Quick Legal Facts
Not an issue.
Schools are weapons free zones.
Major Cities with Knife Ordinances:
At a Glance:
The Minnesota law concerning the possession and carry of knives is contained in § 609.66 captioned “Dangerous Weapons.” The only reference to knives is found in Subdivision 1. Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes, (4) which provides that it is an Offense to manufacture, transfer, or possess a “switchblade knife opening automatically.” Given the rule of interpretation or construction that the express mention of one item, excludes all others – expressio unius est exclusio alterius – no other knife types are restricted.
Subd. 6. Dangerous weapon. “Dangerous weapon” means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner, it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.
609.66. Dangerous weapons
“Switchblade” knives are forbidden.
Concealment is not an issue.
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations/Circumstances:
Knives may be “dangerous weapons” as defined in § 609.02. (See above definition). “Dangerous weapons” are prohibited on school grounds and school buses § 609.66 Subd. 1d. Possession on school property; penalty and in Court facilities, the “Capitol Area,” and state buildings Subd. 1g. Felony; possession in courthouses or certain state buildings.
There is no statewide preemption.
Selected Minnesota Municipalities with Knife Restrictive Ordinances:
Duluth - Yes
Minneapolis – Yes
Rochester – None noted
St. Paul – Yes
The Minnesota statute provides minimal guidance as to what constitutes a “switchblade knife opening automatically.” The “bias toward closure” exception, which was the central feature of the 2009 amendment to the Federal Switchblade Act, has not been recognized or incorporated into Minnesota law. While a good argument may be made that “opening automatically” is not the same as assisted opening, one cannot be confident that an assisted opening knife will not be found by a court to be unlawful under § 609.66. Subdivision 1 Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes.
The ‘Museum’ Exception
An affirmative defense is provided in § 609.66. Subdivision 2 as follows:
Nothing in this section prohibits the possession of the articles mentioned by museums or collectors of art or for other lawful purposes of public exhibition.
In the case of State of Minnesota v Reese, 446 N.W.2d 173 (1989) the defendant was convicted of drug and paraphernalia possession, unlawful possession of hypodermic needles, and unlawful possession of brass knuckles all of which were discovered in his home incident to a search warrant. On appeal, the defendant asserted that since the brass knuckles were hanging from a wall the trial judge committed an error by not instructing the jury that the brass knuckles would not be unlawful if the jury found the museum or collectors of art exception to be applicable. The Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissively observed:
No torturing of legislative intent or the English language could bring these facts under the sway of subdivision 2 of the statute.
Defendant Reese did not produce evidence of a collection of weapons or that his home was open for the public to view the single brass knuckles hanging on his wall. We suggest that the § 609.66. Subdivision 2 exemption may be applicable to one who is a bona fide collector of automatic knives and who has not co-located the collection with controlled substances and drug paraphernalia.
The case of In re the WELFARE OF C.R.M., child, 611 N.W.802 (2000) addressed the issue of a folding knife with a blade four inches in length on school grounds. The school staff routinely conducted “contraband checks” of students’ outerwear hung from hooks in the hallways. On Monday, November 2, 1998, the knife was found in the pocket of a coat belonging to a minor identified as C.R.M.
The school protocol upon finding “contraband” was to take the coat to the nearby classroom and ask who owned it. C.R.M. unhesitatingly identified his coat and when shown the knife he stated, “Oh man, I forgot to take it out, I was whittling this weekend.” The county police were summoned to the scene and C.R.M was charged with a felony. The judge reluctantly found the minor guilty at the juvenile proceeding based on the language of § 609.66 1d and urged an appeal to a higher court. The court of appeals, an intermediate-level court, upheld the trial level judge. C.R.M. then sought relief from the Minnesota Supreme Court which stated:
we observe that knives as common household utensils are clearly not inherently dangerous, as they can be used for a myriad of completely benign purposes–for example peeling an orange or sharpening a pencil–and are certainly not as inherently anti-social as illegal drugs and hand grenades. Moreover, mere possession of something that may fit the statutory definition of “dangerous weapon”–for example, a paring knife or scissors–would not create a level of panic, even on school property, that a “reasonable person should know [possession] is subject to stringent public regulation In many if not most cases prosecuted under a statute proscribing occurrences on school property, we note further, the accused will be a school-aged minor.
Thus we conclude that in light of our jurisprudential history requiring clear legislative intent to dispense with proof of mens rea and our heightened concern when it relates to felony level crimes, and because we believe the nature of the weapon here–a knife–was not so inherently dangerous that appellant should be on notice that mere possession would be a crime, respondent was required to prove that appellant knew he possessed the knife on school property as an element of the section 609.66, subd. 1d, offense charged.
We reverse the court of appeals decision and remand to the trial court to determine whether appellant had knowledge of possession . . .
The Minnesota Supreme Court did not rule that the subject folding knife was not a “dangerous weapon.” Rather, it held that there must be an element of mens rea (legalese for “guilty mind”) given the felony-level consequences.
Convictions of minors for possession of certain knives on school property have been upheld in the years since In re the WELFARE OF C.R.M., child where the evidence supported a weapon like design and knowing possession. Similarly, convictions for entering court facilities while in possession of a knife if the knife has weapon-like characteristics, which can be a locking blade, and the circumstances suggest knowledge of possession by the defendant.
We recommend that one avoid entry into those areas or facilities where “dangerous weapons” are prohibited while in possession of any knife.
Violations of the school and court facility subsections of § 609.66 are felonies punishable by not more than 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.
The maximum punishment for a violation of § 609.66 Subdivision 1 Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes, possession of a “switchblade knife,” is dependent on where the violation occurred. If the offense occurs on residential property or in general the maximum is not more than 90 days imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $1,000. If the offense occurs in a public housing zone, a park zone, or a school zone the maximum is not more than one-year imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $3,000.
(We note the anomalous situation where the penalty for possession of an automatic knife on school grounds under Subdivision 1 is substantially less than the penalty for possession of a manual folding knife on school property under Subdivision 1d.)
Law Enforcement / Military
Exceptions to Subdivisions 1d and 1g exist for licensed peace officers and military personnel who are performing official duties.
Updated February 7, 2020, by Daniel C. Lawson