Laws themselves are intimidating to understand, and when it comes to Wisconsin, the laws are even more knotty.
Likewise, the Wisconsin knife laws are no different and can easily be misunderstood.
Even the professionals claim that America’s dairy state’s knife laws are challenging to understand.
Additionally, one wrong understanding of a single sentence in the regulations can lead to a Class A misdemeanor.
Why are we here, then? By consulting with various Wisconsin law professionals, we have decrypted the meanings of their knife laws.
Yes, the law would let you possess your favorite knife without breaking it.
You won’t need to go through their vexed writings in the law as we are going to explain it in simple English. Let’s get started!
Before we dive into the details, it’s always better to have a sneak peek of the laws that we will look into. Here they are;
- All knives except switchblades and ballistic are legal to own and carry.
- Switchblades and Ballistics are considered dangerous weapons and cannot be carried in a concealed manner.
- There is no prohibited knife length.
- Selling or transferring ownership of a dangerous weapon to a minor is prohibited.
- If someone has a dangerous weapon in a car that is within reach of the people in the car is a crime.
- Dangerous weapons are prohibited in schools and recreational areas.
- Class A demeanor has a jail time of 9 months and a $10000 fine.
- Class B demeanor has a jail time of 90 days and a $1000 fine.
- Statewide Preemption is present when it comes to knives.
Definition Of Dangerous Weapons
Before we even get started with the constitution, we need to know about the fundamentals first.
So, the most important aspect you can learn is by understanding the definition of a dangerous weapon as per Wisconsin.
As per §939.22, a dangerous weapon means;
What Do Winsconsin’s Laws Say About Knives?
General knives are taken out of the list of dangerous weapons. In a nutshell, you can carry a knife in the state of Wisconsin without any fear of getting convicted.
However, if you have been convicted before for a crime and restricted from carrying any weaponry, then you have to stay away from knives too.
Carrying a dangerous knife on school buildings and grounds, athletic fields, and recreation areas is also prohibited.
On the other hand, one knife that hasn’t been celebrated for getting the non-dangerous knife title is switchblades or automatic knives.
This is where the Federal Law and Knife laws in Wisconsin agree and consider them to be dangerous. So what are switchblades or automatic knives?
Let’s see how Federal Law explains them.
The Federal Law On Switchblades
In general, Federal Law rules all the laws in the United States. Thus, every state must follow it as it is the highest rank of every law ever made.
Nevertheless, as per U.S. Code § 1241, a switchblade means;
To give you a clear understanding, any knife that opens its blade up with a switch, button, or push mechanism is considered a switchblade knife.
Moreover, the U.S. Code § 1242 strictly prohibits the manufacture for introduction, transportation, or distribution of switchblades.
An exception is there for the verified manufacturers.
Illegal Knives On Wisconsin
Firstly, there is no illegal knife in the state of Wisconsin. If your desired knife
fulfills the requirements of the Federal Law for it to be a switchblade, then it’s dangerous.
Our general or fixed blade knives are out of the dangerous weapons list, making them legal to carry. However, there are no clear instructions on the knife’s description for it to be illegal.
As mentioned before, As per Wisconsin Statute 941.24, automatic knives or switchblade knives fall under the dangerous weapon category, but are not illegal.
The type of carrying matters when it comes to dangerous weapons, which we will discuss later.
Similarly, Federal Law also restricts ballistic knives. Thus, we can conclude that the only two types of dangerous knives to carry are;
- Switchblade or automatic knives
- Ballistic knives
As of September 6, 2022, there are no penalties for concealing or carrying a knife in Wisconsin (regardless of blade length), except where prohibited from possessing a firearm. It is, however, illegal to carry into any school or publicly owned building any knife (pocket, switchblade, kitchen, machete, etc.).
Legal Knives On Wisconsin
The list doesn’t end when it comes to legal knives that you can carry in Wisconsin. Except for a switchblade or a ballistic knife, the law doesn’t tell us anything about the illegality of other knives.
Nevertheless, some examples of legal knives would be;
- Bowie knife
- Hunting knives
- Disguised knife
While most states offensively see concealed carry, the Badger state doesn’t. The 941.23 – Wisconsin Legislature states that you can carry any knife with you either in a concealed way or openly.
The regulations will simply not interrupt the way you carry it.
On the other hand, a switchblade or a ballistic knife is required to be concealed carry rather than open.
They are on the dangerous weapon list and surely a threat to others if carried in a concealed way, according to Wisconsin.
However, the situation where you are doing a concealed carry matters.
For example, you definitely wouldn’t require to conceal carry a knife in a parade. It would certainly be suspicious if you were seen with one in there.
Nevertheless, one of the biggest concerns out there is whether carrying a knife in car in Wisconsin is considered concealed or not.
3 factors take place if you have a ballistic or switchblade on your car;
- Either a switchblade or ballistic is in a position where your hands can reach.
- You are aware that a dangerous knife is present in your vehicle.
- The knife is tried to be camouflaged so no one can detect it.
If the three factors are present while driving a car with a knife then you will most likely go to court for further clarification.
However, if it’s a general knife then it wouldn’t matter.
Sell Or Transfer
The Wisconsin knife laws are very strict regarding selling or transferring ownership of dangerous knives to minors. There is a separate law for this.
The 939.22 – Wisconsin Legislature states that if someone above 21 owns an automatic knife and sells or transfers its ownership, he/she will be charged. To be specific, a class A misdemeanor.
Legal Knife Length
So, what size knife is legal to carry in Wisconsin? Well, there isn’t any. You can carry any knife without any prohibition of its blade length.
It’s quite surprisingly threatening, though, as anyone can carry whatever they want. Other states don’t do that and add a boundary on the legal knife length to stop a potential threat.
Preemption is when a state law is used to override a local ordinance or authority.
By adopting knife preemption legislation, the state gains exclusive jurisdiction over weapons laws.
Legislation that is more restrictive than a state law cannot be passed by a local government or political organization.
Statewide preemption is there in Wisconsin. Thus, laws don’t vary from area to area but are the same for the entire dairy state.
Carrying a knife that is considered dangerous and carried in a concealed way will lead you to a Class B misdemeanor category.
It comes with a maximum of $1000 fine and 90 days of jail time.
On the other hand, extreme lawbreakers, such as carrying a switchblade in a school, will pull you up to Class A misdemeanor.
As high as a $10000 fine and 9 months of jail time is the maximum penalty you will receive.
To summarize, Wisconsin is very lenient about knives. Almost all knives are legal and can be both open or concealed carried.
The only exception is the switchblade or automatic knives, considered dangerous. They are not illegal to own, but if you are carrying them in a concealed way, then it is.
On the other hand, you surely don’t want to carry a dangerous knife in a school or a recreational place.
Moreover, selling or transferring ownership to a minor. These two will categorize you as a Class A misdemeanor which comes with strict penalties.