Possession of a Switchblade in Colorado

Possession of a switchblade used to be a crime under Colorado knife laws. It is no longer illegal to carry a blade just because it is a switchblade, but there are other laws that may apply to make your switchblade illegal.

Former Colorado Ban

Before August 9, 2017, switchblades were not permitted throughout the entire State of Colorado. That all changed when legislators overturned the 1963 law banning them.

However, just because it is legal in Colorado to carry a switchblade, certain cities still ban them, like the following:

  • Denver
  • Aurora
  • Boulder
  • Colorado Springs, and
  • Lakewood.

You can still be arrested for carrying a switchblade in cities which ban them.

What is a Switchblade?

A "switchblade knife" means:

  • any knife
  • the blade of which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to
  • a button, spring, or other device in its handle.

Prior to the change in the law, a switchblade knife was prohibited under CRS 18-12-102, and a switchblade knife was defined as an "illegal weapon."

Other Prohibited Knives (That May include Your Switchblade)

Just because switchblades are now legal does not mean it is legal every time it is in your possession and/or it is used. It is illegal to carry a knife other than a fishing or hunting knife if that knife is concealed and is over 3.5 inches.

If your "switchblade" meets these requirements, it is still illegal to carry even in cities that do not ban switchblades.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about the possession of switchblades for Colorado residents:

Switchblade im
It is no longer illegal in Colorado to carry a blade just because it is a switchblade, but there are other laws that may apply to make your switchblade illegal.

1. What is a switchblade?

A switchblade knife means:

  • any knife,
  • the blade of which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to
  • a button, spring, or other device in its handle. 1

2. Is possessing a switchblade illegal in Colorado?

It is no longer illegal to possess a switchblade in most of Colorado. At one point, before August 2017, it was illegal to possess a switchblade in the state and its possession meant you could possibly be charged for a crime.

This changed on August 9, 2017, when the new law took effect removing switchblades from the illegal weapons category.2 Previously, possessing a switchblade was a violation of CRS 18-12-102, and was a Class 1 Misdemeanor, with the following penalties:

  • 6 - 18 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $500 - $5,000.

It is no longer a violation to carry an otherwise legal switchblade. You should carefully pay attention to whether your knife violates any other Colorado laws regarding the possession of weapons.

3. When is it still illegal to carry a switchblade?

Just because it is legal in Colorado generally to carry a switchblade does not mean specific cities have still banned it. Certain cities, indeed, still ban them, like the following:

  • Denver
  • Aurora
  • Boulder
  • Colorado Springs, and
  • Lakewood.

You can still be arrested for carrying a switchblade in cities that have banned them.

Whether state law preempts or overrides these city ordinances is still an open question, subject to being tested in a court. In all likelihood, you do not want to be the "test case" for this issue, so you should exercise caution about carrying a switchblade in cities that ban them.

3.1 Is it illegal to carry a blade longer than 3.5 inches?

A blade longer than 3.5 inches, which is concealed when carried, is illegal even if it is a switchblade. This does not include:

  • a hunting knife; or
  • a fishing knife.

A knife that is less than 3.5 inches is not a "weapon" if the prosecution cannot prove that a person intended to use it as a weapon.3

If your switchblade meets these requirements, it can still be illegal in the State of Colorado, so never assume that just because the law changed that your knife is automatically legal.

3.2 Can I carry a 3.5 inch or longer blade if it is not concealed?

Yes. If your blade is carried in the open, it is not a violation to carry a blade that is longer than 3.5 inches.

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Call us for help...

For questions about the possession of switchblade charges or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. With the recently changed laws and the risk of carrying in specific cities, it is important to contact an experienced attorney for help. For cases in California or Nevada, please see our pages on possession of a switchblade in California (Penal Code 17235 and Penal Code 21510) and possession of a switchblade knife in Nevada (NRS 202.265).

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. CRS 18-12-101(j).
  2. CRS 18-12-102 (Possessing a dangerous or illegal weapon - affirmative defense).
  3. A.P.E. v. People, 20 P.3d 1179 (2001).

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