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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nevada Knife Laws

Overview of NV Knife Law | Nevada Knife Case Law
Nevada Revised Statutes | City and County Ordinances

Overview of Nevada Knife Laws

State Law

Generally speaking, Nevada law is silent on the carrying of knives, with certain specific exceptions which we will address later on. This means that unless explicitly prohibited by NRS or by city or county ordinance, it is legal to carry a knife in Nevada. Since there is no state preemption law for edged weapons like there is for firearms, municipalities and counties may make any law they wish with respect to the carry of knives. The Nevada Revised Statutes do not specify any maximum allowable blade length, or any restrictions as far as open or concealed knife carry. NRS 202.350 prohibits the possession of any switchblade or belt buckle knife, and makes it illegal to carry a concealed dirk, dagger, or machete. Additionally, NRS 202.320, which prohibits the drawing of a deadly weapon in a threatening manner in any situation where a person's actions do not constitute legitimate and necessary self-defense, applies to knives as well as to firearms.

Note that depending on circumstances, it is possible that carrying a concealed knife that does not fall into any prohibited category might still result in an arrest for carrying a concealed weapon, if it appears that the intent exists to use that knife primarily as a weapon rather than a tool. Remember also that a Nevada concealed firearms permit (CCW) applies to firearms only, and does not allow the carry of any concealed knife that would normally be illegal to carry under state or local law.
Nevada state law (NRS 202.265) makes it illegal to carry certain "dangerous weapons" on property of, or in a vehicle belonging to, a school or child care facility; this includes campuses of the University of Nevada system and the College of Southern Nevada. Prohibited items under this statute include dirks, daggers, switchblades (as defined below), and trefoils (aka throwing stars). While no other prohibited places are listed in Nevada state law, as a general rule, no knives may be taken into any facility with a metal detector at the entrance, including court facilities.

Certain of the terms used in the Nevada Revised Statutes discussed here are defined in very specific ways, and an understanding of these definitions is essential to properly understanding what the laws do and do not permit. Interestingly, the words "dirk" and "dagger," although they appear in multiple statutes as a class of prohibited weapon, are not explicitly defined anywhere within the NRS itself. The definitions of these words as a matter of Nevada law derive from a number of Nevada Supreme Court decisions (see below), in which the Court noted that a dagger is traditionally "a short weapon used for thrusting and stabbing and that stabbing is using a pointed weapon to wound or kill" (Huebner v. State, 1987). A dirk is noted in the same decision as functionally being nothing more than a type of dagger. The court also noted in other decisions that any knife cannot automatically be classified as a dirk or dagger at the whim of an arresting officer or a judge, and that some "relevant factors" to consider when making such a determination include whether the knife has handguards and/or a blade that locks in place. In short, the Nevada courts currently accept the legal definition of a dirk or dagger as a pointed knife with a fixed or locking blade, designed primarily or solely as a stabbing weapon. Any double-edged knife with a fixed blade is generally considered to be a dagger.
A switchblade knife is defined by NRS 202.350 as "a spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife or any other knife having the appearance of a pocketknife, any blade of which is 2 or more inches long and which can be released automatically by a flick of a button, pressure on the handle or other mechanical device, or is released by any type of mechanism. The term does not include a knife which has a blade that is held in place by a spring if the blade does not have any type of automatic release." An automatic-opening knife with a blade less than two inches in length is not considered to be a "switchblade" as a matter of Nevada law, and is thus legal to possess and carry.
The blade of a knife is generally considered to be "that portion which is customarily sharpened from the tip of the knife to the tang, or the unsharpened extension of the blade which forms the hinge connecting the blade to the handle," as per the Nevada Supreme Court's decision in Bradvica v. State, 1988 (see below). In other words, only that part of a knife which is designed to be sharpened is considered to be the "blade" for purposes of determining length.
A concealed weapon is defined by NRS 202.350 as any weapon described within that statute, which is carried upon one's person "in such a manner as not to be discernible by ordinary observation." By this definition, if a weapon, or part of it, cannot be seen without first moving clothing out of the way, it is considered to be concealed. The Nevada Supreme Court, as part of its ruling in Huebner v. State (1987), found that a weapon which is visible or partially visible, but appears to be something else (for example, a knife contained within an item such as a pen or hairbrush), is still a concealed weapon even though it is not covered or hidden from view.
NRS 193.165 defines a deadly weapon as "(a) Any instrument which, if used in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design and construction, will or is likely to cause substantial bodily harm or death; (b) Any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing substantial bodily harm or death; or (c) A dangerous or deadly weapon specifically described in NRS 202.255, NRS 202.265, NRS 202.290, NRS 202.320 or NRS 202.350." Additionally, the Nevada Supreme Court, in Zgombic v. State (1990), ruled that for any instrument not so defined by statute to be considered a "deadly weapon," it must satisfy what the Court refers to as the "inherently dangerous" test. A weapon is inherently dangerous in this analysis if it, when “used in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design and construction, will, or is likely to, cause a life-threatening injury or death.” By this standard, most pocketknives or utility knives would not meet the "deadly weapon" criteria because they are designed and constructed for use primarily as tools and not as weapons. Note that under Nevada law, an instrument that does not meet the "deadly weapon" criteria might still qualify as a "dangerous weapon," the test for which is less stringent and is based on whether that item is merely capable of causing death or substantial bodily harm under the circumstances in which it is used.

City and County Knife Laws
In the absence of a state preemption statute, Nevada counties and municipalities are free to enact knife laws which are more restrictive than state law. Very few have done so. Those which have include Clark County and the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, and Reno. Following are synopses of these jurisdictions' knife laws; links to the relevant ordinances can be found below.
  • Clark County - Prohibits concealed knives with blades longer than three inches. No limitation on blade length for knives carried openly.
  • Las Vegas - Prohibits concealed knives with blades longer than three inches. Does not limit blade length for openly carried knives. Prohibits switchblades or automatic opening knives with blades of any length. Prohibits any person from loitering, fighting, or engaging in disorderly conduct while carrying a concealed "deadly weapon" as defined by city ordinance.
  • North Las Vegas - Prohibits concealed knives with blades longer than three inches. No limit on blade length for knives openly carried. Prohibits any switchblade or automatic opener, regardless of blade length. Prohibits the carry of ice picks or "similar sharp stabbing tools" and straight razors. Prohibits loitering, fighting, or disorderly conduct while carrying any concealed weapon.
  • Henderson - Prohibits concealed carry of knives with blades longer than three inches. Prohibits the possession of any knife "commonly known as a switchblade, spring-blade or push button knife," with no limitation on blade length.
  • Reno - Defines a "dangerous knife" as having a blade of more than two inches, and prohibits carry of same in any city park or recreation area. Prohibits, by city ordinance, the carry of any knife in a city courthouse.
State and National Parks
Nevada law does not specifically address carrying a knife within a state park, although NAC 407.105 does state that it is illegal to throw knives or other projectiles in state parks. As far as carrying a knife in any National Park, the only specific statute addressing this is 18 USC 44 § 930, prohibiting "dangerous weapons," which are understood to include knives, in any Federal park building, provided notice is given by means of a sign at the building entrance. Follow relevant state laws otherwise.
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No Duty to Retreat
In May of 2011, Nevada's governor signed AB321 into law. This bill amended NRS 200.120, which deals with the use of deadly force, by specifying that a person who uses deadly force to defend himself has no legal "duty to retreat" prior to doing so as long as he:
  • Is not the original aggressor;
  • Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and
  • Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.
This statute applies to any use of deadly force, including self-defense with edged weapons.

Nevada Court Cases

Since the Nevada Revised Statutes are largely silent regarding knives, case law has given us a number of important precedents. Following are synopses of a few relevant NV Supreme Court cases, with links to the full text of each decision.
  • Huebner v. State, 1987 - This case is important from the standpoint of Nevada knife law, since it codified two central principles. When arrested for a separate offense, Huebner was in possession of a four-inch knife concealed in what appeared to be a ballpoint pen, and was charged with possession of a concealed weapon and convicted. Huebner claimed that the weapon was not concealed, since the "pen" part of it was clearly visible in his pocket at the time of his arrest, and appealed. In upholding his conviction, the Court clarified that a weapon is still concealed, even if visible, if because of the appearance of the visible portion it appears to be some other implement. A footnote to the Court's decision also specified the definition of "dagger" that has been used by Nevada courts since then, even though such a definition was not central to the case.
  • Bradvica v. State, 1988 - Bradvica was arrested for an unrelated offense and found to be carrying an automatic opening knife with a blade measuring 2 5/16 from tip to handle. He was convicted of carrying a "dangerous knife" under the (since superseded) wording of NRS 202.350 at that time. He appealed his conviction to the Nevada Supreme Court, which found that the wording "dangerous knife" was sufficiently vague as to be meaningless. The Court's opinion also defined the "blade" of a knife as "that portion which is customarily sharpened from the tip of the knife to the tang, or the unsharpened extension of the blade which forms the hinge connecting the blade to the handle." By that definition, the blade of Bradvica's knife only measured 1 15/16 inches, meaning that the knife did not meet the definition of a "switchblade" under Nevada law, being less than two inches long. His conviction was overturned.
  • Zgombic v. State, 1990 - This case introduced the requirement that in order for an item to be a "deadly weapon" for purposes of sentencing or enhancements to sentencing, it must satisfy the "inherently dangerous" test. In Zgombic's case, the object in question was a pair of steel-toed boots, which was demonstrably not, when used "in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design and construction," inherently likely to cause death or substantial bodily harm. While this was not a knife law case per se, the "inherently dangerous" qualification to determine whether or not an instrument should be considered a "deadly weapon" has since been used by the Court in cases that did involve knives.
  • Buff v. State, 1998 - The Nevada Supreme Court's opinion in this case applied the "inherently dangerous" standard for a deadly weapon introduced in Zgombic v. State to a Swiss army knife. The court found that even though the knife in question was used as the weapon in an murder, it was not by definition a "deadly weapon" as it did not meet the requirements of that test.
  • Knight v. State, 2000 - In this case, Knight was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon after being arrested while carrying a steak knife concealed on his person. The Nevada Supreme Court recognized that the steak knife did not constitute a "dirk or dagger" as specified in the CCW statute, and further codified the definition of these two implements by introducing the "relevant factors" of handguards and a locking blade to be considered when determining whether or not a knife meets that definition. The Court also recognized that under the totality of the circumstances surrounding Knight's arrest, it was evident that he was carrying the steak knife to use as a weapon, and therefore his conviction was upheld.

Nevada State Knife Laws

Nevada Revised Statutes
The short titles of each statute are listed below; click on a statute to read the entire text. This is not intended to be a complete or exhaustive list of all Nevada knife or self-defense laws.
  • NRS 202.265 - Possession of dangerous weapon on property or in vehicle of school or child care facility; penalty; exceptions.
  • NRS 202.320 - Drawing deadly weapon in threatening manner.
  • NRS 202.350 - Manufacture, importation, possession or use of dangerous weapon or silencer; carrying concealed weapon without permit; penalties; issuance of permit to carry concealed weapon; exceptions.
  • NRS 202.355 - Manufacture or sale of switchblade knives: Application for permit; eligibility; public hearing; restrictions.
Nevada Administrative Code
  • NAC 407.105 - Possession or use of weapons in state parks.
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City and County Knife Ordinances

The short titles of each city and county ordinance are listed below; click on an ordinance to read the entire text. This is not intended to be a complete or exhaustive list of all city and county knife laws or self-defense laws.
Clark County Ordinances:
Las Vegas City Ordinances:
North Las Vegas City Ordinances:
Henderson Municipal Code:
  • HMC 8.98.010 - Concealed weapons prohibited except by permission.
  • HMC 8.98.070 - Switchblades and similar weapons prohibited.
Reno Municipal Code: