I made a page dedicated to Maryland's edge weapon laws

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by glistam, Oct 19, 2019.

  1. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    Those of you on this forum might remember me as someone who's spent a lot of time researching laws on knives, including reading case law, and doing interviews with prosecutors and cops. I even provided some of my findings to Knife Rights.

    Given the irritating amount of misinformation I still seem to be seeing or hearing, I finally carved out a portion of my site specifically to devote to my home state of Maryland.


    Right now this document is still a draft as I'm sure I've made numerous typos. But it contains references for each and every assertion about the law, including both statutes and case law. if you have new or interesting case law that would be of interest, please reply!

    Let me head off anyone who's preparing to type "Wait, but I thought..." If you don't have a clear citation to support that, it's probably a myth.
    MTHall720 and Patent Guy like this.
  2. Collectin410


    Oct 29, 2017
    Great write-up, saved a copy for the sources. I'm curious how a deep carry clip on an auto would be handled in court, perhaps even with a lanyard. My gut says :-(

    One thing I've often heard, if an auto or fixed blade knife is carried for general self-defense, it is illegal regardless of being openly carried. Thoughts?

    Thanks for taking the time to share mate!
  3. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    Hey thanks for reading it! It's just a first draft so I am seeking feedback.
    So, I tried to address this the paragraph on switchblades, but the general subject matter is covered under "Concealment." But long story short, this is untested territory. There is literally no case law one way or the other. I would imagine it's down to how obvious a clipped knife can be identified as a knife by a regular citizen who is not too familiar with knives. Like, if your grandma or a grocery store cashier saw a clipped knife in your pocket when you're talking to them, would they know it's a knife? Or would they think it's a pen or a flashlight?
    In terms of statutory law and case law, this is categorically false. If you look at my section on "Self-Defense," you'll the state law (4-101) actually has a provision on this that says quite the opposite, though it is left to the courts.
    What this myth might be born out of is not law, but rather the opinions and social psychology of police officers. While not universal, many police officers are very uneasy when anyone carrying a weapon says it's for self-defense. This is usually because of one or both of the following:
    • Actual criminals frequently carry weapons and try to claim it's for self-defense even though it can be pretty obvious they have it because their about to commit a crime or because they expect to get into a fight they may have had a hand in provoking, such as people with gang affiliations. Getting lied to constantly makes cops jump to conclusions and view innocent people with suspicion. This is due to the inherent selection bias of being a cop: 99% of the people cops even have to talk to about weapons are criminals, while good citizens never even attract that cops attention even if they significantly outnumber them.
    • A large number of police officers suffer from a social process called "collective narcissism." Long story short, both the power they possess over human life and freedom, as well as a sense of duty to protect and serve, goes to their head. They start to unconsciously think they are the only people that can be trusted to use physical force, and a citizen that is capable of protecting themselves sort of invalidates their ego and sense of purpose.
    Both of these might make a cop act hostile towards a person claiming their auto or fixed blade is for self-defence, and they might try to weasel around the law in a couple of ways. First, they might lie about the law to discourge a person they encounter from doing it again ("I'll let you off with a warning this time, but you better not make a habit of it"). They might push this farther with an off-the-books confiscation, claiming they could have arrested you but you're getting off easy. They may alternatively go "fishing" for some other reason to arrest someone, like tricking somoene into consenting to a search so they can find "drug paraphenalia" or some other weird, trivial thing to charge someone with that they would normally ignore.

    Point is, it's best to choose your words carefully if you're explaining yourself to a cop, and better to avoid attention entirly if you can. But generally, the law is on your side.

    Sorry for the essay. Should I have clarified in my article the part about concealed autos?
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
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  4. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    Nice work bro! All very helpful information! Thanks!
  5. Collectin410


    Oct 29, 2017
    Agreed on choosing your words carefully, your comments definitely hit nails upside the head.

    As to the "concealed" auto bit, I guess I was more just thinking out loud since autos already draw a good bit more "attention", and the "apprehend danger" being open to interpretation. Much like you said about criminals actions leading to conflict/danger, I'm leery of a court finding the expectation of needing to defend reasonable for the average law-abiding Joe, and whether the danger need be expected, impending, etc.. The law being open to interpretation is such a fickle fuck; a noose can become a loophole, and a loophole a noose.

    I wonder how a deep carry clip that had "knife" or "blade" engraved (emblazoned lol) on the exposed portion would play out, if the express effort of "disclosure" would have any real benefit, or if it could/would get twisted in some way to be "threatening".

  6. Patent Guy

    Patent Guy

    Feb 12, 2020
    Thank you very much. This is SO USEFUL!
    Marylanders, we should all memorize the following statement when carrying our (non-switchblade) folding knives:
    "Officer, my folding knife is a PENKNIFE under Maryland criminal code section 4-101."
    I especially like the following summary:
    Folding knives enjoy a great deal of freedom under state law. Classed as "penknives" under 4-101, the are explicitly
    exempt from that particular law, permitting them to be carried concealed or openly. While the word "penknife" is not
    defined in the statute itself, it has a fascinating and relatively robust case law history over the past 40 years.
    A “penknife” is any knife with a blade that folds into the handle, no matter how long the blade is. (Mackall, 1978)
    The presence of a locking mechanism doesn’t change the fact that the knife is still a penknife. (In re Daryl L.,
    1985)...Carried with its blade open or closed doesn’t matter. (Bacon, 1991)...The burden is on the State, not the defendant, to prove that a knife isn’t a “penknife.” (Anderson, 1992)
    Using the penknife to commit another crime doesn't change that it is still a penknife. (Thornton, 2003)
    Police officers who fail to understand any of the above and arrest someone anyway are liable under federal law for
    false arrest, and can be sued into oblivion. (Sorrell v. McGuigan, 4th Cir. 2002)"
    I'll be printing this to Keep a copy handy.
  7. Patent Guy

    Patent Guy

    Feb 12, 2020
    How are Sword Canes treated in Maryland’s cases? Any cane is potentially a weapon which could be used to strike, and a sword blade is within so is it “concealed”?
  8. glistam


    Dec 27, 2004
    In short, this is untested territory. I could find no case law dealing with sword canes, nor am I aware of any legal actions in the state involving them. Perhaps it's because they're somewhat antiquated weapons and rarely carried anymore. Though I have a story, but I'll get to that.

    Now, I can offer speculation based on similar case law, primarily Polk mentioned on my page. The judge in Polk argues that a sword is not concealed just because the blade is in a scabbard. And it could be said that a sword cane in it's closed state is simply a sheathed sword. However, the earlier Shipley points out that concealment is less about it being visible more about it being "discernible by ordinary observation," and the judge in Polk makes the argument that a "reasonable person" knows a sheathed sword when the see it. The sword cane, by being visible but disguised to no longer be discernible as a weapon will probably run afoul of that idea. This argument occurred in California some time ago, and state ruled in was still considered concealed (I lost the ref to that case).

    Now my story: When I was younger and dumber, I carried a sword cane in Maryland. At the time, I too rationalized that it was not concealed therefore legal. This was a long time before I got into law, and I stopped doing it when I did, though I have other reasons. It's worth noting I was never caught, oweing to several variables. First, it was a style that didn't make me look weird as a young man. It was long and more like a short hiking stick, and I lived in a mountainous, wooded area. Second, my lifestyle and personal conduct tended to keep me out of trouble and away from people with criminal tendencies. That said, I did draw it once in defense. No blood drawn, just a threat to not try anything funny, and I'm confident even all these years later if I had cut someone, the courts would have sided with me hands down.
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