Colorado Knife Laws - Open & Concealed Carry Rules (2022)

In Colorado, you may openly carry legal knives. But you cannot conceal carry knives unless their blade is shorter than 3.5 inches or are hunting/fishing knives.

Ballistic knives are illegal to carry in Colorado, but switchblades are legal to carry except in certain cities like Denver. And all knives are banned from school property.

The statute 18-12-101 C.R.S. defines “knife” as:

[A]ny dagger, dirk, knife, or stiletto with a blade over three and one-half inches in length, or any other dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, but does not include a hunting or fishing knife carried for sports use.

Penalties

Violating Colorado knife laws can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the offense:

Knife crime

Colorado penalty

Carrying concealed with a blade exceeding 3.5″ (18-12-105 C.R.S.) Class 1 misdemeanor:
  • Up to 364 days; and/or
  • Up to $1,000
Carrying a ballistic knife (18-12-102 C.R.S.)

First offense

Class 5 felony:

Second offense

Class 4 felony:

  • 2 – 6 years in prison; and/or
  • $2,000 – $500,000
Carrying a knife at a school (18-12-105.5 C.R.S.) Class 6 felony:
  • 1 year to 18 years in prison; and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000

Defenses

Five common defenses to knives charges may include:

  1. The weapon does not fit the definition of “knife“;
  2. The blade was 3.5″ or less;
  3. You did not knowingly carry the knife;
  4. The knife was for hunting or fishing purposes; or
  5. The police performed an illegal search

In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:

(Video) Can I openly carry a loaded gun in Colorado?

  • 1. Can I openly carry knives in Colorado?
  • 2. Can I conceal carry knives?
  • 3. What knives are illegal to carry?
  • 4. What places prohibit knives?
  • 5. Can I carry hunting and fishing knives?
  • 6. What are the penalties?
    • 6.1. Carrying concealed
    • 6.2. Ballistic knives
    • 6.3. Carrying on school grounds
  • 7. What are common defenses?
  • 8. Can the case be sealed?
  • 9. What are the immigration consequences?

1. Can I openly carry knives in Colorado?

With some exceptions, yes. You may open carry knives in Colorado, even machetes. “Open carry” means carrying knives so they are visible to others. Examples include:

  • Holding in your hand or under your arm;
  • Carrying on an outside waistband (OWB) or belt (drop leg or dangle);
  • Carrying on a necklace; or
  • Carrying in a clip attached to the outside of a bag

Keep reading to learn which knives are illegal and what locations are restricted.

Colorado Knife Laws - Open & Concealed Carry Rules (1)

Knives with blades of 3.5 inches or less can be carried concealed in Colorado.

2. Can I conceal carry knives?

You may knowingly carry knives concealed in Colorado if the blade is 3.5 inches or less. This includes fixed blade knives as well. Examples of concealed carry include:

  • Carrying on a waistband if other clothes are covering it;
  • Carrying in a purse or backpack; or
  • Carrying in a pocket

Carrying a knife with a blade bigger than 3.5 inches is usually illegal. Knives that typically have blades that exceed 3.5 inches include:

  • Cooking knives and cleavers
  • Ceremonial knives
  • Certain pocketknives and folding knives
  • Bowie knives

Colorado Knife Laws - Open & Concealed Carry Rules (2)

Knives with blades longer than 3.5 inches may not be carried as concealed weapons in Colorado.

You may lawfully conceal carry knives with 3.5+ inch blades if you are at your own home, property, or place of business. You can also conceal carry these knives in a private automobile (or other private transportation) for lawful protection purposes. Note that there is also an exemption of the concealed carry law for law enforcement officers.1

CCW permits are usually not necessary to carry concealed knives in Colorado. But you should check with your county sheriff to make sure.

3. What knives are illegal?

Ballistic knives are illegal knives to carry in Colorado. The law defines them as “dangerous weapons.”2 Ballistic knives have blades that forcefully project from the handle by:

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  • A spring-loaded device; or
  • An explosive charge3

Blackjacks are also illegal in Colorado.

Switchblades and gravity knives are now legal under Colorado state law. Switchblade knives are “automatic knives” that open automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device in its handle. And gravity knives open by the force of gravity.

Note that butterfly knives (a.k.a. balisong knives) exist in a legal grey area. Arguably, they are gravity knives and therefore are not illegal weapons. But there is no case precedence showing that the repeal of the gravity knife ban applies to butterfly knives.

However, switchblades and gravity knives remain illegal in certain municipalities and cities, including:

  • Denver
  • Aurora
  • Boulder, and
  • Lakewood

And it is illegal everywhere to conceal carry these knives if the blade exceeds 3.5 inches.4

4. What places prohibit knives?

Colorado Knife Laws - Open & Concealed Carry Rules (3)

Deadly weapons including pen knives are prohibited on school grounds.

Deadly weapons such as knives may not be carried on school grounds under Colorado state knife law. This includes:

  • Pre-school;
  • Kindergarten through 12th grade (secondary school); and
  • Post-graduate (college, technical school, etc., even though the students are not minors)5

There are some exceptions to this rule. You may take knives to school when either:

  1. The knife remains in a vehicle while at a public or private college, university, or seminary. This does not include lower grades such as pre-K, lower school, middle school, or high school;
  2. You are in a private automobile (or other private means of traveling). And you are carrying for self-defense;
  3. You are a school resource officer;6 or
  4. You possess the weapon for an approved educational program7

5. Can I carry hunting and fishing knives?

Yes. You can carry hunting and fishing knives for sports use. In fact, hunting knives and fishing knives are not included in Colorado’s legal definition of “knife”.

This means you can carry hunting and fishing knives openly or concealed. And it does not matter how long the blade is. Defendants prosecuted for carrying these knives can raise an affirmative defense that they were for hunting or fishing.8

6. What are the penalties?

6.1. Carrying a concealed knife with a blade exceeding 3.5″

It is a class 1 misdemeanor to carry a concealed knife in Colorado with a blade longer than three-and-a-half inches. The punishment is:

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  • Up to 364 days in jail; and/or
  • Up to $1,000 in fines9

6.2. Carrying a ballistic knife

A first-time offense of carrying a ballistic knife in Colorado is a class 5 felony. The sentence is:

  • 1 to 3 years in prison (with 2 years parole); and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Subsequent offenses areclass 4 felonies. The sentence is:

  • 2 to 6 years in prison (with 3 years parole); and/or
  • $2,000 to $500,000 in fines10

Defendants convicted of a felony knife crime will also lose their gun rights.

6.3. Carrying a knife on school grounds

It is a class 6 felony to unlawfully take a knife on school property. The punishment is:

  • 1 year to 18 months in prison (with 1-year parole); and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines11

Defendants convicted of a felony knife crime will also lose their gun rights.

Colorado Knife Laws - Open & Concealed Carry Rules (4)

Ballistic knives are illegal in Colorado.

7. What are common defenses?

There are several ways to fight Colorado knife charges. Depending on the case, ten typical defenses include:

  1. The knife does not meet the legal definition of a knife;
  2. The blade was 3.5 inches or less;
  3. The knife was not concealed;
  4. The knife was for hunting or fishing;
  5. The knife was on your property;
  6. You were not on school grounds;
  7. You did not knowingly carry the knife (perhaps it was planted, which means there was no unlawful possession since you were not aware of it);
  8. The police or peace officer found the knife through an illegal search;
  9. You had no intention of using the knife as a weapons;12 or
  10. You were falsely accused.

Another possible defense is state preemption: This is when state law overrides a local, municipal law. Preemption typically applies when you are traveling in a private vehicle:13

Example: Bill is carrying a switchblade while driving through Denver en route to Trinidad, where switchblades are legal. A Denver police officer sees Bill and cites him for carrying a switchblade. But since Bill was in his own car passing through Denver, the charge might be dismissed. Colorado’s law allowing switchblades preempts Denver’s local law prohibiting them.

Most criminal cases settle through negotiations and possibly a plea deal. If the case goes to trial, the D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Colorado Knife Laws - Open & Concealed Carry Rules (5)

For the most part, you may open carry legal knives in Colorado without prohibitions.

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8. Can the case be sealed?

Class 1 misdemeanor convictions can be sealed three years after the case ends. Class 2 misdemeanor convictions can be sealed two years after the case ends. For class 4, 5, and 6 felonies, it is three years.

But if the charge gets dismissed, then you can petition for a record seal right away. Learn how to get a Colorado criminal record seal.

9. What are the immigration consequences?

Carrying a ballistic knife or carrying deadly weapons to a school may be deportable.

Non-citizens of the United States who are facing weapons-related charges should consult with a skilled attorney right away. The attorney may be able to persuade prosecutors to lessen or drop the charges to non-removable offenses.

Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.

Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney…

Arrested in the state of Colorado? Contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys for legal advice. We offer consultations 24/7.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.

In California? See our article on California knife laws.

In Nevada? See our article on Nevada knife laws.

Legal References

  1. 18-12-105 C.R.S.
  2. 18-12-102 C.R.S.
  3. 18-12-101(a.3) C.R.S.
  4. Noel Brennan, “It is now legal to carry a switchblade in Colorado“, 9 News (August 9, 2017); Colorado SB 17-008; Denver Municipal Code Sec. 38-117 (local ordinance).
  5. 18-12-105.5 C.R.S.
  6. 22-32-109.1 C.R.S.
  7. 18-12-105.5(3) C.R.S.
  8. 18-12-101 C.R.S.
  9. 18-12-105 C.R.S. Prior to March 1, 2022, carrying concealed with a blade exceeding 3.5″ was a class 2 misdemeanor carrying 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or $250 to $1,000.
  10. 18-12-102 C.R.S.
  11. 18-12-105.5 C.R.S.
  12. A.P.E., a Juvenile v. Colorado, (Colo. Sup. Ct., 2001) 20 P.3d 1179.
  13. 18-12-105.6 C.R.S.

FAQs

What size knife can I open-carry in Colorado? ›

Colorado Knife Laws

Knife laws in Colorado are less restrictive than firearms, but some defined rules need to be followed. The only genuinely illegal type of knife is a ballistic one. All others are legal for open and concealed carry as long as they have blades shorter than 3.5 inches long.

What is a reasonable excuse to carry a knife? ›

The reasonable excuse must be established 'on the balance of probabilities'; in other words, that it was more likely than not. The section makes clear that a reasonable excuse does not include having custody of the knife solely for the purpose of self-defence or the defence of another person.

Can you carry a OTF knife in Colorado? ›

State law prohibits knowingly possessing an illegal weapon, which includes gravity and switchblade knives. 1 Knowingly possessing an illegal weapon is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 6 to 18 months imprisonment, a $500 to $5,000 fine, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Can you carry a fixed blade knife in Colorado? ›

Colorado Open Carry Knife Laws

That means you can openly carry switchblades, folding knives, and all fixed blade knives. It's unlawful to openly carry any kind of ballistic knife.

What is the largest knife you can carry? ›

Types of Knives You Can Typically Legally Carry

Knives that are usually legal to carry almost anywhere include multi-tool devices, Swiss Army knives, and utility knives, and knives with blades that are shorter than 2.5 inches.

What does open carry mean in Colorado? ›

In our state, residents aged 18 and older are allowed to carry qualifying firearms. Colorado is an open-carry state, meaning eligible residents may carry a firearm without a license, permit, or registration in most cities.

How long can you go to jail for carrying a knife? ›

The maximum sentence for carrying a knife illegally is four years in prison and an unlimited fine. If you injure someone or use a knife to commit a crime, the penalties could increase.

What happens if u get caught with a knife? ›

Possession of an offensive weapon or possession of an article with a blade or point in a public place are both either way offences with a maximum term of 4 years' imprisonment on indictment.

Can you carry a pocket knife on your belt? ›

In most states – including New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory, and South Australia – it is illegal to carry a weapon, even for self-defense. This includes knives, which states consider dangerous articles or prohibited weapons.

Can I keep a sword in my car in Colorado? ›

The state of Colorado does not place any restriction on the knife blade that is openly carried. Swords, machete, a hunting knife, or a bowie knife are all legal to carry openly within the state. However, to conceal carry the knife, the blade length should not exceed more than 3.5-inches.

What size blade can you carry? ›

It is an offence to carry any sharp or bladed instrument in a public place, with the exception of a folding pocket knife where the cutting edge of the blade is 7.62 cm (3 inches) or less.

Can a felon carry a knife in Colorado? ›

Since many Coloradoans enjoy the outdoors we are frequently asked if felons can possess a knife or other equipment for hunting or fishing. According to Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S) 8-12-108 a felon cannot possess a weapon.

Can you be charged for carrying a knife? ›

It is illegal - they could ruin your life if you are caught, even if you never use the weapon. You could go to jail for up to four years if you're found in possession of a knife or five years for a gun, even if you're carrying it for someone else. In the worst case scenario, you could get life imprisonment for murder.

Can you carry a Stanley knife? ›

Stanley knives and other knives used for lawful purposes are illegal unless carried for a good reason.

Can you legally carry a Swiss Army Knife? ›

Folding pocket knives or Swiss Army knives are not illegal to carry in public as long as the blade does not exceed three inches. However, if one of these knives is used in a threatening way, it will be regarded as an offensive weapon.

Can you carry a karambit in Colorado? ›

Pocket Knife Laws Colorado

Generally speaking, pocket knives will not be a problem. The law states that knives which are over 3.5 inches in length are illegal to carry concealed, which means that a knife 3.5 inches or shorter is completely legal to carry.

Is it legal to carry a switchblade in Colorado? ›

It's now legal to carry a switchblade in Colorado.

What is a Scottish Dirk? ›

A dirk is a long bladed thrusting dagger. Historically, it gained its name from the Highland Dirk (Scots Gaelic "Dearg") where it was a personal weapon of officers engaged in naval hand-to-hand combat during the Age of Sail as well as the personal sidearm of Highlanders.

How long can a knife be before it's a sword? ›

Length. Knives are generally 6” or less, while sword lengths usually measure a foot or more. While there is no established cut-off between a knife vs. a sword as far as length, the longer the blade gets, the more useful it becomes as a fighting weapon.

Are stiletto knives legal? ›

Dirks, stilettos, daggers, and push knives are legal to own. Disguised knives like lipstick knives, cane knives, and boot knives are legal to own. Bowie knives and other large knives are legal to own. Basically, any knife is legal to own and have in your home.

Are Flipper knives legal? ›

Although they are often confused with switchblades, assisted-opening knives differ from switchblades in many ways. One of the ways the two knives differ is that while switchblades are prohibited, assisted-opening knives are perfectly legal.

Can I open carry in Walmart in Colorado? ›

City Market and Walmart announced this week that shoppers would be asked not to openly carry weapons into stores. Walmart and City Market are asking customers not to openly carry firearms into stores nationwide, a request some residents on either side of the gun debate in Southwest Colorado said they find reasonable.

Can I have a loaded gun in my car in Colorado? ›

Title 33: You may carry a weapon in your vehicle. However it is unlawful to have any firearm, other than a pistol or revolver, in or on any motor vehicle unless the chamber is unloaded. Colorado has various statutes that address firearms.

What state is most gun friendly? ›

Summary. The most gun friendly state in the United States is Arizona. The least gun friendly state in the United States is Delaware. 149,146 Americans are employed by the U.S. firearm industry.

Is carrying a knife a serious crime? ›

Possession of knives and offensive weapons encourages violence and can lead to serious injury and death, as well as facilitating other criminal offences. It is, therefore, an offence to carry a knife or an offensive weapon in a public place, even if the person carrying it claims they were not intending to use it.

Why do people carry knives? ›

Knives are an easily available form of protection. Feeling a need for protection was the most prevalent reason young people gave for why they carry a knife.

What is the sentence for threatening with a knife? ›

Threatening another person with a weapon will land the guilty offender in custody for a minimum of six months, or a maximum of four years.

Should you report finding a knife? ›

Call the police on 999 immediately and stay in the area where you found the knife until the police arrive at the scene, unless you feel unsafe doing that. If the weather is poor, you might be advised to cover the knife to preserve any evidence for the police investigation.

What are the 3 types of offensive weapons? ›

Introduction. Legislation provides offences to respond to the sale, possession and use of weapons to tackle serious crime. Knives, blades and corrosive substances may be treated as offensive weapons or dealt with under specific provisions.

What is No knives Better Lives? ›

No Knives, Better Lives is a prevention, early intervention and education programme in Scotland. We help youth workers and practitioners working with young people to empower those who may be at risk of youth violence to choose a better path.

When can you use a knife for self-defense? ›

Your threat must display the ability, the opportunity, and the intent to cause death or do you great bodily harm for your use of deadly force to be justified.

Is it OK to carry a knife? ›

In California, it is legal to buy, own, transport, and carry any knife that is not restricted. The three most common types of knives — switchblades, folding knives, and fixed blade knives (also known as dirks and daggers) — have certain rules surrounding them and are explained in more detail below.

Should you carry a knife for self-defense? ›

For some, a knife offers all the self-defense they need. With the many options available, a knife can prove the perfect weapon for self-protection. In many cases, a folding knife is the choice because of easier concealment. However, with just a little effort, a fixed blade knife also can prove effective.

What is the point of carrying a knife? ›

Carrying a knife makes it easier to cut tape, cut string, cut trailing threads on clothing, open boxes, open clamshell packaging, cut/strip wires, prepare food like fruits and vegetables, open mail/envelopes, open food packaging, cut paper when scissors are absent, cut zip ties, cut tubing, remove tags from new ...

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