Florida Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly with No Permit:

  • All knives, except ballistic knives.

Legal to Carry Concealed with Permit:

  • All knives, except ballistic knives.

Legal to Carry Concealed with No Permit:

  • Common folding pocketknife (recommend 4” blade or less)
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Florida Knife Law Overview

Overall, Florida is a solidly pro-citizen state for knife carriers. With all but one type of knife legal to be carried openly with no permitting required, and the same permit you’d get for legally carrying a handgun allowing you to carry all of those knives concealed, you’ll never want for a particular type of knife in Florida.

Florida’s Constitution does enumerate the citizenry’s right to keep and bear arms while also mentioning that the state may regulate the manner of bearing them by law. Florida’s preemption law is something of a rarity: there is no preemption of municipal law by the state except for those who have a concealed weapons permit.

While this is highly distasteful for freedom loving Americans, be they residents or visitors to the Sunshine State, as it furnishes extra allowance for those who stoop and kiss the ring of government oversight, it is a simple and inexpensive affair to obtain a Florida CWP.

Relevant Florida Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives:

  • Florida State Constitution Article 1, Section 8
  • Florida State Statute Chapter 790.01
  • Florida State Statute Chapter 790.06 and -.06(15)
  • Florida State Statute Chapter 790.17
  • Florida State Statute Chapter 790.225

The only knife type and one of the few weapons illegal by type to possess in Florida are ballistic knives, which are knives that actually fire their blades as a projectile by some means.

Statute 790.225 expands and codifies precisely what a ballistic knife is, and what knives are specifically not ballistic knives, as there were some pretty bad interpretations of the verbiage until around 2003; automatic and assisted knives were often erroneously lumped in with ballistic knives prior to this corrective measure:

790.225. Ballistic self-propelled knives;  unlawful to manufacture, sell, or possess;  forfeiture;  penalty

(1) 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) .

(2) This section shall not apply to:

(a) Any device from which a knifelike blade opens, where such blade remains physically integrated with the device when open.

(b) Any device which propels an arrow, a bolt, or a dart by means of any common bow, compound bow, crossbow, or underwater spear gun.

(3) Any person violating the provisions of subsection (1) is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 .

No ambiguity here, and as you can see in 2(a) that any proper assisted opening or automatic knife, aka switchblade, is not a ballistic knife. Florida law clarifies that all other knives are legal to carry openly with no permit, resident or visitor, but concealed carry of “weapons” requires a concealed weapons permit.

What is a weapon? What is a concealed weapon? For the purposes of the 790 statutes a concealed weapon means:

While a weapon is defined as:

  • Any dirk
  • Metallic knuckles
  • Slungshot
  • Billie club
  • Tear gas gun
  • Chemical weapon or device
  • Other deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife or blunt-blade table knife

Okay, bingo. So as you can clearly read, a common pocketknife is exempt from Florida’s mandate that you have a concealed weapons permit to carry a knife concealed. But what is a common pocketknife?

Here we go again: many states exempt common pocketknives from concealed carry proscriptions but as far as definitions go they are an awful lot like snipes, in that everyone has heard of them but no one has actually caught one or know what they look like.

Now, this seems like splitting hairs, and it is, but it can get real important if you carry a knife concealed and aren’t licensed in Florida. You never want to be a test case or the scratching post from some liberal judge or idiotic jury.

The term common pocketknife is nowhere defined in any of Florida’s State Statutes. All we have to guide our selection and qualification process in that regard are prior judicial decisions and court precedent. What we do have furnished in that regard is often more confusing and creates more questions than it answers.

A quick aside- I am not an attorney and I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. Seek consultation from a competent Florida attorney before carrying any knife in Florida- Generally and broadly speaking, in Florida, the nearly mythical “Common Pocketknife” is quoted as:

“a type of knife occurring frequently in the community, which has a blade that folds into the handle and that can be carried in one’s pocket.” The common pocketknife does not include such features as a “combat-style grip”; “large metal hilt guard” or a “notched, combat-style grip.”

What is a combat style grip? Is it a size, a shape, a texture, what? A large metal hilt-guard is a handguard or crossguard, ala a Bowie knife or many swords, that much at least seems obvious.

And what about a notched, combat-style grip? Is that distinct from a standard “combat grip”? Does it refer to finger choils? We are left to assume and interpret. The reductive method of selection is probably best in this instance, if you have any doubt.

Two features specifically named as making a knife a non-ordinary or uncommon pocketknife are double edge blades and automatic opening, specifically said to be “switchblades.”

The commentary resulting from cases and judgments of cases of interest also set the high-end length of common pocketknife blades to be about 4” long, though law does not quantify this. Again, take no chances if you are not permitted to carry in Florida! It takes only one “disqualifying” design feature to make your pocketknife a “weapon”!

Florida is highly permissive as to how, when and where you can carry your weapons, and 790.06 tells us more about all of the above:

790.06 – License to carry concealed weapon or firearm

(1) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is authorized to issue licenses to carry concealed weapons or concealed firearms to persons qualified as provided in this section. Each such license must bear a color photograph of the licensee.

For the purposes of this section, concealed weapons or concealed firearms are defined as a handgun, electronic weapon or device, tear gas gun, knife, or billie, but the term does not include a machine gun as defined in s. 790.001(9).

Such licenses shall be valid throughout the state for a period of 7 years from the date of issuance. Any person in compliance with the terms of such license may carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm notwithstanding the provisions of s. 790.01.

The licensee must carry the license, together with valid identification, at all times in which the licensee is in actual possession of a concealed weapon or firearm and must display both the license and proper identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer.

(12)(a) A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into:

1. Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;

  • Defined as “any building, booth, tent or place which tends to annoy the community or injure the health of the community, or become manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people as described in s. 823.01, or any house or place of prostitution, assignation, lewdness or place or building where games of chance are engaged in violation of law or any place where any law of the state is violated” or “a location on two or more occasions by a criminal gang, criminal gang members, or criminal gang associates for the purpose of engaging in criminal gang-related activity”

2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;

3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail;

4. Any courthouse;

5. Any courtroom, except that nothing in this section would preclude a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who will carry a concealed weapon in his or her courtroom;

6. Any polling place;

7. Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district;

8. Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;

9. Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;

10. Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building;

11. Any career center;

12. Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose;

13. Any college or university facility unless the licensee is a registered student, employee, or faculty member of such college or university and the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile;

14. The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft; or

15. Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.

No two ways about it: carrying a “serious” knife in Florida means you’ll need a permit if you want to conceal it. Also, pay close attention to the list of prohibited places for carry above; contrary to popular opinion, you can carry your weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol, but you cannot enter or sit at the bar or in the (usually) well defined bar section.

And schools, as usual, are off limits, even if you are a student unless your weapon is a lame stun gun or pepper spray. Go with the pepper spray, trust me.

Preemption

As mentioned above, Florida’s preemption law is pretty unique in that it does preempt local county and city laws governing the carry of weapons for citizens, but only for citizens who already have their concealed weapons permits. Those that do not will be left to abide by any city and county laws they encounter. 790.25 has all the details and further codifies Florida’s strong support of citizens bearing arms:

790.25 Lawful ownership, possession, and use of firearms and other weapons.

(2) USES NOT AUTHORIZED.—

(a) This section does not authorize carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, as prohibited by ss. 790.01 and 790.02.

(3) LAWFUL USES.—The provisions of ss. 790.053 and 790.06 do not apply in the following instances, and, despite such sections, it is lawful for the following persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes:

(l) A person traveling by private conveyance when the weapon is securely encased or in a public conveyance when the weapon is securely encased and not in the person’s manual possession;

(m) A person while carrying a pistol unloaded and in a secure wrapper, concealed or otherwise, from the place of purchase to his or her home or place of business or to a place of repair or back to his or her home or place of business;

(4) CONSTRUCTION.—This act shall be liberally construed to carry out the declaration of policy herein and in favor of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes. This act is supplemental and additional to existing rights to bear arms now guaranteed by law and decisions of the courts of Florida, and nothing herein shall impair or diminish any of such rights. This act shall supersede any law, ordinance, or regulation in conflict herewith.

(5) POSSESSION IN PRIVATE CONVEYANCE.—Notwithstanding subsection (2), it is lawful and is not a violation of s. 790.01 for a person 18 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon for self-defense or other lawful purpose within the interior of a private conveyance, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use. Nothing herein contained prohibits the carrying of a legal firearm other than a handgun anywhere in a private conveyance when such firearm is being carried for a lawful use. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize the carrying of a concealed firearm or other weapon on the person. This subsection shall be liberally construed in favor of the lawful use, ownership, and possession of firearms and other weapons, including lawful self-defense as provided in s. 776.012.

Bottom Line

Florida is a strong state for gun and knife owners alike, so long one can cope with the fact you need a “ticket to ride” in the form of a permit in order to enjoy full freedom, protections and flexibility under the laws.

Aside from that sour spot, though, few states afford citizens as much freedom of choice and minimal oversight as Florida does when it comes to carry of knives.

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About Tom Marlowe

Tom Marlowe
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.

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