Is it Legal to Carry a Fold-Out Knife in my Pocket? Or Any Knife?


Today we’ll take a closer look at the laws that cover the knives you can, and can’t, legally carry in Oregon. If you carry any kind of knife in Oregon, for any reason, keep reading to learn your rights and how to protect them.

Oregon Knife Laws

Many adults, mostly men, carry a knife on a daily basis. For some, it’s tradition, for others it’s to make their job easier, and some may want to be prepared in case they need to defend themselves. But how many of them are breaking the law?

In Oregon, the applicable law states that,

“Any person who carries concealed upon the person any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force, any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slungshot, metal knuckles, or any similar instrument by the use of which injury could be inflicted upon the person or property of any other person, commits a Class B misdemeanor.”

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You’ll note that the law refers to metal knuckles, ice picks, and slungshot. Today we’re going to focus our discussion on knives. Let’s start by taking a look at some examples of the most common types of knives mentioned.

Switchblades & Gravity Knives

When the law refers to a knife with “a blade that swings into position by force of a spring or centrifugal force,” it’s referring to what are commonly known as switchblades or gravity knives.

Below you’ll see pictures of what these knives may look like:

Dirk & Dagger

Dirks or daggers are knives whose main purpose is to cause injury by stabbing. They usually have a long, narrow blade with two sharp edges and a sharp point. Below you’ll see a few examples of daggers and dirks:

Concealed Carry

Let’s look a little more closely at the language of the law. The law states that anyone who “carries concealed” one of these knives is committing a crime. What does concealed carry mean?

A knife is considered concealed if it is not readily identifiable as a knife or if you at­tempt to obscure the fact that you’re carrying a knife.

For example, a knife in your pocket is concealed. A knife stored in a sheath on your belt is not, according to State v. Johnson, a 1989 court case.

You should also know that a knife hidden in your car is not the same as a knife that is concealed on your body. This was decided by the courts in 1981 in the case State v. Crumal.

The Ordinary Pocketknife

So let’s get back to our original question, “is it legal to carry a fold-out knife in my pocket?”

Believe it or not, what defines an “ordinary pocket knife” in Oregon has been debated by the courts for nearly 40 years.

In 1978, in State v. Pruett it was determined that, a “sportmans knife with 3.5” inch blade which folded manually into handle but locked when fully open was ordinary pocketknife” and could be carried, while concealed, legally.

Less than a year later in City of Portland v. Elston, the word “ordinary” was found to be too vague. Also in 1979, in State v. Strong, the definition of a pocketknife was expanded to include knives with folding blades up to 4.75” in length.

Let’s look at a few examples of pocketknives that you can legally carry:

So currently, the answer is yes you can carry a knife in your pocket, provided it isn’t one of the banned types of knives mentioned in the law.

Why You Shouldn’t Carry a Knife

Now that we’ve seen the types of knives you can and can’t carry in Oregon, let’s talk about whether you should carry a knife in your pocket. As we’ve seen, even though it is your legal right to carry certain types of knives in your pocket, it’s not always recommended that you do so.

Here’s a big reason why: Federal laws are different than state laws. According to federal law, the only knife that can be carried in a federal facility (like a federal courthouse or federal building) is a pocket knife with a blade less than 2.5” long. And when it comes to flying, no knives except plastic or round bladed butter knives are allowed, according to TSA regulations.

Additionally, if you’re carrying a knife for self-defense, it is not likely to be effective against a mugger or other attacker. Your attacker is likely to catch you by surprise, with a plan of attack in their mind. Because of these advantages that your attacker holds, in 99% of cases, your self-defense knife will not be of any use to you.

Worse still, if you are somehow able to brandish your knife, you will have suddenly escalated what was probably a simple mugging involving nothing more than money, into a knife-fight. This is almost certain (even more so if you’re not trained to use a knife for self-defense) to involve blood and possibly serious injury or loss of life as well. It’s just not worth it.

For these reasons, I don’t ever recommend carrying a knife if you’re main purpose is using it for self-defense.

Of course there are many valid reasons for carrying some kind of tool (like a locally made Leatherman) that includes a fold-out blade. However, at the point when the tool becomes a weapon, I believe the significant risks aren’t worth the minuscule benefits.

Oh, and if you're curious, all of the knives in the picture at the top of this post are legal to carry.

If you have questions about carrying a knife, or need other legal services, including DUI defense, contact me today.

Photo Credits: Scott Feldstein, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, James Case, Edgar Pierce, James Case, James Case