New Jersey Knife Laws | American Knives and Tools Institute (2023)

Fast legal facts

New Jersey Knife Laws | American Knives and Tools Institute (1)

Nationwide pre-purchase:


Covert Transport:

No problem.


Possession of a firearm in or on any part of the buildings or grounds of a school, college, university or other educational institution in circumstances not manifestly appropriate for its lawful use constitutes a fourth degree felony.

Critical dimensions:

The maximum overall length of 5 inches or more blade length of 10 inches is limited on knives that can be sold to minors.

At a glance:

New Jersey law prohibits the possession "without an explainable lawful purpose" of "gravity knives, jackknives, daggers, daggers, stilettos, dangerous knives, or ballistic knives." Owning a gun in one's home is arguably a "lawful purpose." Pocket knives may be carried outside the home except by someone who has an unlawful intent or is in possession of the knife for an unlawful purpose. Self-defense beyond the confines of one's own home is not a legitimate purpose.

Relevant Statutes:

2C:39-1. definitions

H. "Gravity Knife" means any knife whose blade is released from the handle or sheath by gravity or the application of centrifugal force.

right "Weapon" means anything readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. The term includes, but is not limited to, all (1) firearms, . . . (2) components that can be easily assembled into a weapon; (3) Gravity knives, jackknives, daggers, daggers, stilettos, or other dangerous knives. . . and (4) stun guns; . . .

p. "Jump Knife" means any knife or similar device with a blade that opens automatically when a hand presses on a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife.

"Ballistic Knife" means any weapon or other device capable of lethal use and capable of propelling a knife blade.

2C:39-2. assumptions

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2C:39-3. Prohibited Weapons and Devices

e. Certain weapons. Any person who knowingly wields a gravity knife, switchblade, dagger, dagger, stiletto, . . . or . . . A ballistic knife with no explainable legitimate purpose is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.

2C:39-4. possession of weapons for unlawful purposes

i.e. Other Weapons. Any person who has in his possession any weapon other than a firearm for the purpose of unlawful use against the person or property of another is guilty of a third degree felony.

2C:39-5. Unauthorized possession of firearms

i.e. Other Weapons. Any person knowingly possessing another weapon in circumstances manifestly unfit for such lawful use is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.

2C:39-6. exceptions

2C:39-7. Certain individuals may not possess weapons or ammunition

2C:39-9.1. Sale of knives with a blade length of more than 5 inches or an overall length of more than 10 inches to persons under the age of 18

2C:39-9. Manufacture, transport, disposition and defacement of weapons and dangerous instruments and devices

2C:40-18. Knowledge of the violation or non-compliance with legal obligations to protect public safety

Search for statutes on theNew Jersey Department of State website.

Restricted Knives:

Gravity knives, automatic knives, daggers, daggers, stilettos, and ballistic knives all have significant limitations. (See discussion below)

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Covert Transport:

Concealment is not an issue under New Jersey state law.

Selling or Transferring Restrictions:

2C:39-9 (d)Any person who manufactures, has manufactured, transports, ships, sells, or disposes of weapons, including gravity knives, switchblades, ballistic knives, daggers, daggers, stilettos, . . . is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.

2C:39-9.1A person who sells a hunting, fishing, combat, or survival knife with a blade length of 5 inches or more or an overall length of 10 inches or more to a person under the age of 18 commits a fourth-degree felony;

Restrictions on Carrying in Certain Locations/Circumstances:

Knives may not be possessed on the property of schools or educational establishments (K to university) or where it is not "manifestly appropriate".

Nationwide pre-purchase:


Select New Jersey communities with knife-restricting ordinances:

Camden - Section 133.02 Carrying Concealed Weapons and Section 133.03 Switchblades


Possession Restrictions

New Jersey law provides three classes of knife restrictions in Chapter 39 of Title 2C, entitled "Firearms, Other Dangerous Weapons, and Instruments of Crime."

(1)2C:39-3. Prohibited Weapons and Devices

Although the word "prohibited" appears in the heading of this section, the knives described are not entirely prohibited. Rather, possession of a gravity knife, jackknife, dagger, dagger, stiletto, or ballistic knife without oneExplainable legitimate purpose, is prohibited. In case ofState of New Jersey v. Montalvo, 162 A.3d 270 (2017), the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that owning a machete in one's home for self-defense was legal. The case arose out of a long-simmering dispute between Mr. Montalvo and a neighbor who lived in an apartment immediately below Montalvo's. A flare-up ensued, leading to the neighbor "knocking" on Montalvo's door, who responded with a machete behind his legs. The neighbor did not see the machete immediately. The jury found that Montalvo did not leave his apartment during the altercation. Defendant Montalvo used the machete to damage some patio furniture belonging to the neighbor, along with a porch railing, either before or after the neighbor appeared at his door, and he was accordingly convicted of criminal assault. He was also charged with violating 2C:39-4. Possession of weapons for unlawful purposes and 2C:39-5. Unauthorized possession of firearms.

The jury found Montalvo not guilty on 2C:39-4 but found guilty on 2C:39-5. He was sentenced to 540 days in prison and 18 days for criminal mischief for violating 2C:39-5 and appealed 2C:39-5. Conviction of unlawful possession of firearms based on the trial judge's failure to instruct the jury on Montalvo's right to keep or possess a defense weapon at his home. The New Jersey Supreme Court stated:

Self-defense is a possible defense against a gun offense. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "A well-regulated militia, necessary to the security of a free State, shall not violate the right of the people to possess and bear arms."US const. change. II.The second amendment "guarantees the individual right to own and bear arms in the event of a confrontation".District of Columbia gegen Heller, 554U.S.570, (2008), and applies without restriction to the statesMcDonald vs. City of Chicago, 561U.S.742, (2010). It extends to "all instruments constituting man-portable weapons".Heller, above, 554 US at 582,.

However, the court limited possession to the apartment:

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The home is given special treatment within the grounds of self-defense. InRather above, the United States Supreme Court emphasized the right to own guns in the home “where the need for self-defense, family, and property is most urgent.” 628. New Jersey law reflects this principle. For example, although "traditional claims of self-defense require that a person who can safely withdraw from the confrontation use that means of escape," under the "castle doctrine...suspends that requirement if the confrontation takes place in one's home or 'castle'."State v. Gartland, A.2d 564 (1997).

It is implicit in the wording of 2C:39-3. Prohibited weapons and implements that have an explainable lawful purpose under New Jersey law, automatic knives, and daggers, daggers, and stilettos. Given the holding ofState of New Jersey v. Montalvo, 162 A.3d 270 (2017), such items may be retained for the lawful purpose of self-defense.

We read current New Jersey law as intolerant of the possession of such knives outside of one's home. The case ofState of New Jersey v. Harmon, 516A.2d 1047 (1986)Believes that self-defense does not excuse the possession of a weapon outside the home except "in those rare and temporary circumstances in which a person spontaneously arms himself to meet imminent danger". This offers a significant advantage to the attacker or robber, who chooses the timing and location of the attack.

(2)2C:39-4. possession of weapons for unlawful purposes

The second class of possession offenses "prohibits possession of a weapon with intent to use it against the person or property of another." Very similar laws are a common feature in most states.

(3)2C:39-5. Unauthorized possession of firearms

This is the most troubling of the New Jersey laws that govern knives. It is extremely vague and therefore does not provide sufficient guidance. The law covers various weapons. Subsection (d) applies to knives together with "other" weapons:

i.e. Other Weapons. Any person knowingly possessing another weapon in circumstances manifestly unfit for such lawful use is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.

A “fourth degree” felony is a felony under New Jersey law and carries a penalty of up to 18 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000! One can become a criminal with no criminal intent or conduct, simply by possessing a weapon, including a knife, in circumstances that are "obviously inappropriate." The offense is based not on what happened or what was intended, but on whatcouldhappen because something with lawful use and not otherwise restricted is slightly inappropriate at any time and place.

New Jersey is a geographically small state of nine million people. There is no way of knowing what circumstances will occur during the day because the "circumstances" are largely beyond one's control. The variables are infinite; The offense is indefinite, does not require actual damage to have occurred, and results in a felony conviction. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, although a judge filed a damning objectionState of New Jersey v. Lee, 475 A3d 31 (1984):

CLIFFORD, J., differing.

If the deplorable lack of precision in our public discourse has not yet reached scandalous proportions, this bodes well that it will soon. Wavering on the edge of that exaggeration, I view today's decision as a significant, albeit unintentional, contributor to the decline in accuracy in the language, fueling an unfortunate trend that we should do our best to halt.

The court not only swept aside respected authority (state vs green,andRegarding T.E.T.,With his finding that proof of intent to use a weapon for an unlawful purpose is not necessary to support infringementN.J.S.A.2C:39-5d; She has managed to camouflage the legal phrase "obviously inappropriate" with totally undeserved seriousness. The first, a disregard for established case law, is one thing - an affront to the dignity of precedent, but tolerable. The second, however, is something else entirely - an insult to civilized usage, which in this case belittles an indispensable feature of the law: conciseness and clarity of meaning.

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To begin, I would like to note my agreement with Judge Antell, who I disagree with below, that even if we could agree on an acceptable meaning of "manifestly unreasonable", its use presents an insurmountable obstacle to any coherence in this penal code.

Read literally, legal language would encompass myriad situations that the legislature could not have intended as subject of criminal prosecution. The worker carrying home a linoleum knife used earlier at work; the paring knife accidentally left on the floor of a car after being used for a lawful purpose; a dunnage hook or fishing hook thrown into a vessel and forgotten. A "weapon" might include a brick, baseball bat, hammer, broken bottle, fishing knife, barbed wire, knitting needle, sharpened pencil, riding crop, jagged can, rope, screwdriver, ice pick, tire iron , pruning shears, pitchfork, shovel, piece of chain, pocket knife, fork, metal pipe, stick, etc. The foregoing merely illustrates the variety of lawful objects which are often innocently possessed of conflicting intent, but in circumstances which are clearly not are "manifestly appropriate" for their lawful use.

. . .

The point is that a phrase like "manifestly inappropriate" carries the risk, intolerable in a criminal law, of having wild swings in meaning. We should not undertake to justify its use in this law by assuming that "all of usknowswhat it means. (quotes omitted)

One can reduce the threat to freedom from 2C:39-5. Unauthorized possession of a weapon by selecting a knife without any characteristics that indicate the use of a weapon. In case ofState of New Jersey v. Riley, 703 A2d 347 (1997),the defendant was convicted of first-degree armed robbery and a violation of 2C:39-5. He "knocked down" an elderly man and stole $45 from him. Upon arrest at the scene of the crime, it was found that the accused had in his possession a jackknife with three blades, the longest of which was ten centimeters long. (We suspect it was a "stockman" pattern slip-joint knife or similar knife.) The knife was not "used" in the robbery. The victim testified that he was not aware at the time that the defendant had a knife.

On appeal, both convictions were overturned on the grounds that the knife was not a "weapon." It was not one of the knives listed in the legal definition of "weapon" and was neither used nor intended as a weapon. Accordingly, a key element of "armed" robbery - the use of a weapon to coerce - was absent and the defendant had no "weapon" in manifestly inappropriate circumstances.

Another approach to reducing the risk of injury from 2C:39-5. Unlawful possession of a weapon is avoiding possession of any "dangerous knife" mentioned in 2C:39-1. Definitions but not defined. The courts have established use or intent to use as a weapon as a test of what makes a knife not otherwise restricted a "dangerous knife":

Obviously, possession of a knife is not a onerous offense and a knife popularly known as a pocket knife, penknife, or folding knife, commonly carried for personal use, convenience, or other lawful purposes, is not a "dangerous knife."Per se. This does not mean, however, that such a knife, regardless of the length of its blade or the circumstances in which it is carried, cannot be a deadly weapon and should by rights be exempted from the designation “dangerous knife”, the possession of which is by law forbidden is. Based on the rationale of our relevant statutes and applicable decision-making law, it is a reasonable conclusion that a knife is not dangerousPer sea "dangerous knife" if the purpose of possession is to be used as a weapon.State of New Jersey v. Green, 303 A.2d 312 (1973).

New Jersey law does not even currently recognize the right to possess defensive weapons outside of one's home. 2C:39-5. Unlawful possession of firearms is the law enforcing this policy. The American Knife & Tool Institute recommends that "personal benefit, convenience, or other lawful purpose" be used under theGreenThis should be considered when choosing a knife for everyday use in the state of New Jersey.


Violations of any of the three possession prohibitions are felony-level offenses. A violation of 2C:39-4. Possession of firearms for unlawful purposes is a third-degree matter punishable by three to five years imprisonment and up to $15,000. Violations of 2C:39-3. Prohibited Weapons and Devices or 2C:39-5. Unlawful possession of a firearm is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Law Enforcement/Military

There is an exception for members of the US military and National Guard at 2C:39-3(e) regarding knives while the members are on active duty or traveling to or from such active duty.

Updated February 20, 2020 by Daniel C. Lawson


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