We’ve been asked this question many times and the easy answer is….there is no easy answer. It depends on where you are in the state and the circumstance. I’ve been doing a lot of research and the simple truth is there is no one answer and there’s no one place to find the information.
First, let me plug a site that has some great base information for every State. http://www.knifeup.com/knife-laws/
The guys who run the site try to keep this up to date and for the most part knife laws are not as contentious as gun laws so they’re not changed often (and when they are it’s not widely publicized). If you look at the Minnesota section they deal a lot with legal ownership, not carry length and it has a great summation of State laws.
On a federal and state level, there are NO blade length restrictions. The only restriction at the Federal level has to do with “switchblades” (that can be a different article). Note that carrying a knife is illegal, regardless of length, in courthouses and certain state buildings (MN Statute 609.66 Subd. 1g) so make sure you know the laws when you enter state buildings and facilities.
At the county level, it’s either very specific or completely devoid of any reference. Many counties rely on the cities beneath them to write laws.
Hennepin County has NO specific knife laws on the books at all. Ramsey County only has one entry and that is in regards to county parks.
Ramsey County Park Rules states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to: 3. Possess or carry in any park, any air gun, bow and arrow, knife with a blade three (3) or more inches in length, slingshot, dart or projectile thrower, or any other dangerous or illegal weapon. “
http://www.co.ramsey.mn.us/parks/administration/docs/Park_Rules_Ordinance.pdf Page 4, Section H, Number 3.
Now let’s look at some cities. As the question of knife legality mostly comes from people from the metro area, I looked at the two biggest cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul. It should be noted that while researching this topic I talked to several Police Officers in the city I live in (Minneapolis) and out of 4, 1 ended up having the right answer but could not cite where to look up the statute (not being able to cite statues is not unusual as there are thousands).
The Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Chapter 393.10, Subsection F states:
“Weapon” does not include (1) except when used as a weapon, a folding knife with a blade of four (4) inches or less in length, measured in a straight line from the point to the handle.…”
Interpreted from legal mumbo jumbo, this means a folding/lock blade knife with a blade length no longer than 4 inches is legal.
The Saint Paul Code of Ordinances, Chapter 225.01, defines what an illegal knife is but not what a legal one is. There are two especially pertinent sections when trying to define legal knife carry, first off:
“Concealed manner shall mean having the object on the person in such a manner so that it is not completely visible to any other person. Having a knife in a sheath shall be considered as having the knife concealed, irrespective of position of the sheath on the person.”
So anything you can sheath is considered illegal in St. Paul (I did find an exception for utility blades fewer than 1 inch in length but that gets very specific). An argument could be made that having a folding knife in your pocket with the clip and top of handle sticking out can be considered concealed but there is no legal precedent to enforce that view.
The second entry is where they define what an illegal knife is;
“Knife shall mean dirk, dagger, stiletto, switchblade knife, spring blade knife, push button knife, a folding knife with a blade in excess of four (4) inches, a machete, a bayonet, or any fixed-blade knife, carried in a concealed manner or within reach of any person in a motor vehicle.”
So one can interpret that a folding blade less than 4 inches is legal in Saint Paul, same as in Minneapolis.
But wait….if you live in Saint Paul and carry a 4 inch folding blade but step into a county park are you breaking the county (in this case Ramsey) law? The strict letter of the law answer is probably yes but unless city police know that specific county park law you are unlikely to have issues.
They certainly don’t make it easy. I randomly picked 4 more cities in Hennepin County (Bloomington, Edina, Maple Grove, and Minnetonka) and none had any specific laws listed on their city sites.
In Ramsey County I did the same thing (I picked New Brighton, Falcon Heights, Maplewood, and Saint Anthony) and only one (Saint Anthony) had any reference to knives at all and that was pertaining to pawnbroker sales (prohibiting “switchblades”).
There are 87 counties in Minnesota and hundreds of cities. What’s clear from the research I’ve done thus far is you’ll be hard pressed to find one solid all encompassing answer. If you want to know the actual legal blade length you can carry where you live the best bet is to check your county and city web sites or contact your local Police and/or Sheriff’s Department, asking specifically for legal citations. If you are looking to carry a blade that is legal “everywhere”, your best bet will be to pick the average minimum length in a folder model of your choice.
So I didn’t really answer the question of “What is the legal knife length one may carry in Minnesota?” but I left you with the tools, some advice on how to find out for yourself, as well as a good base of information. Whatever you decide to carry make sure you know the law and accept the consequences.
If you want to post what you’ve found about your own corner of Minnesota please let us know, especially if it’s wacky, because we all love to hear how laws are clear and concise.
Some other useful links:
The Minnesota State Legislature website, in case you want to reference it. http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg.aspx
This is an older doc and doesn’t have much Minnesota info but was written as a quick guide specifically for knife laws. http://www.handgunlaw.us/documents/USKnife.pdf
This site is similar to the one above in that it is more of an index but it is harder to understand. None the less this is a good quick reference guide. http://thefiringline.com/library/blades/knifelaws.html
Finally, here is a great link to a site that just redirects you to municipal codes. If you travel a lot or just want to dive deeper into your own area, this is a great place to start. http://www.municode.com/library/