Quick Legal Facts
Of knives prohibited unless licensed, except for common pocketknife.
Furnishing a weapon to a minor under the age of eighteen (18) or persons of unsound mind is prohibited.
Weapons may not be possessed on school grounds.
Major Cities with Knife Ordinances:
Various municipalities and cities have knife ordinances
At a Glance:
It is unlawful to conceal carry any knife except a common pocketknife. Knives, (but not firearms) may be carried openly subject to location-based restrictions. A holder of a 790.06. License to carry concealed weapon or firearm, or a license issued by a state with Florida reciprocity, may carry a concealed knife.
790.001. Definitions (Provides definitions for “concealed weapon” and “weapon”).
790.01. Unlicensed carrying of concealed weapons or concealed firearms
790.015. Nonresidents who are United States citizens and hold a concealed weapons license in another state; reciprocity
790.06. License to carry concealed weapon or firearm
790.062. Members and veterans of United States Armed Forces; exceptions from licensure provisions
790.10. Improper exhibition of dangerous weapons or firearms
790.115. Possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school-sponsored event or on school property prohibited; penalties; exceptions
790.17. Furnishing weapons to minors under 18 years of age or persons of unsound mind and furnishing firearms to minors under 18 years of age prohibited
790.18. Sale or transfer of arms to minors by dealers
790.225. Ballistic self-propelled knives; unlawful to manufacture, sell, or possess; forfeiture; penalty
790.25. Lawful ownership, possession, and use of firearms and other weapons
790.33. Field of regulation of firearms and ammunition preempted
Ballistic knives are forbidden.
Unlicensed individuals may carry a common pocketknife concealed. Licensed individuals may carry knives concealed.
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
It is unlawful to sell or provide a knife, except a common pocket-knife, to a minor.
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations/Circumstances:
Common pocketknives may lawfully be possessed at most schools, but one must comply with 790.115. Possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school-sponsored event or on school property prohibited; penalties; exceptions. Restrictions apply to many locations as described in 790.06 (12) (a). (License to carry concealed weapon or firearm.)
The Florida legislature has never enacted restrictions on automatic knives. The “common pocketknife” exception to the Florida concealed weapon prohibition pre-dates the switchblade hysteria of the mid to late 1950s decade. The Florida legislature has never provided a statutory definition for “common pocketknife.”
In 1951 the Florida Attorney General issued an advisory opinion as to what was, or was not, a “common pocketknife.” The opinion simply stated that a pocketknife having a blade 4 inches or less in length was a “common pocketknife.” The opinion did not mention automatic or push-button operation.
Automatic knives, often referred to as “switchblade knives,” were quite common in this county since the early 1900s. In 1951 automatic knives were being made by stalwart knife companies such as Imperial Schrade in Ellenville, New York, and W.R. Case in Bradford, Pennsylvania. The Florida Attorney General evidently saw nothing exotic or remarkable about such pocketknives.
In the case of K.H., A Child, v. State of Florida 29 So.3d 426 (2010) a minor was adjudged to be a delinquent for selling an automatic knife to another minor. The judge decided that the automatic feature made it uncommon. The fact that the decision was upheld does not make it binding on anyone except for the minor identified by the initials K H.
In 1997 the Florida Supreme Court decided the case of L.B. v State of Florida, 700 So2d 370, which involved a minor who possessed a pocket-knife with a 3-¾ inch blade at school. She was convicted of violating 790.115 Possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school-sponsored event or on school property prohibited. The trial court found that the knife in question was not a “common pocketknife” that could be lawfully possessed on the school grounds.
The Supreme Court examined various definitions, including the Webster Dictionary, and stated:
we can infer that the legislature’s intended definition of “common pocketknife” was: ‘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.’ We believe that in the vast majority of cases, it will be evident to citizens and fact-finders whether one’s pocketknife is a ‘common’ pocketknife under any intended definition of that term
The Florida Supreme Court also noted the 1951 Attorney General opinion and ruled that the knife of L.B. a minor, was a “common pocketknife within the meaning of 790.001:
As to the knife at issue here, we hold that petitioner’s knife plainly falls within the statutory exception to the definition of “weapon” found in section 790.001(13). In 1951, the Attorney General of Florida opined that a pocketknife with a blade of four inches in length or less was a “common pocketknife.” Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 051–358 (1951). The knife appellant carried, which had a 3 3/4–inch blade, clearly fell within this range. Accordingly, appellant’s conviction is vacated as we find that the knife in question was a “common pocketknife” under any intended definition of that term.
The standard or test announced by the Florida Supreme Court in L.B. v State of Florida was simply that a “common pocketknife is a knife occurring frequently in the community with a blade that folds into the handle.” As to blade length, the Florida Supreme Court gave recognition to the 4 inches or less standard as being presumptively “common.” Pocketknives with blades longer than 4 inches do not have the benefit of the presumption.
Mandatory Evacuation / State of Emergency Orders
Hurricanes and other storms often generate the need for evacuation orders. Florida law, 790.01 (3) (a) provides an exception for concealed deadly weapon restrictions upon the issuance of a mandatory evacuation order or “state of emergency” declaration:
A person who carries a concealed weapon, or a person who may lawfully possess a firearm and who carries a concealed firearm, on or about his or her person while in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to chapter 252 or declared by a local authority pursuant to chapter 870. As used in this subsection, the term ‘in the act of evacuating’ means the immediate and urgent movement of a person away from the evacuation zone within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered. The 48 hours may be extended by an order issued by the Governor.
The wording suggests that it is limited to persons “in the act of evacuating.” Presumably, those persons are permitted to retain possession of the same weapons while returning to their homes post-emergency.
The statutory definition for “Concealed Weapon” found at 790.001 (3) (a) provides as follows:
“Concealed weapon” means any dirk, metallic knuckles, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon carried on or about a person in such a manner as to conceal the weapon from the ordinary sight of another person.
The term “ordinary sight of another person” means the casual and ordinary observation of another in the normal associations of life. Ensor v State, 403 So.2d 349 (1981). While concealment is ordinarily a question of fact to be decided by a jury, it is not “automatically” a jury issue “simply because a portion of a weapon cannot be seen upon casual observation.” “The focus should remain on whether the weapon was carried in such a manner as to conceal it from ordinary sight.” Dorelus v State of Florida, 747 So.2d 368 (2000). (Emphasis is original.)
The Florida Supreme Court opinion in the Dorelus case suggests that a visible pocket clip may be sufficient to negate concealment. We suggest caution for pocket clip carry of any knife with a blade length exceeding 4 inches.
As it applies to knives, a “dirk,” within the meaning of statute prohibiting carrying a concealed weapon, is any straight knife worn on a person that is capable of inflicting death, except for a “pocketknife.” State v. Walthour, 876 So.2d 594 (2004).
Law Enforcement / Military
Florida law enforcement officers are exempt from the licensing and penal provisions of Chapter 790 Weapons and Firearms while acting in the course and scope of their duties. A simplified licensing provision is available to active-duty military personnel and honorably discharged veterans pursuant to 790.062.
License to Carry Concealed Weapon or Firearm
Notwithstanding the disjunctive “or” in the caption of the section, individuals holding a 790.06 license may carry a concealed weapon and a concealed firearm. Restricted locations to include schools, polling places, professional athletic events, court facilities, among others are listed in 790.06 (12) (a).
Updated June 29, 2020, by Daniel C. Lawson