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Knife laws in TN and other questions.

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by nightowl4, Jun 21, 2001.

  1. nightowl4


    Jun 21, 2001

    I have looked at various threads on this forum and i have some questions that maybe the more knowledgeable guys here can answer.

    1. type and size: What is the "measuring stick" as to how long a knife can be. What is considered big or small as to that matter. What is the law in TN regarding knife size. What and how are these different type of knives "defined". Which ones are legal and illegal and not ones to carry unless you have a very good reason.

    2. carrying and concealment: when carrying a knife how can one carry one? I have seen many carry ones that have clips that attach to a your pants pocket,is this common. Pros and con as to carrying. What are the various ways to conceal your knife. What works well and what doesnt. What is legal and illegal.

    3. dealing with law enforcement: Things to do if a law enforcement officer ask you about your knife. What to do if the situation goes downhill. Things to keep in mind?

    I hope to hear the information you guys have to offer.

  2. shootist16

    shootist16 knife law moderator Moderator

    Dec 25, 1998
    Welcome to the forums.

    I am a LEO in Knoxville, so hopefully I can answer your questions about Tennessee knife law.

    The law in Tennessee is pretty simple, anything with a blade over 4" is considered a weapon. As long as you have a knife with a blade under 4" then you have no worries. You can carry it any way you wish.

    That isn't to say that cities can't have a more restrictive ordinance. Knoxville mimics state law. I'm not sure about Nashville. It's probably the same but I'm not sure.

    The best thing to do, IMO, is be honest with the officer. Depending on the nature of the call I have removed a knife from a person and held onto it until I'm about to leave and then I give it back. Don't do it often , but I have before.

    Their has been a debate on blade measurement for quite some time. I measure the blade length as the sharpened portion of the blade. I have heard horror stories on the forums about officers measuring the blade from the tang. I believe this could easily be defeated in court though.

    Dennis Bible

    ....Almost here, The Leading Edge....
  3. FUBAR


    Jun 12, 2001
    Shootist, I also live in the Knoxville area. I was under the impression that carrying a knife (or any weapon for that matter) concealed was a BIG no-no without a permit. Glad to see some LEO's sharing their knowledge and experience, since going to the library and reading the state weapons law can get confusing (interpretation). Thanks for the info.
  4. Fedaykin


    Aug 15, 2000
    Hi Johnny:

    I lived in Nashville until 1996, so my knowledge of Tennessee knife laws is current as of then. According to Tennessee law, you cannot carry any of the following knives:
    (1) Knives with blades over 4 inches in length: many officers measure the whole blade length, and not just the sharpened edge, so choose your knives conservatively.
    (2) Double edged knives
    (3) Switchblades
    (*) Fixed blades are an iffy issue — carry them only if you have a really good excuse (you need it for your job or a particular recreational activity).

    As far as carrying "concealed" goes, I usually prefer to carry two folders, tip up, in my right and left front pockets. This placement makes the knives easily accessible with either hand from a variety of different positions. Since I mainly carry knives as working tools, I usually carry a serrated Spyderco Endura in my left pocket and a plainedge Chris Reeve Large Sebenza in my right. Sometimes, I'll also carry an Emerson Commander or a Benchmade Ares.

    As for dealing with LEO's, I have a few suggestions.
    (1) Obviously, be courteous and accommodating to the LEO.
    (2) Carry only legal knives for which you have a good excuse ("I use this knife on my job/hunting/etc").
    (3) Go to the library, look up the state and local laws, photocopy them and carry the copy in your wallet. Memorize these laws verbatim. This gives you leverage when persuading the LEO that your knife is legal.
    (4) If the officer asks "do you have any weapons on you" NEVER answer "yes!" If you do, you have just legally acknowledged that your perfectly legal pocketknife is being carried for nefarious purposes. Tennessee has a "carrying with the intent to go armed" clause, which means an officer can arrest you if he thinks you carry knives for a criminal purpose. If the LEO asks "do you have any weapons on you," reply "no sir/ma'am, but I do have a legal pocket knife in my right front pocket." This keeps the LEO happy without acknowledging that you are armed in any way. Your knife is always a "tool" and you HAVE NEVER CONSIDERED USING IT AS A WEAPON (this is doubly important if you are certified in any style of martial art).

    Hope this was helpful,

    [This message has been edited by Fedaykin (edited 06-24-2001).]
  5. FUBAR


    Jun 12, 2001
  6. shootist16

    shootist16 knife law moderator Moderator

    Dec 25, 1998
    I wouldn't be concerned about fixed blades as long as length is less than 4". Its not illegal so I wouldn't be too concerned.

    As far as the "are you carrying a weapon" thing not a bad idea to answer no, but I do have a knife. The reason is in Tennessee the violation is not just carrying the weapon, but carrying it with the intent to go armed. Stating that it is a weapon could be construed as an attempt to go armed. I wouldn't be evasive about it but remember you aren't carrying it as a weapon.

    Dennis Bible

    ....Almost here, The Leading Edge....
  7. Bravesfan1995


    Oct 11, 2000
    As an LEO in Dyersburg (That's north of Memphis about 78 miles BTW), I generally don't pursue any knife charges for carrying a pocket knife, wether it be a tactical folder or a utility foder. Most of the officers I know carry at least one or two of their own.
    As Shootist state, the blade length is 4 inches or smaller is legal, anything longer is illegal. Overall length, as I understand it, is not taken into account. I have seen officers charge suspects with unlawful possession of a weapon with intent (to go armed) for possessing a 3.5" blade knife ( a very cheap 9.99 knife). One time the officer said that it measured over the required 9 inch rule. I asked him to show me the rule and when he couldn't find it, he relized that the allegd 9" rule is a MYTH! Another time an officer charged a suspect because he had it clipped into his pocket under a shirt. We had just got a stolen Glock, drugs, etc. off of the same little **** so the extra charge was exactly that, an extra charge. I told him he could not charge him fo the knife but he did anyhow. After I brought him a copy of the T.C.A. Code the next day, prior to court, he had the charge dismissed.
    Another thing I would not do, is stand on the side of the street (or wherever) and argue the law with a police officer. It pisses quite a few of them off. I understand if you're right, but sometimes it make a difficult situation a lot more difficult. Tell them about the knife if they ask, and if they want to see it let them ask for it and let the officer get it! If you are arrested, let your attorney argue the point. That's what they are there for!
    Lastly, I don't believe that being a martial artist (let alone a certified, registered one :D ) demonstrates intent to commit a crime . The law does not take into account your abilities as a martial artist. Maybe during courtroom theatrics an attorney will try to use it as leverage against you, but for me, MY martial arts training has only taught me that I do not want to get into a knife fight with anyone! I might get hurt :eek: .
    I really hope this helps answer your questions. A good place to go is to the Lexis website (search for it). Then find the TN state laws .
  8. feverdoc


    Feb 10, 2000
    i have had the pleasure of living in all parts of tennessee....i grew up in memphis and memphis keeps the same municipal ordinances that state statutes mandate for legal knife length...4 inches max blade length...fixed or folder...now depending on the leo you may or may not get some grief for a fixed blade....i have checked this out here in memphis by talking with various officers i know at gun shows/gun shops/emergency rooms/etc by showing them what i have on me and all have said that if you are cool with them they will be cool with you so to speak about fixed blades....most were very interested in getting a nice fixed blade themselves and i would direct them accordingly depending on their interest...be an asshole and they can levy the intent to go armed clause on you....it may not hold up in court but nonetheless you have the hassle of going to court,multiple expenses, and the possibility of having your face smeared on tv and newspapers...i personally carry a small seb or carson small 4 in my right front pants pocket and a fixed blade under four inches in a custom david hatch iwb sheath (either a dozier personal utility, crawford kasper fixed blade, or a dozier agent under my shirt on the right side)..i also have a concealed cary permit which allows me to carry a concealed handgun but does not allow for a bladed weapon or a striking weapon like as asp...in any situation where i am being questioned or detained by an officer i will not only give them my driver's license but my ccw permit to immediately let them know who i am and what i have on me

    be careful about blade styles...no dirks...no daggers...no gravity knives...no autos...double edged is ok and not specifically prohibited but keep the blade length under or at 4 inches

    when i lived in johnson city tenn the laws were about the same as memphis

    when i lived in nashville from 1995 to 1998 some of the smaller towns around nashville such as donnelson and hermitage and mount juliet kept blade lengths at 3 inches unless you were on your own property...when i lived there a delica or two proved useful...an interesting thing to note is that the off duty leo's from nashville's metro police force worked security at walmart in hermitage and per walmart guidlines would not let anyone with a visible fixed blade into the store for any reason...folders up to 4 inches were ok but fixed blades were definitely out in that walmart..go figure as that walmart sold knives with blades with lengths over 4 inches....lol

    enough has been said about talking with and proper manners for interacting with a leo

    hope this helps...feverdoc
  9. TRAV


    Aug 22, 1999
  10. hso


    Dec 16, 1998
    Tennessee lay does allow a standard folding or fixerd blade knife 4 in. or under to be carried legally. (although if you aren't coming from fishing or hunting or hiking or the farm with a fixed blade on your belt you should expect a protracted discussion)

    There are no permit requirements, especially since you can't get a permit to carry any weapon other than a hand gun.

    Any knife, regardless of length, carried as a weapon, re. intent to go armed, is against the law.

    As pointed out, if a LEO asks if you have a weapon you should certainly say no, but you do have a (Knife Name Here) folder in your (identify location of knife). Don't reach for it unless asked. (Dennis, I'm sure you can speak to this better than I can.)

    Take care,


    Hey Dennis give me a call sometime!
  11. I3lade


    Oct 2, 2005
    Someone mentioned it earlier and hit it on the head:

    A blade over 4" is only ILLEGAL if carried with the INTENT TO GO ARMED.

    That means as long as you can articulate the reason behind carrying the blade other than being armed, you are ok.

    Articulation is 99% of the equation.

    I have been in the military for 5 years. I am from the Jefferson county area of Tennessee and I am knee deep in the State trooper hiring process. I have brought this exact question up and I recieved a direct answer from Mr. Badge #1 himself.

    So carry on over 4" as long as the intent is not to go armed.

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