Knife laws in New Jersey are quite complicated as compared to other regions in the US, such as Illinois, Michigan, New York, etc. At the same time, New Jersey has some strict laws regulating knife possession and use.
Knife enthusiasts and regular individuals who are not aware of those laws can find themselves in great trouble, including a long prison time or/and a good amount of fine.
The only thing that can save them is not to educate them about all the knife laws within the state. Such as which knives are illegal and which are legal to possess, lawful use and intent, prohibited from certain places.
Following these laws and keeping them in mind when possessing a knife can save them from criminal charges and fines – not to mention the lawful use of knives. Therefore, let’s begin with the knife laws.
Types of Knives Regulated in New Jersey
New Jersey law defines a knife as “any instrument or device capable of cutting, stabbing, or causing other physical injuries.” In simple terms, any device having a sharp edge or sharp blade that can be used to cut, stab, or cause severe injury to others is a knife. For instance, pocket knives, gravity knives, switchblade knives, ballistic knives, etc.
In New Jersey, almost all types of knives are found. But not all of them are legal to possess, carry, sell, or manufacture. On the other hand, not all knives are prohibited either. Let’s take a look at which knives are legal and which are not.
Knives Legal to Possess in New Jersey
- Pocket knife.
- Butterfly knife.
- Hunting and fishing knives.
- Lipstick knives.
- Swiss army knives.
- Throwing stars.
- Bowie knives.
- Any knife with an explainable and lawful purpose except prohibited knives.
Knives Illegal to Possess in New Jersey
As per 2C:39-3, these knives are prohibited in New Jersey and prohibited from possession:
- Gravity knives.
- Ballistic knives.
- Razor blade embedded in wood.
- Any knife without any explainable and lawful intent or use.
Preemption Restrictions in New Jersey
New Jersey knife laws may be very strict, but the good thing is that this state doesn’t have statewide preemptions. I assume you are not aware of the term “Preemption Law.” Well, no preemption laws mean that if cities came up with stricter laws regulating knives, then the state law that regulates knife laws can stop the enforcement of the laws that cities pass.
An example would make things easier for you. New Jersey State law regulates knife possession and use. And according to state law, five inches is the maximum blade length for all legal knives. But if a city passes an ordinance where it is illegal to carry a knife with a blade length of 3 inches, then state law can cancel the ordinance.
In New Jersey, Federal laws also regulate the possession and sale of certain types of knives, which are:
- Switchblade and ballistic knives are illegal.
- Federal Switchblade Act prohibits the possession, carry, sale, transport, shipment, and distribution of switchblade is prohibited.
- Ballistic knives are also prohibited to possess and sold.
- Transportation of any folding knife that has a blade longer than 5 inches are illegal (Note: Written permission may allow transporting).
Possession and Carrying of Knives New Jersey
Possession of certain knives may be allowed in New Jersey. But carrying them can be an issue and put you in a lot of trouble if you are not aware of the laws regarding knife possession and carry, which are:
It’s not an issue in New Jersey to openly carry a knife. An individual can open carry any knife as long as the knife is not prohibited and the blade length doesn’t exceed 5 inches or the knife size overall 10 inches. At the same time, the knife holder must be at least 18 to carry a knife.
As per Section 133.02, it is illegal to conceal or carry any knife. But if you have a license for activities such as hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities, you can conceal carry knives. However, all prohibited knives are not included in this law – meaning concealed carrying of prohibited knives is illegal as well.
It is legal to carry knives except prohibited ones to carry if you have an explainable lawful intent and use, according to 2C:39-3. This section states that one can carry a knife if that individual has a lawful intent and purpose to possess the knife. For example, hunting, fishing, self-defense, etc. But all prohibited knives are illegal to carry even if your intentions are lawful.
As per State Law 2C:39-3 and 2C:39-4, it is illegal to possess and use knives unlawfully. As I mentioned earlier, the unlawful possession of a knife is illegal. Likewise, using a knife for lawful purposes, such as robbing, assaulting, and harming others, is illegal as well.
Knife Used as Weapon
According to the New Jersey State Law 2C:39-1, a “Weapon” refers to “anything that is readily capable of lethal use and inflicting serious bodily injury.” The law further states a knife can be a weapon, and gravity knives, switchblades, daggers, dirk, stilettoes, ballistic knives, and any knife with unexplainable intent are considered weapons.
Since certain knives are considered weapons, possessing and carrying those knives are illegal, as well as using them as weapons.
As per 2C:39-4, if anyone uses a knife for unlawful purposes against others or other’s property, it will be considered a crime of the third degree.
On the other hand, 2C:39-5 states that using a knife knowingly against someone in a circumstance that is not manifestly appropriate is also illegal and considered a crime of the fourth degree.
Restrictions of Knife Carrying in Certain Locations in New Jersey
The New Jersey State Law 2C:29-5(e) regulates knife possession in certain locations. No matter the type – whether the knife is legal or not, there are certain locations where knife possession and carry is prohibited. And as per state law, it is prohibited to carry knives in schools (private or public), high schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutes.
Prohibited Knives and Blade Length Restrictions in New Jersey
As per the New Jersey State Law 2C:39-3, these knives are considered prohibited:
- Gravity Knife: According to 2C:39-3(h), a gravity knife is any knife that has a blade which released from the handle or sheath by the force of gravity or centrifugal force.
- Switchblade: According to 2C:39-3(p), a switchblade is any knife with a blade that is released from the handle automatically by applying force on a button or spring.
- Ballistic Knife: As per the 2C:39-3, the ballistic knife is any knife that has a blade that propels from the handle.
- Dagger: Daggers are small, pointed, and sharp edge knife that is used for stabbing.
- Dirk: Dirks are short daggers that are also used as stabbing weapons.
- Stilettoes: A short slender dagger with a thick blade used for stabbing.
Blade Length Restrictions in New Jersey
The New Jersey State Law 2C:39-9 states that it is illegal to possess, carry, sell, and transfer a knife with a blade length exceeding 5 inches or an overall knife length of 10 inches. In more simple words, individuals can only carry knives that have a maximum blade length of 5 inches and an overall knife length of 10 inches. However, all prohibited knives are still illegal regardless of the length.
Exceptions and Permissible Uses of Knife in New Jersey
No matter how strict the New Jersey knife law may be but there are some exceptions for knife possession and carry, such as:
Hunting, Fishing, and Other Permissible Knives
As per the New Jersey State Law 2C:39-3 and 2C:39-9.1, it is legal to carry and possess hunting, fishing, and other knives that are used for lawful and recreational activities. But individuals must have a license for those activities. At the same time, the blade length of the knife must not exceed 5 inches, and the overall knife length 10 inches.
The strict knife laws of New Jersey aren’t applicable to some professionals within the state. According to 2C:39-6, law enforcement officers, the US military, National Guard, and authorized persons can carry all types of knives, including prohibited ones, at any length with any charges.
Knife for Self-Defense
In New Jersey, it is legal to possess and use a knife for self-defense. Since self-defense is lawful – thus, as per 2C:39-3, 2C:39-4, 2C:39-5, it is legal to use a knife only for lawful activities that include self-defense. At the same time, 162 A.3d 270 (2017) states that one can carry and possess a knife at home for lawful purposes such as self-defense.
Knife Purchasing and Selling Restrictions in New Jersey
As per the New Jersey State Law 2C:39-9.1, it is illegal to manufacture, sell and purchase prohibited knives in New Jersey. The law further extends selling knives that have a blade length over 5 inches to minors who are under 18 years is considered a Fourth-degree crime.
Knife Possession in Transportation and Private Property in New Jersey
New Jersey also regulates knife possession and carrying in transportation and private properties, which are:
Knife Possession in Transportation
The New Jersey State Law 2C:39-2 states that the knife that is considered a weapon – possessing them in transportation is illegal unless it’s your vehicle and the knife you are carrying is legal. However, the law also states knife that is considered a weapon if found on transportation will be presumed to be the possession of all the occupants unless:
- A knife found in the possession of one person will be presumed to be his or her.
- A knife found out of the view of the occupant will be presumed in possession of that person who has access to the transportation space, such as the diver, owner, or the person who has rented the vehicle.
- If the transportation is a cab and the knife is found in the passenger compartment, then it would be presumed to be the possession of the passenger. And if there is no passenger in the cab, then it will be presumed to be the possession of the cab driver.
Knife Possession in Private Property
New Jersey State Laws, including knife laws, are applicable to public places and don’t include private property. But it is still recommended not to carry prohibited or other knives without permission on other’s property. And local laws and ordinances may regulate knife possession on private property in New Jersey.
Consequences and Penalties for Violating New Jersey Knife Laws
Violating the New Jersey knife laws has severe consequences and can lead you to serious trouble, such as:
- Possession of Prohibited Knife: The violation of 2C:39-3 that possession and carry of prohibited knives are considered a fourth-degree crime that is punishable with 18 months of imprisonment or/and a $10,000 fine.
- Possession of Knife for Unlawful Purposes: The violation of 2C:39-4, which is possessing knives for unlawful purposes, is a third-degree that is punishable with 3 to 5 years of imprisonment or/and a $15,000 fine.
- Unlawful Possession of Knife: The violation of 2C:39-5, which is unlawful possession of a knife, is a crime in the fourth degree and is punishable with 18 months of imprisonment or/and a $10,000 fine.
- Unlawful Sale: Selling knives unlawfully is a violation of 2C:39-9.1 and is a crime of fourth-degree. And it’s punishable with 18 months of imprisonment or/and a $10,000 fine.
- Unlawful Transportation of Knife: Transporting prohibited and illegal knives in New Jersey is a violation of 2C:39-9(d) and is considered a crime in the fourth degree. It’s punishable with 18 months of prison-time or/and a $10,000 fine.
Defenses to Possess a Knife in New Jersey
Though it is illegal to carry certain knives, if you are ever caught with one, and you don’t have any unlawful intent and just want to get rid of the legal troubles, you can use several defenses, which are:
- Violation of Fourth Amendment Right: As per the Fourth Amendment right, individuals are free from unreasonable searches and seizures. And if you are ever stopped by law enforcement officers for certain reasons and if they find a prohibited knife in your possession during their search, you can defend that with a violation of your Fourth Amendment right.
- Self-Defense: You can also defend yourself from possessing a knife with the excuse of self-defense. That’s because using a knife for self-defense is legal in New Jersey.
- Not Aware about the Knife: You can also defend yourself by saying you aren’t aware of the knife and don’t belong to you. Someone else has left to you that you don’t know.
Resources for New Jersey Knife Laws
When it comes to educating yourself about New Jersey Knife laws, there are tons of resources available that you can consider. First of all, you can visit the New Jersey Law and Legal Affairs website. Some other resources are the New Jersey police website and the attorney’s website. At the same time, you can consult with a lawyer for a detailed understanding of the knife laws. My blogs will also keep updated with all the knife laws as well.
Knife laws in New Jersey are very strict and complicated. And without proper knowledge, you can get in a lot of trouble and have to pay a huge amount as a fine. But following the knife laws properly can help you possess and carry knives without any legal issues.
For example, you can carry and possess all types of knives except gravity knives, automatic knives, switchblades, daggers, dirks, stilettoes, ballistic knives, and any knife without unexplainable lawful intent. The knife blade should be 5 inches or less, and the overall knife should be less than 10 inches. Knives should be used only for lawful purposes, and you have to be over 18 years to possess and carry a knife legally.