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Question on double-edged folders and the "dagger" language in typical knife laws

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by maximus83, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    I am interested in possibly carrying a double-edged folding knife for backup self-defense use. For those who care to know WHY, yes I do carry a CCW pistol as my primary means of self-defense, and also carry a small fixed blade as a last-ditch defensive tool. However in my state, there are some areas where I cannot wear the pistol NOR the fixed blade, but I can carry a folder. In those cases, I'm interested in carrying a double-edged folder.

    This raises a question about application of state laws. In WA state where I live, it is not prohibited to own, nor even to carry, a double-edged knife. At least not explicitly. However, there is one specific line in the current state law, which basically says you cannot carry CONCEALED a "dagger" or several other items. It also mentions "pistols", but obviously if you have a CCW, you're ok.

    Here's the relevant portion of the WA law:
    Every person who: [blah blah]
    (2) Furtively carries with intent to conceal any dagger, dirk, pistol, or other dangerous weapon, or.... [blah blah]
    is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.

    So here are 2 questions about how to apply this law:

    1. In this typical "dagger, dirk" type of language as used in many state knife laws, is a "dagger" usually interpreted to mean ANY knife--any knife at all--that contains a double edge of any type or size? So for instance, if I have a small 3.5" folder that has a partial double-edge, would that typically be counted as a "dagger" under common interpretations of this language?

    2. Let's say for the sake of argument that we answer "yes" to question 1: the "dagger" concept DOES apply to all double-edged knives, which would then mean it applies to me carrying a small double-edged folder. So in that case, what are the common carry options for the folder that are likely to comply with this law in common interpretation. In other words, what modes of carry would count as "open" versus "concealed"? For instance:
    - Would pocket carry using a clip that exposes the tip of the knife handle count as concealed, or open?
    - Would belt carry in a sheath that exposes say 1/3 of the knife handle count as open carry?
  2. MSGBN


    Dec 14, 2011
    RCW 9.41.270
    Weapons apparently capable of producing bodily harm — Unlawful carrying or handling — Penalty — Exceptions.

    (1) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.

    (2) Any person violating the provisions of subsection (1) above shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If any person is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) of this section, the person shall lose his or her concealed pistol license, if any. The court shall send notice of the revocation to the department of licensing, and the city, town, or county which issued the license.

    (3) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to or affect the following:

    (a) Any act committed by a person while in his or her place of abode or fixed place of business;

    (b) Any person who by virtue of his or her office or public employment is vested by law with a duty to preserve public safety, maintain public order, or to make arrests for offenses, while in the performance of such duty;

    (c) Any person acting for the purpose of protecting himself or herself against the use of presently threatened unlawful force by another, or for the purpose of protecting another against the use of such unlawful force by a third person;

    (d) Any person making or assisting in making a lawful arrest for the commission of a felony; or

    (e) Any person engaged in military activities sponsored by the federal or state governments.
  3. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    Thanks MSGBN. I am well aware of the additional WA state law you cited, but it does not directly address my question. The entire section you cited can be summed up as being an "anti-brandishing" law. In other words, whatever you are otherwise legally carrying, be it a knife, a pistol, a club, or whatever, you cannot carry it/brandish it/draw it/exhibit in any way that might make somebody else feel threatened or intimidated. But that does not answer the question of what items you can legally carry in the first place, it just says you can't "brandish" them.

    My main question is: Does a small double-edged folder fit into the definition of 'dagger' in the law that I cited, which says that you cannot concealed-carry a dagger?
  4. Dingo McPhee

    Dingo McPhee

    Feb 26, 2012
    I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice, but here's some relevant (and presumably binding) Washington case law that helps define "dagger":

  5. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    That's interesting: I wonder how they take on themselves to divine that the "primary purpose is for stabbing."
  6. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    Could you clarify something? Does the folder you like have a true double edge, or a "false edge?" True, fully sharpened doubled edged folders are rare due to obvious safety issues (i.e. if it closed on a hinge into the handle, one edge would be exposed). Furthermore, false edges usually are not counted as "double edged" in most case law, as it would cause a torrent of convictions for rather mundane knives.
  7. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    Good question Glistam. The folder I was considering for this role has a false edge from the factory, but can easily be sharpened, and that would be my intent.
  8. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    And how were you planing to not lacerate yourself or your pants when carrying or opening? On a practical note, I fail to see any great advantage in a self-defense situation to a double edge vs a single edge. Plenty of Sicilians and Spanish Gitanos are more than capable of wrecking someone with single-edged folders. And daggers throughout history seem to be primarily about offense (assassination, sentry removal), not defense.
  9. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    Just focused on the legal question, for now. I'll focus on WHICH double-edge blade to get, and how to best carry it, later. If necessary I'll carry in a kydex belt sheath, closed.
  10. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    Well that's the thing, this is "untested waters" from a legal standpoint. It will be entirely up to the cop who finds said knife, and later the judge, on whether it is or is not a dagger. The very fact that you sharpened the false edge might sway them against you and make them more inclined to call it a "dagger," as it shows premeditation and intent by adapting the knife more useable as a weapon than as a tool. It would be on you and your lawyer to prove otherwise.

    Remember, loopholes are for the court room. A cop finding a double edged folder in a "speed draw" holster isn't going to be interested in hearing how it "doesn't technically count because it's a folder." He's going to be more interested in finding an excuse to bring you in because you did something to make him dislike you enough to be rifling through your pockets.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012
  11. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    Well just as I don't want to make decisions based on loopholes, I also don't want to make decisions pro or con about what to carry based on speculation about some unknown future cop's state of mind. I want my decisions to be objectively based in the law as much as possible.

    Dingo cites an interesting state case which interprets any double-edge blade as being a dagger. This helps answer one question: any double-edged blade will probably be interpreted by state courts as a dagger. At least they did in this case. Unfortunately, the given case appears to be a criminal case that involved a knife, and it doesn't tell you under what conditions you can legally carry such a 'dagger', if at all.

    Bottom line: here's what seems fairly solid and evident from the above cited WA knife laws, which are the only state laws I can find that directly speak to knife carry:
    1. Daggers are forbidden from concealed carry, period (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9.41.250). I can't see any way around this in current law, and this would include any double-edge blade.
    2. OPEN carry of daggers, dirks, even pistols is permitted provided that you don't "brandish" them in a way that intimidates others (see http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9.41.270). Bottom line: as long as you're not CONCEALING it, and as long as you use it only in self-defense, it appears that 9.41.270 allows you to carry a dagger (including a double-edged knife), dirk, or even pistol openly.

    This seems to fit. We already know that open carry of pistols is legal in WA state, and this has withstood legal tests. From the above statue 9.41.270, it appears that the same would apply to daggers and thus 2-edged blades. I am definitely going to look into this further, possibly open carry of a 2-edged blade of some sort in a belt sheath.

    NOTE: None of the above is legal advice, and I am not an attorney, it's strictly discussion about the meaning of state laws. Before I carry any double-edge knife I plan to confirm the above understanding with my local law enforcement, and suggest anybody else do the same. Obviously, different towns can have different knife laws that are stricter than the state laws (unlike with pistols, in WA each town can set its own knife laws that differ from the state, if they want).
  12. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    I agree with that assessment. I was almost exclusively thinking about concealed carry when I made my above statements, because I did not realize you were willing to open carry. Whereas the judgement of a doubled edged folder may be slightly uncertain for concealed (leaning toward "illegal"), open carry without threatening behavior should be fine.

    However, this raises new questions. In your original post, you mentioned you have a CHP, but that certain areas you would not be able to carry your handgun or a fixed blade in spite of this permit. Could you elaborate on that? Is the prohibition part of state or local law, or simply a rule set by the owner of that property?
  13. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    Some towns have local laws that are more strict than the state laws. For instance, Seattle and Lynnwood are two towns that go beyond the states laws. For example, both towns prohibit any carry (open or concealed) of what they define as a "dangerous knife", which means (using the Lynnwood definition): "any fixed blade knife, any balisong knife and any other knife having a blade more than three and one-half inches in length or any dagger, sword, bayonet, bolo knife, hatchet, machete, straight edge razor or razor blade not contained in a package."

    In short when you go to these towns, for knives you're limited to basically a singled-edged folder of 3.5" or less. That's it. Based on the above state court's definition of 'dagger' as 'any 2-edged blade', I would take this to mean that in these towns such as Seattle/Lynnwood and any others that ban carry of "daggers" specifically, I will not be able to legally carry a double-edged blade. However, in the other towns that simply follow the state law (which is pretty much all the towns up and down the East Side, where I live), it sounds like a double-edged blade carried openly in a belt sheath may be a perfectly legitimate option. I will of course verify with local PD before I carry. :)
  14. joe-bob


    Sep 9, 2007
    While a double-edged blade may not necessarily be a dagger, the law enforcement and courts will usually see it as such.

    For example; a traditional Ka-Bar is clearly not a dagger, but they used to come with sharpened swedges, and so could be "interpreted" as such. Whether that was actually the case or not often will not matter. Another example would be a knife with a gut hook, that is also not a dagger, but having two cutting edges, could be a problem. Same with a knife with a saw-blade on the spine.

    BTW -- A dagger is generally used for its piercing ability. Some do not even have particularly useful cutting edges. However, the laws are problematic on the topic; as they are overly vague, and conflict with the Constitution. Nevertheless, I wouldn't want to be the "test case" that tries to take it to the Supreme Court. Well...maybe after I win the powerball. ;)

    The AKTI has some interesting info in its definitions page.
  15. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    Agree, I think that's what the WA state courts as linked above interpreted it: any 2-edge blade will be considered for legal purposes as a dagger.

    But the further "good to know" point from the WA state law is that, in MOST areas of WA state (except for a very few cities like the two I cited), the state law ALLOWS you to carry a dagger, provided that you carry it OPENLY not concealed.

    Prior to the research and discussion in this thread, I had never fully understood the WA law on either of these points.
  16. Spey


    Apr 15, 2012
    What constitutes “Double Edged” (in WA State & various City & County jurisdictions)?

    I had pretty much thought I had understanding of this until yesterday while knife shopping and came across a blade (SOG Pentagon Elite -703387) of similar blade profile & size to one that I carry (primary edge sharpened, back edge false-edge from factory), except that the Pentagon blade has a primary edge with a tip that is sharpened on the back-side, effectively creating a short secondary back-side edge. Salesman gave me a line about this back-side edge not being full-length of the blade, therefore not considered a “sharpened edge”. This got me thinking about other similar knives like the Applegate-Fairbairn Combat/Covert Folder, etc.; blades with primary edge + gut-hook, etc.

    Secondary Question: Legally speaking - How are blade lengths measured (sharpened edge, tip to handle, tip to pivot, etc.)?
  17. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    There is no fixed rule, so I can only draw on experience of reading cases. The second edge most definitely has to be a true sharpened edge, not merely a false edge. And the second sharp edge has to be a fairly significant portion of the blade's overall length, not just the tip. Being a folder also tends to sway opinion towards it not being a dagger in some jurisdictions.

    There is no standard accepted method for measuring blade length, but LEO tend to use the method that makes it seem the longest they can get away with unless the law says otherwise. This most commonly is Tip-to-Handle. There are a few states that actually state that only the sharp edge matters, but not in WA.
  18. ron_m80

    ron_m80 KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 1, 2009
    I asked Mr. Levine about this not long ago. In the case of California under the law, the "edges" (which was my approach to it as well) have little to do with it. But if the design was meant for "piercing" was the qualifier. That opens the door up to a lot of blade style which could be classified as "dagger / dirk" under the law. There are a few exceptions.

    I think you would have to do some case study, to see if the application of the law has been used to encompass other non dagger blades we might not call daggers.
  19. TOM1960


    Nov 5, 2007
    If you get arrested and charged for carrying a knife illegally, you will be putting your firearm CCW permit in great jeopardy. Don't do it! Carry a single-edged lock-blade folder as a backup if you want. There are plenty out there. Double-edge really isn't necessary.

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