Utah Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Open Carry

  • Any knife

Legal to Carry Concealed

  • Any knife except a “dangerous weapon.” See below for details.

Utah Knife Law Overview

Utah’s knife laws are a complete mess, a quagmire of unclear restrictions of any given knife depending not on any specific design, characteristic, action or length of blade but instead on a set of several highly subjective factors open to judicial purview along with case precedent and legal opinion.

This makes pre-determining what knife is okay and what knife is a no-go ahead of time fraught with peril.

If you wanted to find a silver lining on this dark cloud, you could say that statewide preemption and the fact Utah does not ban any variety of knife out of hand based on style or action, but that matters little when you get the charges first then get to decide if you have committed a crime. A permit, of course, helps you avoid the worst weather.

We’ll unravel the mysteries of the Utah State Statutes in the article below. Get ready…

Relevant Utah State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

Utah State Constitution, Article 1, Section 6

  • 10-8-47.5
  • 17-50-332
  • 53-5-A-102
  • 76-10-501
  • 76-10-503
  • 76-10-504
  • 76-10-505.5
  • 76-10-507
  • 76-10-523

Utah does not get much right in their statutes, but at least they enshrine the right to keep in bear arms in their State Constitution. Sadly, it has a bit of a milquetoast disclaimer at the end. Article 1, Section 6:

“The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state, as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed; but nothing herein shall prevent the Legislature from defining the lawful use of arms.”

Definitions commonly used throughout the state statutes are found in 76-10-501. It is crucial that, whatever state you live in, you take the time to read the statutes’ definitions sections.

Common words that have an “obvious” meaning may take on entirely new meanings when defined by legislators and not by, you know, actual people. This narrowing, broadening or outright changing of a word’s common meaning may have drastic effects on the interpretation of laws as written.

See Utah’s Title 76 definitions below and familiarize yourself with them:

76-10-501. Definitions.

(6)

(a) “Dangerous weapon” means:

(i) a firearm; or

(ii) an object that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

(b) The following factors are used in determining whether any object, other than a firearm, is a dangerous weapon:

(i) the location and circumstances in which the object was used or possessed;

(ii) the primary purpose for which the object was made;

(iii) the character of the wound, if any, produced by the object’s unlawful use;

(iv) the manner in which the object was unlawfully used;

(v) whether the manner in which the object is used or possessed constitutes a potential imminent threat to public safety; and

(vi) the lawful purposes for which the object may be used.

(c) “Dangerous weapon” does not include an explosive, chemical, or incendiary device as defined by Section 76-10-306.

(16) “Readily accessible for immediate use” means that a firearm or other dangerous weapon is carried on the person or within such close proximity and in such a manner that it can be retrieved and used as readily as if carried on the person.

(18) “Securely encased” means not readily accessible for immediate use, such as held in a gun rack, or in a closed case or container, whether or not locked, or in a trunk or other storage area of a motor vehicle, not including a glove box or console box.

(23) “State entity” means a department, commission, board, council, agency, institution, officer, corporation, fund, division, office, committee, authority, laboratory, library, unit, bureau, panel, or other administrative unit of the state.

Now, if you read the above definition and subsequent criteria for determination of whether or not some weapon or object is a “dangerous weapon” and your brain started to sizzle and your blood started to boil, congratulations, your common sense-levels are nominal to profile.

In short, all it takes is an opinion, just an opinion, that any given knife is “not okay” and you could potentially be in possession of a “dangerous weapon” in the state of Utah.

We can read more about the wild and wooly ways in which this can turn on someone easily in 76-10-507:

76-10-507. Possession of deadly weapon with criminal intent.

Every person having upon his person any dangerous weapon with intent to use it to commit a criminal offense is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Folks, combined with the definition of a dangerous weapon being, essentially, whatever a judge thinks, who is to say that any given knife is not a per se dangerous weapon, and ergo you carrying a dangerous weapon is proof of intent enough?

I don’t like it, and you shouldn’t either. But, there is a glimmer of hope. Threatening use of knives and other dangerous weapons is nominally a crime, as 76-10-506 illustrates, but there is some relief contained therein. Emphasis added to that part below:

76-10-506. Threatening with or using dangerous weapon in fight or quarrel.

(1) As used in this section:

(a) “Dangerous weapon” means an item that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. The following factors shall be used in determining whether an item, object, or thing is a dangerous weapon:

(i) the character of the instrument, object, or thing;

(ii) the character of the wound produced, if any; and

(iii) the manner in which the instrument, object, or thing was exhibited or used.

(b) “Threatening manner” does not include:

(i) the possession of a dangerous weapon, whether visible or concealed, without additional behavior which is threatening; or

(ii) informing another of the actor’s possession of a deadly weapon in order to prevent what the actor reasonably perceives as a possible use of unlawful force by the other and the actor is not engaged in any activity described in Subsection 76-2-402(2)(a).

(2) Except as otherwise provided in Section 76-2-402 and for those persons described in Section 76-10-503, a person who, in the presence of two or more persons, and not amounting to a violation of Section 76-5-103, draws or exhibits a dangerous weapon in an angry and threatening manner or unlawfully uses a dangerous weapon in a fight or quarrel is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

(3) This section does not apply to a person who, reasonably believing the action to be necessary in compliance with Section 76-2-402, with purpose to prevent another’s use of unlawful force:

(a) threatens the use of a dangerous weapon; or

(b) draws or exhibits a dangerous weapon.

(4) This section does not apply to a person listed in Subsections 76-10-523(1)(a) through (e) in performance of the person’s duties.

Summarized as succinctly as possible, it is not a crime to draw a dangerous weapon, e.g. your knife, and threaten to use it on someone else if you have a reasonable, rational fear it is needed to stop illegal force against you. This is definitely good news for those of a self-defense-minded bent.

Lastly, we can see that the statute does make exceptions for several restrictions of one has been issued a Utah concealed weapons permit, but it is unclear if knives are covered. As written, it appears only firearms are in 76-10-523:

76-10-523. Persons exempt from weapons laws.

(1) Except for Sections 76-10-506, 76-10-508, and 76-10-508.1, this part and Title 53, Chapter 5, Part 7, Concealed Firearm Act, do not apply to any of the following:

(a) a United States marshal;

(b) a federal official required to carry a firearm;

(c) a peace officer of this or any other jurisdiction;

(d) a law enforcement official as defined and qualified under Section 53-5-711;

(e) a judge as defined and qualified under Section 53-5-711; or

(f) a common carrier while engaged in the regular and ordinary transport of firearms as merchandise.

(2) The provisions of Subsections 76-10-504(1) and (2), and Section 76-10-505 do not apply to any person to whom a permit to carry a concealed firearm has been issued:

(a) pursuant to Section 53-5-704; or

(b) by another state or county.

(3) Except for Sections 76-10-503, 76-10-506, 76-10-508, and 76-10-508.1, this part and Title 53, Chapter 5, Part 7, Concealed Firearm Act, do not apply to a nonresident traveling in or though the state, provided that any firearm is:

(a) unloaded; and

(b) securely encased as defined in Section 76-10-501.

Special Restrictions on Ownership, Prohibited Persons, Prohibited Transfers

Now, in any state there are people who cannot own or possess weapons, and usually a subset of weapons, and Utah is no different, but it so happens that Utah is very serious about punishing those who transfer weapons to prohibited persons, which they unhelpfully lump into two distinct classes of offender.

You can read the statute below, I’ll explain why after. NOTE- I have omitted Utah’s definitions of what constitutes their two categories of persons prohibited from ownership of weapons.

In short, if you are an illegal alien, criminal, or have been dishonorably discharged from the military, you can’t have weapons. The full criteria are available here for those who care to read it. For the relevant part of the statutes, see below:

76-10-503. Restrictions on possession, purchase, transfer, and ownership of dangerous weapons by certain persons — Exceptions.

(2) A Category I restricted person who intentionally or knowingly agrees, consents, offers, or arranges to purchase, transfer, possess, use, or have under the person’s custody or control, or who intentionally or knowingly purchases, transfers, possesses, uses, or has under the person’s custody or control:

(a) any firearm is guilty of a second degree felony; or

(b) any dangerous weapon other than a firearm is guilty of a third degree felony.

(3) A Category II restricted person who intentionally or knowingly purchases, transfers, possesses, uses, or has under the person’s custody or control:

(a) any firearm is guilty of a third degree felony; or

(b) any dangerous weapon other than a firearm is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

(4) A person may be subject to the restrictions of both categories at the same time.

(5) If a higher penalty than is prescribed in this section is provided in another section for one who purchases, transfers, possesses, uses, or has under this custody or control any dangerous weapon, the penalties of that section control.

(6) It is an affirmative defense to a charge based on the definition in Subsection (1)(b)(iv) that the person was:

(a) in possession of a controlled substance pursuant to a lawful order of a practitioner for use of a member of the person’s household or for administration to an animal owned by the person or a member of the person’s household; or

(b) otherwise authorized by law to possess the substance.

(7)

(a) It is an affirmative defense to transferring a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a person restricted under Subsection (2) or (3) that the firearm or dangerous weapon:

(i) was possessed by the person or was under the person’s custody or control before the person became a restricted person;

(ii) was not used in or possessed during the commission of a crime or subject to disposition under Section 24-3-103;

(iii) is not being held as evidence by a court or law enforcement agency;

(iv) was transferred to a person not legally prohibited from possessing the weapon; and

(v) unless a different time is ordered by the court, was transferred within 10 days of the person becoming a restricted person.

(b) Subsection (7)(a) is not a defense to the use, purchase, or possession on the person of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

(8)

(a) A person may not sell, transfer, or otherwise dispose of any firearm or dangerous weapon to any person, knowing that the recipient is a person described in Subsection (1)(a) or (b).

(b) A person who violates Subsection (8)(a) when the recipient is:

(i) a person described in Subsection (1)(a) and the transaction involves a firearm, is guilty of a second degree felony;

(ii) a person described in Subsection (1)(a) and the transaction involves any dangerous weapon other than a firearm, and the transferor has knowledge that the recipient intends to use the weapon for any unlawful purpose, is guilty of a third degree felony;

(iii) a person described in Subsection (1)(b) and the transaction involves a firearm, is guilty of a third degree felony; or

(iv) a person described in Subsection (1)(b) and the transaction involves any dangerous weapon other than a firearm, and the transferor has knowledge that the recipient intends to use the weapon for any unlawful purpose, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

(9)

(a) A person may not knowingly solicit, persuade, encourage or entice a dealer or other person to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of a firearm or dangerous weapon under circumstances which the person knows would be a violation of the law.

(b) A person may not provide to a dealer or other person any information that the person knows to be materially false information with intent to deceive the dealer or other person about the legality of a sale, transfer or other disposition of a firearm or dangerous weapon.

(c) “Materially false information” means information that portrays an illegal transaction as legal or a legal transaction as illegal.

(d) A person who violates this Subsection (9) is guilty of:

(i) a third degree felony if the transaction involved a firearm; or

(ii) a class A misdemeanor if the transaction involved a dangerous weapon other than a firearm.

More so than other states, you must be doubly cautious of selling any dangerous weapon (which frankly, could be anything) to a prohibited person in Utah.

The penalties are severe, and Utah is significantly more profligate than other states when it comes to tagging people with “restricted” status. Be aware!

No-Go Zones

Schools, public and private at any level. Kindergarten, high school, university, post-grad school, the works. The full text is in 76-10-505.5:

76-10-505.5. Possession of a dangerous weapon, firearm, or short barreled shotgun on or about school premises — Penalties.

(1) As used in this section, “on or about school premises” means:

(a)

(i) in a public or private elementary or secondary school; or

(ii) on the grounds of any of those schools;

(b)

(i) in a public or private institution of higher education; or

(ii) on the grounds of a public or private institution of higher education; and

(iii)

(A) inside the building where a preschool or child care is being held, if the entire building is being used for the operation of the preschool or child care; or

(B) if only a portion of a building is being used to operate a preschool or child care, in that room or rooms where the preschool or child care operation is being held.

(2) A person may not possess any dangerous weapon, firearm, or short barreled shotgun, as those terms are defined in Section 76-10-501, at a place that the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is on or about school premises as defined in this section.

(3)

(a) Possession of a dangerous weapon on or about school premises is a class B misdemeanor.

(b) Possession of a firearm or short barreled shotgun on or about school premises is a class A misdemeanor.

(4) This section does not apply if:

(a) the person is authorized to possess a firearm as provided under Section 53-5-704, 53-5-705, 76-10-511, or 76-10-523, or as otherwise authorized by law;

(b) the possession is approved by the responsible school administrator;

(c) the item is present or to be used in connection with a lawful, approved activity and is in the possession or under the control of the person responsible for its possession or use; or

(d) the possession is:

(i) at the person’s place of residence or on the person’s property; or

(ii) in any vehicle lawfully under the person’s control, other than a vehicle owned by the school or used by the school to transport students.

(5) This section does not prohibit prosecution of a more serious weapons offense that may occur on or about school premises.

It is theoretically possible to obtain permission from the school administrator to carry a dangerous weapon on the grounds, and you can keep a weapon in your vehicle, secured, legally.

This is also another great example of just how screwball the subjectively interpretive language in the Utah statutes is: ostensibly a bladed implement that is not a “dangerous weapon” would be 100% A-OK.

Now, if you think that your knife will be A-OK, if you are caught carrying it, well, maybe now is a good time to go buy some Lotto tickets.

Preemption

Believe it or not, Utah does have fairly solid preemption laws, they are just scattered in two different discrete sections of the State Statutes. The relevant sections are found in 10-8-47.5 and 17-50-332 one for counties and one for municipalities:

10-8-47.5. Knives regulated by state.

(1) As used in this section, “knife” means a cutting instrument that includes a sharpened or pointed blade.

(2) The authority to regulate a knife is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to a municipality.

(3)

(a) Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature or, subject to Subsection (3)(b), a municipal ordinance with a criminal penalty, a municipality may not enact or enforce an ordinance or a regulation pertaining to a knife.

(b) A municipality may not enact an ordinance with a criminal penalty pertaining to a knife that is:

(i) more restrictive than a state criminal penalty pertaining to a knife; or

(ii) has a greater criminal penalty than a state penalty pertaining to a knife.

17-50-332. Knives regulated by state.

(1) As used in this section, “knife” means a cutting instrument that includes a sharpened or pointed blade.

(2) The authority to regulate a knife is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to a county.

(3)

(a) Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature or, subject to Subsection (3)(b), a county ordinance with a criminal penalty, a county may not enact or enforce an ordinance or a regulation pertaining to a knife.

(b) A county may not enact an ordinance with a criminal penalty pertaining to a knife that is:

(i) more restrictive than a state criminal penalty pertaining to a knife; or

(ii) has a greater criminal penalty than a state penalty pertaining to a knife.

Assuming you get a permit, and assuming you can get anything approximating confident on your choice of knife, you’ll at least be able to carry that knife from place to place and town to town free from worry that you’ll run into trouble from barging into another locale’s restrictive ordinances on knives.

Bottom Line

Utah’s knife laws are one byzantine mess of interpretations, unclear statutes and uncertain definitions. While nominally knife friendly, this is one of the states I’d have the least confidence carrying concealed in without a permit

It my estimation, it is essential that one obtains a Utah concealed weapons permit or out-of-state equivalent before carrying any knife concealed that is more ostentatious than an Opinel pocketknife.

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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