Quick Legal Facts
Not an issue.
Illinois schools are considered weapon free zones. It is a crime to possess a knife on school property.
Major Cities with Knife Ordinances:
Illinois restricts two classes of knives – knives that are per se dangerous and those restricted under the unlawful use of weapons (UUW) law. Per se knives cannot be carried on public land without prior security clearance. UUW knives cannot be carried or possessed with an intent to use unlawfully. Some UUW knives cannot be manufactured or sold with an intent to use unlawfully.
At a Glance
Right to Bear Arms/2nd Amendment Equivalent:
Yes, Part I, Article 22 of Illinois state constitution. Illinois’s Right to Bear Arms includes an explicit limitation on this right pursuant to the state’s “police powers.” The Second Amendment applies to Illinois via McDonald.
- 720 ILCS 5/21-6: per se weapons statute; possessing a Category I, II, or III weapon on public land or in public buildings without prior security clearance is illegal.
- 720 ILCS 5/24-1: unlawful use of weapons (UUW) statute, list of UUW knives for both sale/manufacturing and carry, location restrictions, sentencing provisions, and exception for licensed carry
- 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1: felons may not possess any weapons listed in 5/24-1; these weapons cannot be possessed while in a penal institution, regardless of intent.
- 720 ILCS 5/33A-1: automatics and ballistic knives are Category II weapons
- 720 ILCS 5/33A-3: sentencing provisions for various offenses committed with weapons
Restricted Knives: Yes.
- Per Se knives (banned under 720 ILCS 5/21-6) any of the following carried on public land without security clearance: knife with a blade of at least 3” inches in length, dagger, dirk, switchblade knife, stiletto, axe, hatchet, or other deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument of like character.
- UUW knives (banned under 720 ILCS 5/24-1) any of the following sold, manufactured, purchased, or possessed with an intent to use unlawfully: automatic knives, throwing stars, and ballistic knives
- UUW knives (banned under 720 ILCS 5/24-1) any of the following that are carried or possessed with an intent to use unlawfully: dagger, dirk, dangerous knife, razor, stiletto, broken bottle or other piece of glass, any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character
Concealing knives is not an issue under state law. See People v. Foster, 32 Ill. App. 2d 462 (Ill. App. 4th Cir. 1962). Concealing your person by wearing a hood or otherwise concealing one’s identity while carrying a ballistic knife is illegal. 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(9)
Restrictions on Sales/Transfers:
Under the UUW law automatic knives, throwing stars, and ballistic knives cannot be sold or purchased with an intent to use them unlawfully.
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations:
Yes, the UUW statute bans “deadly weapons” in places that serve alcohol and any gathering that charges admission. The UUW statute also has a sentence enhancement for carrying with an intent to unlawfully use in any of the following places:
- School grounds
- Public housing
- A courthouse
- At a school activity or on a school bus
- On public transportation
- Penal institutions (this is a separate crime, see 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1)
Restrictions on Production or Manufacturing of Knives:
Yes, under 720 ILCS 5/24-1 people cannot manufacture or sell automatics, ballistic knives, and throwing stars. Automatics can be manufactured or sold with a license. The City of Chicago also has an ordinance restricting production and manufacturing of certain knives. See Chicago Ordinance sec. 8-24-020.
Restrictions on Minors:
Yes, in addition to restrictions of the location of carry, under 105 ILCS 5/10 22.6 possession of a knife at school is grounds for expulsion of no less than 1 year and no greater than 2 years.
Adoption of Heller:
Yes, Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. App. 2012). NOTE: This is a federal court of appeals opinion interpreting the Illinois state statute. Also of import, it is written by Judge Richard Posner, one of the most widely respected judges in the US. Heller has not yet been be applied to knives in Illinois.
Bias Toward Closure Language:
Illinois has a large body of law regarding weapons charges, both firearms and knives. The UUW statute, in particular, has been interpreted in hundreds of cases. There is robust case law regarding sufficiency of the evidence, charging documents, suppression issues, proof of intent, and legislative intent of the statute. Furthermore, sentencing provisions for weapons offenses are exceptionally complex and detailed. State statutes are, unfortunately, supplemented by county and city ordinances because Illinois has not passed a statewide preemption law. The complexity and number of restrictions on knives, along with relatively lengthy sentences makes Illinois a less than friendly state for knife owners.
According to People v. Morrisette, 225 Ill. App. 3d 1044 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dis. 1992) Illinois law creates two broad categories of restricted weapons: those that are per se dangerous and those carried with an intent to use them unlawfully.
Illinois’s per se dangerous weapons statute, 720 ILCS 5/33A-1, differentiates between three categories of weapons. Category II per se dangerous weapons includes knives. Possession of these weapons on public land, regardless of intent, is a crime. Illinois’s unlawful use of weapons (UUW) statute, formerly the “Deadly Weapons Act,” 720 ILCS 5/24-1, which is older and much more frequently litigated, prohibits possession of a number of weapons with the intent to use them unlawfully. The prohibited weapons list under the UUW statute is larger than the per se dangerous weapons list.
People v. Sullivan explains that an intent to use unlawfully can be proven via both direct or circumstantial evidence, though if only circumstantial evidence is used it must rule out an “innocent” intent. Furthermore, People v. Marquita M. (In re: Marquita M.), 970 N.E. 2d 598 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dis. 2012) shows that intent can be proven via an interrogation of the person possessing the knife. A description of the weapon or the illegal intent to use said weapon should be included in the charging document. See People v. Morrisette, 225 Ill. App. 3d 1044 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dis. 1992); see also People v. Kite, 10 Ill. App. 3d 620 (Ill App. 1st Dis. 5th Div. 1973) (removal of description of weapon renders charge insufficient for conviction).
Given the methods of proving intent, it is very important when litigating cases under 720 ILCS 5/24-1 to consider motions to suppress both evidence and statements. Suppressed evidence could eliminate the charge entirely or make it more difficult to prove intent circumstantially and suppressed statements could eliminate direct statements from the defendant regarding illegal intent.
Illinois measures blade length by measuring the length of the non-handle portion of the knife as opposed to the sharpened edge of the knife. See People v. Sito, 2013 Ill. App. 1st 110707 (Ill. App. Ct. 2013).
The phrase “other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character” sounds potentially very broad. However, People v. Gazelle, 230 Ill. App. 3d 115 (Ill. App. 4th Dis. 1992), provides guidance that limits that phrase. It is not enough for an object to be a potentially dangerous weapon, it must share characteristics with the weapons listed in 720 ILCS 5/24-1. Thus, under Gazelle a pair of scissors was not similar enough to knives with blades of at least 3”, daggers, dirks, automatic knives, stilettos, axes, and hatchets to count as a weapon banned by the statute.
In People v. Velez, 336 Ill. App. 3d 261 (Ill. App. 2d Dis 2003) the court found that a knife can still count as an automatic, even if it was so broken that it did not function. The court noted that the determination of whether an object counts as a restricted weapon is one of fact, and that it would possible that an item is so decrepit that it would cease to count as a restricted weapon.
Carrying a weapon in anticipation of a need to engage in self-defense is an exceptionally limited defense. It is also important to note, that the defense here was not “self-defense” but a defense called “necessity” (called or similar to the competing harms defense in some jurisdictions). This defense is exceptionally narrow as seen in People v. Roberts, 136 Ill. App. 3d 863 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dis. 1985). The need to carry didn’t justify carrying a weapon into a prohibited location (a bar). Illinois courts rejected a similar argument in In re: Marquita M also involved a claim of carrying in self-defense.
Because Illinois lacks a preemption statute, knife owners need to check local ordinances as well as state and federal statutes. The city of Chicago has an especially onerous knife ordinance. See Chicago Ordinance sec. 8-24-020. Possession, sale, or distribution of automatic or ballistic knives is prohibit. It is also against the law for people under 18 to carry concealed a knife with a blade 2” or longer. Similarly it is illegal to sell or distribute a knife with a blade 2” or longer to a person under 18. Cook County also has its own knife-related ordinance. This law is a strict ban on “undetectable knives,” prohibiting their manufacture, sale, distribution, possession or transfer. Cook County Ordinance sec. 58-176 also prohibits bringing “undetectable” knives into courts. Violation of this ordinance results in a fine of no less than $500 and no greater than $1,000.
Illinois AKTI Case Summaries
People v. Sullivan, 46 Ill. 2d 399 (1970)
Unlawful intent to use a weapon requires evidence that rules out lawful use.
People v. Morrisette, 225 Ill. App. 3d 1044 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dis. 1992)
Charges for violation of Illinois’s possession with intent statute must include details of the intent to use it unlawfully.
People v. Sito, 2013 Ill. App. 1st 110707 (Ill. App. Ct. 2013)
Illinois’s per se dangerous weapon statute is not a strict liability offense and blade length is the length of any non-handle portion of a knife.