding knife with a blade less than 3”. Note that under the provisions of this statute, “dangerous instrument” is included in the definition of “dangerous weapon.”

Any long time readers of this site or survival and defense-centric content in general will doubtless be very familiar with the concepts of force and serious physical injury.

For your consideration, using a knife, any knife on a person constitutes serious physical injury, and any knife, from a giant cleaver to a tiny scalpel is capable of inflicting life-threatening wounds.

Delaware law sets out that the carrying of a concealed deadly weapon is a felony if you don’t have a permit. See Title 11 Section 1442 for the exact wording:

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1442. Carrying a concealed deadly weapon; class G felony; class D felony.

A person is guilty of carrying a concealed deadly weapon when the person carries concealed a deadly weapon upon or about the person without a license to do so as provided by § 1441 of this title.

Carrying a concealed deadly weapon is a class G felony, unless the deadly weapon is a firearm, in which case it is a class D felony.

It shall be a defense that the defendant has been issued an otherwise valid license to carry a concealed deadly weapon pursuant to terms of § 1441 of this title, where:

(1) The license has expired,

(2) The person had applied for renewal of said license within the allotted time frame prior to expiration of the license, and

(3) The offense is alleged to have occurred while the application for renewal of said license was pending before the court.

The next section, 1443 says much the same about carrying a concealed dangerous instrument. I have seen reported here and there that one can get by carrying a knife so long as you make sure it is classed as a dangerous instrument and not a deadly weapon; this is foolhardy.

Dangerous instruments are named by class in the definitions for this Title as being deadly weapons of their own. Don’t get cute and think you’ll get away with something, because you won’t- don’t be a test case!

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1443. Carrying a concealed dangerous instrument; class A misdemeanor.

(a) A person is guilty of carrying a concealed dangerous instrument when the person carries concealed a dangerous instrument upon or about the person.

(b) It shall be a defense that the defendant was carrying the concealed dangerous instrument for a specific lawful purpose and that the defendant had no intention of causing any physical injury or threatening the same.

(c) For the purposes of this section, disabling chemical spray, as defined in § 222 of this title, shall not be considered to be a dangerous instrument.

(d) Carrying a concealed dangerous instrument is a class A misdemeanor.

That’s it, no bones about it. You must have a permit from the State of Delaware or one from another state that is recognized by Delaware to carry concealed any knife greater than a 3” folding pocketknife. The details for getting your Delaware permit are below in Title 11 Section 1441, which I have abbreviated:

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1441. License to carry concealed deadly weapons.

(a) A person of full age and good moral character desiring to be licensed to carry a concealed deadly weapon for personal protection or the protection of the person’s property may be licensed to do so when the following conditions have been strictly complied with:

(1) The person shall make application therefor in writing and file the same with the Prothonotary of the proper county, at least 15 days before the then next term of the Superior Court, clearly stating that the person is of full age and that the person is desirous of being licensed to carry a concealed deadly weapon for personal protection or protection of the person’s property, or both, and also stating the person’s residence and occupation. The person shall submit together with such application all information necessary to conduct a criminal history background check. The Superior Court may conduct a criminal history background check pursuant to the procedures set forth in Chapter 85 of Title 11 for the purposes of licensing any person pursuant to this section.

(2) At the same time the person shall file, with the Prothonotary, a certificate of 5 respectable citizens of the county in which the applicant resides at the time of filing the application. The certificate shall clearly state that the applicant is a person of full age, sobriety and good moral character, that the applicant bears a good reputation for peace and good order in the community in which the applicant resides, and that the carrying of a concealed deadly weapon by the applicant is necessary for the protection of the applicant or the applicant’s property, or both. The certificate shall be signed with the proper signatures and in the proper handwriting of each such respectable citizen.

(3) Every such applicant shall file in the office of the Prothonotary of the proper county the application verified by oath or affirmation in writing taken before an officer authorized by the laws of this State to administer the same, and shall under such verification state that the applicant’s certificate and recommendation were read to or by the signers thereof and that the signatures thereto are in the proper and genuine handwriting of each. Prior to the issuance of an initial license the person shall also file with the Prothonotary a notarized certificate signed by an instructor or authorized representative of a sponsoring agency, school, organization or institution certifying that the applicant: (i) has completed a firearms training course which contains at least the below-described minimum elements; and (ii) is sponsored by a federal, state, county or municipal law enforcement agency, a college, a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training, or a firearms training school with instructors certified by a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training. The firearms training course shall include the following elements:

a. Instruction regarding knowledge and safe handling of firearms;

b. Instruction regarding safe storage of firearms and child safety;

c. Instruction regarding knowledge and safe handling of ammunition;

d. Instruction regarding safe storage of ammunition and child safety;

e. Instruction regarding safe firearms shooting fundamentals;

f. Live fire shooting exercises conducted on a range, including the expenditure of a minimum of 100 rounds of ammunition;

g. Identification of ways to develop and maintain firearm shooting skills;

h. Instruction regarding federal and state laws pertaining to the lawful purchase, ownership, transportation, use and possession of firearms;

i. Instruction regarding the laws of this State pertaining to the use of deadly force for self-defense; and

j. Instruction regarding techniques for avoiding a criminal attack and how to manage a violent confrontation, including conflict resolution.

I’ll stop there since that part goes on seemingly forever. Yes, you read it correctly: you do have to take a firearms training class to get your CWP even if all you want to carry concealed legally is your knife. I know, it does not make even a bit of sense, but them’s the rules.

Delaware forbids specifically entire classes of knives: switchblades, aka automatic opening knives, knuckles-combination knives, throwing stars and undetectable non-metallic knives, i.e. something made out of plastic, resin, G-10, carbon fiber or some other material or compound that cannot be detected by metal detectors or magnetic field receptors.

Title 11 Sections 1446 and 1446A have the word:

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1446. Unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife; unclassified misdemeanor.

A person is guilty of unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife when the person sells, offers for sale or has in possession a knife, the blade of which is released by a spring mechanism or by gravity.

Unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife is an unclassified misdemeanor.

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1452. Unlawfully dealing with knuckles-combination knife; class B misdemeanor.

A person is guilty of unlawfully dealing with a knuckles-combination knife when the person sells, offers for sale or has in possession a knife, the blade of which is supported by a knuckle ring grip handle.

Unlawfully dealing with a knuckles-combination knife is a class B misdemeanor.

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1453. Unlawfully dealing with martial arts throwing star; class B misdemeanor.

A person is guilty of unlawfully dealing with a martial arts throwing star when the person sells, offers for sale or has in possession a sharp metal throwing star.

Unlawfully dealing with a martial arts throwing star is a class B misdemeanor.

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1446A. Undetectable knives; commercial manufacture, import for commercial sale, or offers for commercial sale; or possession.

(a) Any person in this state who commercially manufactures or causes to be commercially manufactured, or who knowingly imports into the state for commercial sale, keeps for commercial sale, or offers or exposes for commercial sale, or who possesses any undetectable knife is guilty of a class G felony. As used in this section, an “undetectable knife” means any knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict serious physical injury or death that is commercially manufactured to be used as a weapon and is not detectable by a metal detector or magnetometer because there is no material permanently affixed that would be detectable by a metal detector or magnetometer, either handheld or otherwise, that is set at standard calibration.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all knives or other instruments with or without a handguard that are capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict serious physical injury or death that are commercially manufactured in this state that utilize materials that are not detectable by a metal detector or magnetometer, shall be manufactured to include permanently installed materials that will ensure they are detectable by a metal detector or magnetometer, either handheld or otherwise, that is set at standard calibration.

(c) This section shall not apply to the manufacture or importation of undetectable knives for sale to a law-enforcement or military entity nor shall this section apply to the subsequent sale of these knives to law enforcement or military entity.

(d) This section shall not apply to the manufacture or importation of undetectable knives for sale to federal, state, and local historical societies, museums, and institutional collections which are open to the public, provided that the undetectable knives are properly housed and secured from unauthorized handling, nor shall this section apply to the subsequent sale of the knives to these societies, museums, and collections.

So leave any ideas of toting sneaky and surreptitious or exceptionally brutal knives behind; stick to good, old fashioned metal blades.

No-Go Zones

Schools, specifically defined as “safe school and recreation zones.” Definition is in the body of the statute below. More info after the break:

Title 11 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1457. Possession of a weapon in a Safe School and Recreation Zone; class D, E, or F felony; class A or B misdemeanor.

(a) Any person who commits any of the offenses described in subsection (b) of this section, or any juvenile who possesses a firearm or other deadly weapon, and does so while in or on a “Safe School and Recreation Zone” shall be guilty of the crime of possession of a weapon in a Safe School and Recreation Zone.

(b) The underlying offenses in Title 11 shall be:

(1) Section 1442. — Carrying a concealed deadly weapon; class G felony; class D felony.

(2) Section 1444. — Possessing a destructive weapon; class E felony.

(3) Section 1446. — Unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife; unclassified misdemeanor.

(4) Section 1448. — Possession and purchase of deadly weapons by persons prohibited; class F felony.

(5) Section 1452. — Unlawfully dealing with knuckles-combination knife; class B misdemeanor.

(6) Section 1453. — Unlawfully dealing with martial arts throwing star; class B misdemeanor.

(c) For the purpose of this section, “Safe School and Recreation Zone” shall mean:

(1) Any building, structure, athletic field, sports stadium or real property owned, operated, leased or rented by any public or private school including, but not limited to, any kindergarten, elementary, secondary or vocational-technical school or any college or university, within 1,000 feet thereof; or

(2) Any motor vehicle owned, operated, leased or rented by any public or private school including, but not limited to, any kindergarten, elementary, secondary, or vocational-technical school or any college or university; or

(3) Any building or structure owned, operated, leased or rented by any county or municipality, or by the State, or by any board, agency, commission, department, corporation or other entity thereof, or by any private organization, which is utilized as a recreation center, athletic field or sports stadium.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude or otherwise limit a prosecution of or conviction for a violation of this chapter or any other provision of law. A person may be convicted both of the crime of possession of a weapon in a Safe School and Recreation Zone and of the underlying offense as defined elsewhere by the laws of the State.

(e) It shall not be a defense to a prosecution for a violation of this section that the person was unaware that the prohibited conduct took place on or in a Safe School and Recreation Zone.

(j) The penalty for possession of a weapon in a Safe School and Recreation Zone shall be:

(1) If the underlying offense is a class B misdemeanor, the crime shall be a class A misdemeanor;

(2) If the underlying offense is an unclassified misdemeanor, the crime shall be a class B misdemeanor;

(3) If the underlying offense is a class E, F, or G felony, the crime shall be one grade higher than the underlying offense.

(4) If the underlying offense is a class D felony, the crime shall also be a class D felony.

Delaware does not screw around when it comes to weapons in schools, on school property or at school functions or events. You can see in the latter part of the provided section that Delaware actually jacks up the severity of the underlying offense if you commit it at a safe school and recreation zone.

It is really easy to get a double-whammy felony for carrying a knife on school grounds. Don’t do it and pay attention in Delaware!

Preemption

None. There is no statewide preemption in The Diamond State. You’ll need to keep up with any and all municipal and city laws in addition to all the state laws to carry your knife without winding up with a rap sheet. Take special care in large cities, as most will have even more restrictive laws and covenants than the state will.

Bottom Line

It is not impossible to carry a knife in Delaware, you just probably won’t get to carry the one you want. A permit will ease the burden somewhat, but quite a few knives remain banned by name, and you’ll always be on the lookout for local laws that could foul things up if you want to carry anything more capable than a small pocket folder.

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