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So a knife shop blog posted the tale (originally mentioned in a local newspaper story) of a a guy who stopped at a standard DUI checkpoint and was arrested for possessing a pocketknife. According to the (definitely not unbiased, mind you) knife shop blog, the guy wasn’t drunk and was on his way home from a remodeling project. You can read all the various rhetoric for yourself.

As the original newspaper story author points out (and the blog cites):

The fact is that the laws about carrying a pocketknife in New Jersey are so vague that they defy reason. The section in the state Code of Criminal Justice that talks about knives is brief and open to interpretation. While outlawing some knives outright — like gravity knives, switchblades, daggers and stilettos — the law never specifies what is legal.

Which seems to be true. But the next paragraph goes on to lay out some of the guidelines:

  • “a person under 18 can’t own a knife with a blade longer than five inches”
  • “the law can’t be used to prevent a person from transporting a knife for the purpose of hunting and fishing”
  • and “any person carrying a knife for ‘unlawful’ purposes is guilty of a crime in the third degree”

So it’s a tricky deal. While it seems pretty unlikely that you’d find yourself up on charges for carrying a small knife or multitool, you’d be up the creek if you assaulted someone with it. And there’s certainly a lot of room for interpretation.

What’s all that mean to us? Well, those of you who’ve read Toolmonger for any period of time know that we’re advocates of pocketknives. You’ll also know that we’re not big fans of folks carrying big-ass knives or K-bars around offices and schools where they’re not only inappropriate; they’re not needed. So our takeaway from this is that you’re probably okay if you’re carrying something that wouldn’t seem inappropriate for the boardroom. If you’re on your way back from a camping trip, you might want to pack your monster knives away for the trip, or at least be prepared to explain them. And regardless, you probably don’t want to mouth off and generally be an asshole to officers of the law, as the ass you keep out of jail might be your own.

Here’s Your Boy Scout Knife, And Here Are The Handcuffs [Examiner]
New Jersey Knife Laws Make Pocket Knives Illegal [Cutting Edge]


17 Responses to Pocketknives Illegal In New Jersey?

  1. ToolGuyd says:

    Neither of the articles mention why he was searched at the DUI checkpoint. I’ve been through a few such checkpoints but was never physically searched, nor was my vehicle ever searched.

    To more easily defend the fact that I carry a knife as a tool and not a weapon, I am usually more inclined to walk around with a multi-tool or SAK rather than a dedicated pocket knife. Sometimes I’ll carry both. I also tend to avoid walking around with an assisted-open knife.

  2. Keith says:

    It’s getting pretty ridiculous. My pocket knife (a tiny Victorinox) is my most favorite and daily used tools. I simply could not get along without it. I can understand handguns to some degree but a pocket knife?! I would move to Canada before I would let them take that from me! For that matter I might move there anyway …

    We need to stop thinking of ways things can be used to kill or injure each other and how to just get along.

  3. metis says:

    it sounds not dissimilar to most states laws on lock picks. if you are carrying a tool it is legal. as soon as you are breaking the law using that tool, it aggravates the crime. e.g. i can carry lock picks or a screwdriver here, but as soon as i’ve used them to jimmy a lock or pop a trunk (that i don’t have legal authority to) they become “burglary tools” and possession of them is a crime.

  4. Joe Citizen says:

    My knives & multi-tools are tools, but 1 of the many functions that they could be used for is self defense. And an assisted-opening knife would give me the extra edge needed, esp going against more then 1 attacker. I can not understand that handguns should be illegal to carry (if you have a clean record). Since politicians have been getting away with passing more laws that only the law abiding obey (& not the criminal) now they’ve been working on passing knife laws. Don’t believe me check out http://www.KnifeRights.org & their mission statement, etc. Funny thing that in States with more laws against self defense, there is much more of a chance on being a victim. When will the do-gooders catch on ?

  5. John says:

    NJ draconian laws at work again. If you love to hunt, fish or shoot and live in NJ leave before its too late.

  6. Brandon says:

    here in las vegas knife laws are really lame also. in general if the blade isnt as long as ur palm is wide u can carry. im not sure if concealed is allowed so i always wear on my pocket instead of waist line to keep in plain view.

  7. rg says:

    Reminds me of the guy who had legally owned firearms, and recently got 7 years in prison because of New Jersey’s draconian laws. They pretty much ruined this poor man’s life.


    • Nicole says:

      Actually from what I’m reading, the guy had an intent to use those guns on his wives. While the article is clearly written in the defendant’s favor, the excuses as to why this man had a gun in his car versus what his wife thought he might have done, because of the guns in his car, are boderline suspicious if you ask me. Read the article yourself if you don’t believe me, that guy intended to kill his wife. Read between the lines. Afterall, it was his own wife who called the police, fearing for her life.

  8. Norman says:

    Many years a go I had my pocket knife taken from me in NJ.I was waiting for the bus that was to going back to New York. The knife was a Victorinox Swiss Army.I figured the the cop was a cheap dude with good taste.

  9. Zac says:

    Sounds exactly like Australian law.
    Almost to the letter. except kids under 18 cant buy a knife at all

  10. Brice says:

    What part of Keep and Bear arm’s don’t they understand. Short of threatening someone with a knife, there is never a reason to take a knife from a citizen. You know my kid would get home sent home from school if he wore a USPSA T-Shirt to school! Boy, that T-Shirt sure is threatening!

  11. CyberKender says:

    The Second Amendement refers to keeping a militia, not to being able to carry any weapon you care to. However, that said, a pocket knife is a tool first, so I wouldn’t involve it either way.

    California’s knife laws are equally specific and vague. Specific types of knives are banned outright, but any ‘ready cutting or stabbing weapon’ can be considered illegal. Which is loose enough to say that your classic Bic pen is an illegal weapon.
    I don’t know about NJ, but I’ve attributed these vagaries in the law to two things: The first being that many of them are leftovers from the 1800s, when the authorities were trying to ban the weapons that Chinese immigrants in gangs used. The second being that there is no NRA equivalent for blades, so there has been, historically, little lobbying for the removal of out-dated laws or for more fair and specific laws regarding knives.

  12. RipRip says:

    Pocket knife, pistol, shotgun all tools. Its not the tools that need band it the user.

  13. Drew says:

    “The Second Amendement refers to keeping a militia…”

    No, it does not. Even if that was the original intent, the Supreme Court decision last year affirms that it is an individual right.


    “…not to being able to carry any weapon you care to.”

    That is arguable either way and I agree with it to an extent. It is a moot point anyhow since knives are not protected by the second amendment. And, as you said, they are used far more often as tools than as weapons.

  14. Squidwelder says:

    Once again, Jersey gives me a reason to laugh at it.

  15. yakker says:

    I left NJ 24 years ago and moved to a state that allows conceal carry of weapons (pistols and knives). It’s amazing what the rest of the world is like when one gets out of NJ. Never will I go back!

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