New Jersey, much like New York, is a state where considerable effort has been expended to regulate and prohibit a wide range of knives. Owning and carrying knives in New Jersey can have serious consequences and the matter needs to be considered with a great deal of care.
New Jersey’s knife statutes appear primarily in Title 2C, Chapter 39 – “Firearms, Other Dangerous Weapons, and Instruments of Crime.”
Section 2C:39-1 is largely concerned with providing definitions for important terms including “gravity knife,” “switchblade,” and “weapon.”
The New Jersey definition of a gravity knife is notable because it could easily apply to any folding knife that can be opened through motion. The specific method of operation mentioned in the statute is “application of centrifugal force.”
New Jersey’s definition of a weapon is an extremely expansive one. Besides including the undefined knife terms “daggers,” “dirks,” and “stilettos,” it also has a blanket provision which includes “other dangerous knives.” The same definition includes gravity knives and switchblades, but these terms are defined elsewhere. To put these terms in context, other items singled out as weapons include firearms – even those which cannot be operated due to the absence of a clip or other component – slingshots, stun guns, aerosol defense sprays, and even components which could be “readily” made into a weapon. The New Jersey statutes also feel it necessary to both define and prohibit “cesti,” i.e. leather bands used for boxing in Ancient Rome.
New Jersey statutes also include a lengthy selection of “certain” weapons which are flatly prohibited. Knife terms included in this list include gravity knife, switchblade knife, stiletto, dagger, ballistic knife, and dirk. The other “certain” weapons are as eclectic as those mentioned above, including the cesti again and also razor blades imbedded in wood, blackjacks, and slingshots. Possessing any of the “certain” weapons constitutes a fourth-degree crime in the absence of an “explainable lawful purpose.”
The overall intent of the sections described above is to make most forms of knives (including dirks, daggers, stilettos, switchblades, gravity knives, etc.) illegal in New Jersey. The state also prohibits the possession of weapons by persons who have unlawful intent. This in itself is not disturbing. The final subpart of the “other weapons” section, though, presents considerable challenges.
It identifies the possession of weapons in circumstances which are “not manifestly appropriate for their lawful uses” as a fourth-degree crime. The sheer range of different situations which could be wrestled into this vague definition is almost breathtaking. It’s also worded so that an individual could easily be charged with criminal weapons possession based on factors which he or she could not possibly control.
The one good piece of news here is that the burden of proof demonstrating inappropriate possession is on the prosecutor rather than the defendant.
New Jersey’s unlawful possession statute identifies restricted locations where weapons cannot be carried. These include schools, universities, and colleges.
New Jersey’s statutes regarding the manufacture, sale, shipment, transport, or disposition of weapons suffer from the same vagueness as for the possession statutes described above. The specific statute is phrased to include another lengthy list of examples which includes stilettos, dirks, daggers, ballistic knives, switchblade knives, gravity knives which cannot be sold or transferred in the state. Commerce in prohibited weapons is to be considered a crime of the fourth degree according to the statutes. Interestingly, this wide-reaching prohibition is immediately followed by a firm exemption for manufacturers and sellers of firearms as long as they are licensed and or registered as per the statutes set forth in Chapter 58.
Knives And Minors
The statutes of New Jersey make it a crime to sell certain dimensionally-defined knives to minors (those under 18 years of age). The specific limits mentioned are knives with a blade of more than five inches or an overall length of more than 10 inches. The relevant statute also makes specific mention of hunting, fishing, combat, and survival knives as being subject to this prohibition. As with the other illegal weapons statutes, violating this one is to be considered a fourth-degree crime.
Statewide Preemption In New Jersey
New Jersey has no preemption law. Individual cities, municipalities, and other subdivisions can set their own rules regarding weapons.
Selling knives which are longer than 10 inches overall or fitted with blades longer than five inches to a minor is illegal.
Concealment is not addressed by New Jersey weapons statutes as they pertain to knives.
This information that is presented as a brief description of the laws and not as any kind of legal advice. aStraightArrow will not and cannot be a legal service provider. The use of the site does not create any sort of client/lawyer relationship. The knife laws are interpreted differently by prosecuting attorneys, enforcement officers, and judges. aStraightArrow suggests you consult legal counsel for further guidance.