Colorado conjures images of the Rocky Mountains, snow-capped ski slopes and wide-open space. Colorado is not the most restrictive state in terms of knife laws, but it is certainly not the most relaxed either.
As a state that falls in the middle of being knife friendly and knife-restrictive, it is important to understand which knives are legal to own and carry, whether open or concealed.
In short, it is legal to own almost any knife, including a gravity knife and/or a switchblade, in Colorado other than a ballistic knife. Additionally, pocket knives or any other knife with a blade that is shorter than three and one-half inches is legal to carry open or concealed.
Overview of Colorado Knife Laws
Knife laws in Colorado are a combination of several other states’ restrictions with additional rules thrown in. There are important restrictions to understand relating to ownership, conceal carry and affirmative defenses available to knife owners.
First, it is legal to own the following knives:
- Push knifes
- Bowie knives
- Disguised knives
According to Colorado law, it is not only illegal to own ballistic knives, but ownership is a felony. Colorado Law provides: “(1) As used in this section, the term “dangerous weapon” means a firearm silencer, machine gun, short shotgun, short rifle, or ballistic knife. (2) As used in this section, the term “illegal weapon” means a blackjack, gas gun, metallic knuckles, gravity knife, or switchblade knife. (3) A person who knowingly possesses a dangerous weapon commits a class 5 felony. Each subsequent violation of this subsection (3) by the same person shall be a class 4 felony. (4) A person who knowingly possesses an illegal weapon commits a class 1 misdemeanor.”
Concealed Carry in Colorado
The relevant law reads, in part: “ (1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully: (a) Carries a knife concealed on or about his or her person; “Knife” means any 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. The issue that a knife is a hunting or fishing knife must be raised as an affirmative defense.”[i] (emphasis added)
Blade Length Limits in Colorado
It is a crime to conceal carry certain knives over three and one-half inches long. The law reads, in part, that a knife including “… any 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.”
Recent Case Law and Defenses
Like many other states, Colorado looks to the intended use of a knife in addition to the legislation. In a widely cited case, The Colorado Supreme Court has interpreted the unlawful carrying statute as prohibiting the conviction of a person for carrying a knife with a blade less than three-and-one-half inches (3½”) in length, absent proof that the person intended to use the knife as a weapon. Moreover, such intent cannot be inferred solely from the appearance of the knife in question. A.P.E., a Juvenile v. The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, 20 P.3d 1179 (Colorado Supreme Court 2001).[ii]
While ownership of knives is rather lax in Colorado, it is not without limits. There is no state law preemption in Colorado, meaning that knife owners should be cognizant of their surroundings at all times.
Additionally, there is no specific law relating to transfer of knives to minors or carrying limitations applicable to minors. As always, knife owners should be cognizant of their surroundings and be particularly mindful of carrying knives on public property, government buildings, schools, and airports.
[i] 18-12-105. Unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon – unlawful possession of weapons
None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.