It is unlawful to conceal carry a dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete, razor, throwing star, oriental dart, or “any weapon of like kind”.
Possession of any knife with the exception of a pocket knife having a folding metal blade of less than 3 inches is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Less than 3 inches is the maximum length of a folding pocket knife which may be lawfully possessed on school grounds.
Virginia law does not forbid the ownership of any knife types, although “ballistic” and “switchblade” knives are restricted to the point of a practical prohibition.
Virginia state knife law imposes few restrictions on non-automatic pocketknives which have a folding metal blade less than three inches in length. Conceal carry restrictions apply to “dirks” and “bowie knives”.
18.2-282.1. Brandishing a machete or other bladed weapon with intent to intimidate, penalty.
18.2-283. Carrying dangerous weapon to place of religious worship.
18.2-283.1. Carrying weapon into courthouse.
18.2-287.01. Carrying weapon in air carrier airport terminal.
18.2-307.1. Definitions (provides definition for “ballistic knife”)
18.2-308. Carrying concealed weapons; exceptions; penalty.
18.2-308.1. Possession of firearm, stun weapon, or other weapon on school property prohibited, penalty.
18.2-308.2. Possession or transportation of firearms, firearms ammunition, stun weapons, explosives, or concealed weapons by convicted felons; penalties; petition for restoration order, when issued
18.2-309. Furnishing certain weapons to minors; penalty.
18.2-311. Prohibiting the selling or having in possession blackjacks, etc.
19.2-386.28. Forfeiture of weapons that are concealed, possessed, transported, or carried in violation of law
Preemption of local regulation or statewide uniformity pertaining to knives does not obtain in Virginia except for airports. 18.2-287.01. provides a uniform statewide rule for airport terminals.
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
It is unlawful per 18.2-311 to sell, barter, give, or furnish a “switchblade knife” or “ballistic knife”. It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor per 18.2-309 to furnish a switchblade knife, dirk, or bowie knife to a minor.
Any “dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete,” or “razor” may not be carried concealed. A statutory definition is supplied only for “ballistic knife.” The Virginia Supreme Court has adopted dictionary-sourced definitions for “dirk” and “bowie knife”.
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations/Circumstances:
Location-based restrictions exist for schools, places of religious worship, courthouses, and airports.
There are two aspects applicable to concealment provided by 18.2-308.
Firstly, the restricted knives may not be carried “about the person”, hidden from common observation. “About the person” includes carried in a handbag per the case of Schaaf v. Commonwealth 258 S.E.2d 574 (1979). This would include a backpack, briefcase, tote bag, etc. The standard is “prompt and immediate use”.
Secondly, the restricted knife may not be “observable but of such deceptive appearance as to disguise the weapon’s true nature.” A knife extending above a pocket by 1/2 of an inch is not concealed but would be disguised if it is an automatic type per the Richards v. Commonwealth case discussed above.
Whether a knife is concealed will in almost all instances be a question of fact for the jury or the judge in a non-jury proceeding.
The knives described in the 18.2-308 are location restricted from courthouses (18.2-283.1), airports (18.2-287.01), and schools (18.2-308.1). A “bowie knife” or “dagger” may not be carried at a “place of worship” while a meeting for religious purposes is being held without good and sufficient reason per 18.2-283.
18.2-308.1. includes an additional restriction for any knife except a pocketknife have a folding metal blade of less than 3 inches in length. This section also applies to airports and courthouses.
The combined effect of 18.2-308 and 18.2-308.1 is that it is unlawful to carry openly or concealed any knife except for a pocketknife with a blade less than three inches at schools, courthouses, and airports. Virginia law does not specify how blade length is determined.
The legislative history of the “brandishing” law indicates it was intended to address “criminal street gang” activity. It was enacted in 2006. There are no reported cases involving 18.2-282.1. (Virginia law provides a similar prohibition for brandishing a firearm.):
It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold, or brandish a machete or any weapon, with an exposed blade 12 inches or longer, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons and in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that intent. This section shall not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense.
Various firearms, cutting instruments, impact, as well as projectile weapons are restricted under 18.2-308. The listed cutting instruments are “dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete,” and “razor.” None of the listed types except “ballistic knife” are statutorily defined. The relevant portion of 18.2-308 reads:
If any person carries about his person, hidden from common observation, . . . (ii) any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete . . . razor, or (v) any weapon of like kind as those enumerated in this subsection, he is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The Virginia Supreme Court stated definitions for the listed knives in a footnote to the case of Thompson v. Commonwealth 673 S.E.2d 469 (2009) taken from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary:
A “dirk” is “a long straight-bladed dagger or a short sword” . . . A “bowie knife” is “a large hunting knife adapted [especially] for knife-fighting” with a “10 to 15 inch [ ] long” blade. A “switchblade knife” is “a pocketknife having the blade spring-operated so that pressure on a release catch causes it to fly open.” (Citations omitted.)
The exception in 18.2-308. for the benefit of collectors requires that one be a “regularly enrolled member” of a “weapon collecting organization.” The exception provides that the section does not apply to: Any regularly enrolled member of a weapons collecting organization who is at, or going to or from, a bona fide weapons exhibition, provided that the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported.
Law Enforcement and Military
Exemptions are provided for various categories of peace officers and criminal justice officials to the restriction regarding weapons in courthouses. Law enforcement officers on duty are exempt from the air terminal restrictions. Carriers of U.S. Mail on duty are exempt from the restrictions of 18.2-308. There are no U.S. military exemptions notwithstanding the significant presence in the Commonwealth.
Most violations of knife restrictions are Class 1 Misdemeanors punishable by confinement in jail for not more than one year and /or a fine not to exceed $2,500.
A violation of 18.2-311. is a Class 4 Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.
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