Quick Legal Facts
Double-edged fixed blade knives may not be carried concealed or carried in a vehicle, subject to a few very limited exceptions.
Schools are weapons free zones in Michigan.
Major Cities with Knife Ordinances:
Detroit and Lansing.
At a Glance:
Double-edged fixed blade knives or “double-edged non-folding stabbing instruments” are profoundly disfavored in Michigan per 750.227. It is a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine not to exceed $2,500 to carry any “dagger, dirk, stiletto, double-edged, non-folding stabbing instrument” concealed. The same prohibition also applies to the possession of such items “in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person,” whether or not the knife is accessible.
Pocketknives are not restricted under Michigan state law. The prohibition on automatic knives was removed in October 2017.
750.22. Definitions (No definition applicable to knives are provided.)
750.222a. Doubled [sic]-edged, non-folding stabbing instruments (pertains to items fashioned from stone by knapping or conchoidal fracturing)
750.224. Manufacture, sale, or possession of certain weapons
750.226. Armed with intent to use dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument
750.227. Concealed weapons, carrying
750.231. Exceptions to §§ 750.224, 750.224a, 750.224b, 750.224d, 750.227, 750.227c, and 750.227d
750.237a. Weapon free school zones; violations and penalties; applicability
380.1313. Reporting and disposition of dangerous weapons found in possession of pupils
There are no forbidden or prohibited knives under Michigan state law. Knives are not mentioned in 750.224, which pertains to weapons that cannot be manufactured, sold, or possessed.
It is unlawful to conceal carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, double-edged nonfolding stabbing instrument, or any other “dangerous weapon.”
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations / Circumstances:
Schools K through 12, including private or parochial, and school buses are weapon-free zones.
No. Governor Whitmer vetoed a knife preemption bill in 2021 passed by both bodies of the Michigan legislature. Detroit and Lansing are among selected Michigan municipalities with a knife restrictive ordinance. No such ordinance is noted in Grand Rapids.
750.227 Concealed weapons, carrying
The most troubling aspect of Michigan knife law is the awkwardly worded and vague “concealed weapons” statute, which also applies to knives in vehicles without regard to the issue of concealment. As pertinent to knives, the statute states:
(1) A person shall not carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, a double-edged nonfolding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon, except a hunting knife adapted and carried as such, concealed on or about his or her person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person.
(2) . . . (omitted as pertaining to firearms)
(3) A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00.
Six aspects of 750.227 examined in detail below include:
- The per se restricted items – – daggers, dirks, stilettos, and double-edged stabbing instruments.
- “Other dangerous weapon.”
- The hunting knife exception.
- The vehicle restriction.
Per se restricted items — Double-edged Knives
The Michigan legislature has not provided definitions for “dagger,” “dirk,” or “stiletto.” A version of 750.227 in effect until 1986 provided:
227. Carrying concealed weapons—Any person who shall carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, or Other dangerous weapon except hunting knives adapted and carried as such, concealed on or about his person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by him…
The Michigan Supreme Court characterized daggers, dirks, and stilettos as “stabbing weapons” in the case of People v Smith, 225 N.W.2d 165, decided in 1975:
Thus, here the phrase ‘or other dangerous weapon except hunting knives adapted and carried as such’ following those specified types of stabbing weapons, [dagger, dirk, or stiletto] under the rule would be limited to stabbing weapons.
The Michigan legislature amended 750.227 in 1986 by adding “double-edged stabbing instrument of any length.” The intent may have been to supply are more objective term for “dagger, dirk, or stiletto,” as there is no indication that “double-edged stabbing instrument” was an addition to the prohibited class. In practice, it seems to have supplanted the dagger, dirk, and stiletto. The case of State v Payne 446 N.W.2d 629 (1989) – subsequent to the amendment – involved a prosecution for possession of “a five-inch double-edged, nonfolding knife.” The Michigan Court of Appeals stated:
Under the statute as it existed prior to the 1986 amendment, our Court and our Supreme Court held that daggers, dirks, and stilettos, as well as similar double-edged, stabbing knives, were dangerous weapons per se . . .
a homemade knife which is pointed and ground down on both edges may be construed as similar to a dagger, dirk, or stiletto, and thus may be permissibly classified as a dangerous weapon, per se. (citations omitted).
Michigan law provides a low threshold as to what qualifies as a “double-edged stabbing instrument. In People v Lynn, 586 N.W. 2d 534 (1998), the Michigan Supreme Court held that a “throwing knife” was a double-edged stabbing instrument. The item in question was a typical game-of-skill item, not suitable for cutting or stabbing. We suggest a very cautious approach to any knife or similar instrument featuring what may appear to be a double-edged blade.
Other Dangerous Weapon
The issue of what is a “dangerous weapon” for purposes of 750.227 involves the intent of the person in possession. In this regard, it differs from the per se weapons where the prosecution need only prove the item is a dagger, dirk, stiletto, or double-edged stabbing instrument.”
If the prosecution is based on an allegation that the defendant possessed a “dangerous weapon,” the prosecution has the burden to prove that the instrument was used, or intended for use, as a weapon for bodily assault or defense. The Michigan Supreme Court decision in People v Brown 277 N.W.2d 155 (1979) acknowledged this increased burden in a case involving possession of a machete:
The fact that a pointed instrument, such as a machete, has great potential as a dangerous weapon does not render it a dangerous weapon Per se.. . .. mere proof that defendant knew that a machete could be used as a dangerous weapon does not support a conviction under M.C.L. s 750.227.
The conviction of Brown under 750.227 was reversed because the machete was not a per se prohibited item, and evidence of an intent to use it as a weapon was lacking.
The Hunting Knife Exception
Michigan concealed carry statute 750.227 essentially provides that it is unlawful to carry a double-edged knife concealed. Accordingly, one may lawfully carry a double-edged knife openly. The same statute also provides that if one has the intent to use an instrument as a weapon, that instrument is a “dangerous weapon” within the meaning of 750.277 and may not be carried concealed.
Thus, any knife may be carried concealed if it is not double-edged and the possessor is not intent on using it as a weapon.
A person shall not carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, a double-edged nonfolding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon, except a hunting knife adapted and carried as such, concealed on or about his or her person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person. (underlining supplied for emphasis).
The Michigan Court of Appeals, in the case of People v Payne 446 N.W.2d 629 (1989), has interpreted the above as stating that the exception underlined above cannot be applied to a double-edged knife regardless of the circumstances.
We suggest that such an interpretation requires treating the underlined wording as superfluous. If a “dagger” cannot be adapted and carried by someone for the purpose of hunting, the exception serves no purpose. The Payne decision states that if the legislature intended that a double-edged knife could be within the exception, it would have worded the exception differently:
Moreover, had the Legislature intended the construction which defendant here suggests, they could easily and clearly have done so by simply stating: “…, except for knives adapted and carried for hunting.” However, they did not, and we will not strain to impart such a meaning to the statute as it is currently written.
This alternative wording would arguably expand or extend the carry restriction such that hunting would be the only occasion upon which any knife could be carried concealed.
We suggest that if one prefers to carry a double-edged knife while hunting in Michigan, it must neither be concealed nor transported to or from the hunting location by vehicle unless on land possessed by the hunter.
The Vehicle Restriction
It is a felony to transport or possess a double-edged knife in any vehicle. The concealed carry statute 750.227 prohibits the possession of such knives:
whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person.
“Concealed or otherwise” creates a complete prohibition. Accessibility for immediate use or the absence of accessibility is not an issue. A person may possess a double-edged knife at a dwelling, place of business, or on land possessed by that person which may be remote from his home. Michigan law makes no provision for one to transport a double-edged knife by vehicle. In other words, one may lawfully possess a dagger at his or her home and possess the same dagger at a place of business located miles apart, provided he or she walks between the two locations with the dagger carried openly. One may legally purchase a dagger at a retail location but may not transport it to a dwelling by vehicle.
Article 1 § 6 of the Michigan State Constitution states, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”
In the case of People v. Brown, 235 N.W. 245, decided in 1931, the Michigan Supreme Court held that “it extends to ‘every person’ to bear arms for the ‘defense of himself’ as well as of the state. ”
One Bernard Brown was found with a blackjack in a vehicle. A Michigan law made it unlawful to make, sell, or simply possess a blackjack, among other items. A separate Michigan statute made it unlawful to possess a blackjack in a vehicle. Brown was convicted on both counts.
Brown challenged the convictions as an infringement of the state constitution. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the protected category of weapons was limited to:
such arms as are commonly kept, according to the customs of the people, and are appropriate for open and manly use in self-defense, as well as such as are proper for the defense of the State.
It remains unlawful in Michigan law 750.224(d) to manufacture, sell, or possess a blackjack, slungshot, billy, metallic knuckles, sand club, sand bag, or bludgeon.
Michigan law does not extend this blanket prohibition to knives or cutting instruments, including daggers or double-edged stabbing instruments. Such items may be manufactured and sold. Moreover, it is lawful to openly carry a dagger or double-edged stabbing instrument. Accordingly, such items would be appropriate for open and manly use in self-defense within the standard set forth by the Michigan Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc v Bruen 597 U. S. (2022) holds that the right to keep and bear arms preserved in the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limits both state and federal infringement. It provides as to the public carry of arms:
Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms, and the definition of “bear” naturally encompasses public carry. Moreover, the Second Amendment guarantees an “individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” . . . and confrontation can surely take place outside the home.
Among the issues presented in the Bruen case was the extent to which New York State could restrict handguns from “sensitive places.” The Supreme Court acknowledged that legislative assemblies, polling places, and courthouses are places where weapons may be prohibited but that New York could not properly declare the island of Manhattan to be a “sensitive place.”
A total prohibition – concealed or otherwise in any vehicle – apart from one’s home, place of business, or property as imposed by 750,227 is arguably unconstitutional.
Whether a weapon is concealed is an issue to be decided by the jury unless the evidence is clear. Absolute invisibility is not required to establish concealment. The test as set forth in the case of State v Jones 162 N.W. 2d 847 (1968)is:
a weapon is concealed when it is not discernible by the ordinary observation of persons coming in contact with the person carrying it, casually observing him, as people do in the ordinary and usual associations of life.
Armed With Intent
Concealment is not an element of 750.226 Armed with intent to use dangerous or deadly weapon. This section applies to the knives restricted under 750.227 and includes any knife “having a blade over 3 inches in length.” A violation occurs if one goes armed with intent to use the weapon unlawfully against another. To “go armed” simply requires that the person moves from one location to another with the weapon and that he had unlawful intent when departing from the first location. People v Mitchell 835 N.W. 2d 615 (2013).
Law Enforcement / Military
Michigan law 750.231 provides exemptions from the 750.227 restriction for law enforcement and military members. The exemption extends to members of the Reserves while attending or traveling to and from drills or places of assembly.
This section does not apply to the weapon-free school zones, although 750.237a provides an exemption specific to schools.
Unlawful carrying offenses under 750.226 and 750.277 are felonies under Michigan law. The maximum penalty can be imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or a fine not to exceed $2,500.
Updated August 12, 2022, by Daniel C. Lawson