Maryland Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Openly: Any knife that is not a “dangerous weapon”; a dirk, bowie, switchblade, star knife or razor
  • Legal to Carry Concealed: Any penknife that is not a switchblade; see below for definition and discussion
  • Legal to Carry Concealed With Permit: Any knife
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the flag of Maryland

Maryland Knife Law Overview

Maryland is another fairly restrictive state for knife carriers, featuring oddly worded passages in the statutes, and some antiquated notions for legal carry.

While they fundamentally allow you to carry pretty much any kind of folding pocketknife, their prohibition of all kinds of knives for open or concealed carry is a bummer, as is their odious restrictions on transference of others. Steep penalties and charges await those who fail to heed Maryland’s laws.

We’ll look at the most relevant statutes covering knife law below.

Relevant Maryland State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • MD Code 4-101
  • MD Code 4-102
  • MD Code 4-105

The bulk of Maryland’s knife and weapons laws are contained in 4-101 of the Maryland Code. This section includes a few definitions and well as prohibitions and other need-to-know info. It is lengthy, but all of it is important and relevant:

4-101. Dangerous weapons

(a) Definitions. —

(1) In this section the following words have the meanings indicated.

(2) “Nunchaku” means a device constructed of two pieces of any substance, including wood, metal, or plastic, connected by any chain, rope, leather, or other flexible material not exceeding 24 inches in length.


(i) “Pepper mace” means an aerosol propelled combination of highly disabling irritant pepper-based products.

(ii) “Pepper mace” is also known as oleoresin capsicum (o.c.) spray.

(4) “Star knife” means a device used as a throwing weapon, consisting of several sharp or pointed blades arrayed as radially disposed arms about a central disk.


(i) “Weapon” includes a dirk knife, bowie knife, switchblade knife, star knife, sandclub, metal knuckles, razor, and nunchaku.

(ii) “Weapon” does not include:

a handgun; or

a penknife without a switchblade.

(b) Exceptions for certain individuals. — This section does not prohibit the following individuals from carrying a weapon:

(1) an officer of the State, or of any county or municipal corporation of the State, who is entitled or required to carry the weapon as part of the officer’s official equipment, or by any conservator of the peace, who is entitled or required to carry the weapon as part of the conservator’s official equipment, or by any officer or conservator of the peace of another state who is temporarily in this State;

(2) a special agent of a railroad;

(3) a holder of a permit to carry a handgun issued under Title 5, Subtitle 3 of the Public Safety Article; or

(4) an individual who carries the weapon as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger, subject to the right of the court in an action arising under this section to judge the reasonableness of the carrying of the weapon, and the proper occasion for carrying it, under the evidence in the case.

(c) Prohibited. —

(1) A person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon of any kind concealed on or about the person.

(2) A person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon, chemical mace, pepper mace, or a tear gas device openly with the intent or purpose of injuring an individual in an unlawful manner.


(i) This paragraph applies in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Caroline County, Cecil County, Harford County, Kent County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, St. Mary’s County, Talbot County, Washington County, and Worcester County.

(ii) A minor may not carry a dangerous weapon between 1 hour after sunset and 1 hour before sunrise, whether concealed or not, except while:

on a bona fide hunting trip; or

engaged in or on the way to or returning from a bona fide trap shoot, sport shooting event, or any organized civic or military activity.

(d) Penalties. —

(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.

(2) For a person convicted under subsection (c)(1) or (2) of this section, if it appears from the evidence that the weapon was carried, concealed or openly, with the deliberate purpose of injuring or killing another, the court shall impose the highest sentence of imprisonment prescribed.

Without a concealed weapons permit, you cannot carry concealed any fixed blade knife, switchblade, throwing star or razor blade. The language Maryland uses to define switchblade in all probability construes assisted opening knives as well, so I would recommend you leave those at home unless you do have your MD permit.

You probably noticed that a penknife is explicitly not a weapon. What is a penknife? A penknife is defined as any small pocketknife with a blade that folds into the handle. So, a pocketknife, basically

So does the law say you can carry any folding knife concealed without a permit? Not so fast; regular readers know that interpreting what should be crystal-clear language found in legal statutes is a murky, risky business indeed.

Luckily, come prior case law in Maryland has indeed clarified strongly that a penknife is any knife that is, indeed, a penknife that is not a dangerous weapon.

So any folding knife that is not a switchblade, i.e. automatically opening or assist-opening, is okay to carry concealed. No other length or type prohibitions apply. How about that?

See Bacon v. State of Maryland, 586 A. 2d 18, 1991, and  Mackall v. State, 387 A.2d 762, 1978 for details of those opinions. This is a rare instance where court opinion reinforces the plain and obvious meaning of statutes that are normally twisted into traps by unscrupulous prosecutors in other states.

(b)(3) and (4) state that the section does not apply to a person who has a permit and also to people who have a reasonable belief to carry it for self-defense. (4) is of significantly more interest here, and the language bears close scrutiny since it states that the courts reserve the right to judge at their leisure your decision and the reasonableness of it should any charges arise in connection with you carrying the weapon. In short, if you want to carry anything but a penknife, get your permit!

One of Maryland’s most antiquated laws is (c)(3)(ii), which states that no minor may possess any dangerous weapon before sunrise or after sunset unless they are engaged in a related sporting activity, like hunting or shooting. I guess they can be trusted with them in the daytime, though!

Violation of any of the above proscriptions will net you 3 years in jail and a grand’s worth of fines. Steep for a misdemeanor.

Another “interesting” law for Maryland: it is illegal to sell your switchblade or ballistic knife that you already possess:

4-105. Transfer of switchblade or shooting knife

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not sell, barter, display, or offer to sell or barter:

(1) a knife or a penknife having a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device in the handle of the knife, commonly called a switchblade knife or a switchblade penknife; or

(2) a device that is designed to propel a knife from a metal sheath by means of a high-compression ejector spring, commonly called a shooting knife.

(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or a fine of not less than $ 50 and not exceeding $ 500 or both.

No-Go Zones

Any public school, as is expected. Note the statute specifically forbids knives of any kind on school property. Public school property, that is; private schools are okay.

4-102. Deadly weapons on school property

(a) Exceptions. — This section does not apply to:

(1) a law enforcement officer in the regular course of the officer’s duty;

(2) an off-duty law enforcement officer or a person who has retired as a law enforcement officer in good standing from a law enforcement agency of the United States, the State, or a local unit in the State who is a parent, guardian, or visitor of a student attending a school located on the public school property, provided that:

(i) the officer or retired officer is displaying the officer’s or retired officer’s badge or credential;

(ii) the weapon carried or possessed by the officer or retired officer is concealed; and

(iii) the officer or retired officer is authorized to carry a concealed handgun in the State;

(3) a person hired by a county board of education specifically for the purpose of guarding public school property;

(4) a person engaged in organized shooting activity for educational purposes; or

(5) a person who, with a written invitation from the school principal, displays or engages in a historical demonstration using a weapon or a replica of a weapon for educational purposes.

(b) Prohibited. — A person may not carry or possess a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon of any kind on public school property.

(c) Penalty. —

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.

(2) A person who is convicted of carrying or possessing a handgun in violation of this section shall be sentenced under Subtitle 2 of this title.

If you are not a police officer, a school resource officer or, somehow, at the school demonstrating something to do with a weapon on express invitation of the school personnel, you cannot have any kind of knife or other bladed implement on public school property. This includes all grounds, outbuildings and vehicles.


There is no preemption in Maryland. This is especially troubling here since most city and municipal laws grow tougher and tougher as one nears Washington, D.C.

Also, of note is that Maryland is a very thin state in some places, as accidentally entering a neighboring state could mean you would then be carrying an illegal knife.

Baltimore, one of America’s most violent cities, has its own major prohibitions on knives, the most radical departure being a general prohibition on switchblades.

Bottom Line

Maryland is a strict state for knife owners, though carry of basic folding pocket knives is easy enough.

This boon is largely wasted since a lack of statewide preemption makes carrying any given knife an exercise in frustration as one has to research where and under what circumstances it may be illegal and plan a trip accordingly.

A concealed weapons permit affords you more freedom according to the state, but may not help you at all with local laws. Be careful.

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