Are Brass Knuckles Illegal?

A man wearing brass knuckles.

Brass knuckles are metal guards worn over the knuckles for combat purposes. They wrap around the fingers when you make a fist. This type of weapon can be made of plastic, ceramic, or other hardened materials and is often referred to as knuckle dusters or knucks.

It’s common to ask, “Why are brass knuckles illegal?” especially if you’ve seen them in movies. The answer is that brass knuckles are more than cool accessories. They are weapons that can cause serious harm. Common injuries people suffer from knucks include concussions, broken bones, lacerations, cuts, eye/nose injuries, and death.

To regulate the danger posed by knuckle dusters, many states have brass knuckle laws prohibiting their possession, usage, production, sale, and distribution. Breaking these laws will render you guilty of an offense, ranging from a misdemeanor to a possible felony charge.

To avoid weapons charges, read this guide carefully for all you need to know about brass knuckles and their legality.


Are Brass Knuckles Illegal?

There are no federal laws about brass knuckles in the United States. However, many states have laws concerning dangerous weapons, including brass knuckles, slingshots, bludgeons, and blackjacks. Some of these states make brass knuckles totally illegal, so residents cannot manufacture, sell, use, or even carry them. Running afoul of the law in these states can earn you jail time of up to a year and some monetary fines.

On the other hand, some states allow you to own brass knuckles, but with restrictions. Here, you may need a permit to possess brass knuckles. Nevertheless, using the metal guards as a weapon will get you into trouble with local law enforcement agents.

The state may also determine the material from which you can create knuckle dusters. Some states only allow knucks made from plastic or ceramic.

The final category consists of states where brass knuckles’ legal possession is guaranteed. You can have brass knuckles on your belt buckles, but ensure that you do not use them for violence. If you do, you will be charged with assault or battery. You will face a greater charge than possessing a weapon if this happens. The state may charge you with a felony, and depending on your offense level, you may spend up to five years in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, brass knuckles are illegal in many countries, such as Finland, Spain, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Belgium, Austria, Turkey, and Canada. Therefore, if you are leaving the United States to visit any of these countries, you should research the legality of your knucks.


States That Allow Brass Knuckles

Some states make brass knuckles outright illegal, while others allow them with restrictions. States that allow brass knuckles are divided based on the extent to which they allow the possession of these items.

We will start with the first category, states that allow brass knuckles but with restrictions. These states treat brass knuckles like other offensive weapons, such as knives and guns, where you need a permit to carry them legally. States that allow brass knuckles with a permit include:


  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin


If caught with these weapons without a permit, you will be charged with illegally possessing a deadly weapon, which is a misdemeanor. You may also face felony charges if you use the brass knuckles in a violent manner. All of these offenses can add up and go on your criminal record.

The second category consists of states where carrying brass knuckles is legal. In these states, you can carry brass knuckles without restrictions, but violently using them will lead to assault charges against you. These states include:


  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming


If you run afoul of the law in these states, you will need a good defense lawyer to prevent you from facing a potential criminal conviction.


States Where Brass Knuckles Are Illegal

In some states, brass knuckles are categorized as dangerous weapons and, therefore, illegal. These states put brass knuckles in the same category as machine guns, blackjacks, sandbags, knuckle dusters, switchblades, billy clubs, and other illegal weapons. Therefore, if you are caught carrying brass knuckles in these states, you will likely face weapons charges and a monetary fine. States that have made brass knuckles illegal include:


  • Alaska
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Washington
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Colorado
  • Missouri
  • California
  • Kansas
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • Oklahoma


Check online if you are unsure of your state’s category. Every state has an official website addressing legal issues like firearm possession and its legal ramifications. Also, be sure to check the laws on concealed weapons/concealed carry.


Penalties For Carrying Brass Knuckles

A man being arrested by the police.

The penalties for carrying brass knuckles differ depending on the jurisdiction. Many states categorize brass knuckles as deadly weapons covered under their weapons laws. Most states classify carrying brass knuckles as a misdemeanor. The punishment for a misdemeanor usually does not exceed one-year imprisonment. You may have to pay fines in conjunction with jail time.

Where carrying weapons like brass knuckles is classified as a felony, the offense usually falls under the lowest class. This may be Class E or D, depending on the state’s laws. If you reside in one of these states, a felony may earn you up to five years in prison. You may also have to pay fines, usually around $1,000 to $10,000.

What makes carrying brass knuckles a difficult choice, even in states where it is legal, is the use. If you have the object on your person while striking another person and it leads to an injury, you could be charged with a felony, irrespective of the state. Depending on the extent of the damage to the victim, you may face up to a Class C or Class B felony charge. On the rare occasion that the victim dies, the charge becomes a Class A felony, which carries the stiffest penalty.

To prevent getting into legal trouble, don’t use brass knuckles for anything aside from fashion, education, or entertainment purposes.


Ways To Avoid Brass Knuckle Laws

Since there is no federal law on brass knuckles, keeping track of all state laws on knuckle dusters may be difficult. However, once you know your state’s legal position on brass knuckles, it becomes easy to get around them. If your state allows brass knuckles, you could go around with your knucks as accessories on a necklace or keychain.

However, if your state allows brass knuckles with restrictions, you may have to find a way around those restrictions. The first thing to note is that some states only prohibit concealed weapons. Therefore, if you reside in one of those states, the best option is to carry it openly. Put the knuckle duster on a chain around your neck or use it as a  keychain. This ensures the object is not concealed and saves you from any legal trouble.

Also, if you want to bypass the brass knuckle laws, you should get a free consultation from a law firm. Attorneys possess the knowledge and experience you need to avoid legal trouble.

Furthermore, many states only have metal knuckles laws. Therefore, you can carry these weapons without breaking any law by getting a knuckle duster made of plastic or ceramic. You must be certain that your state’s laws on brass knuckles only regulate those in metal form. This certainty is crucial, as you may have to deal with the repercussions if you miss out on any detail.


State By State Brass Knuckles Legality

Alabama – Brass knuckles are legal in Alabama but must be carried openly. If you carry brass knuckles concealed and get apprehended by law enforcement, you could be facing a misdemeanor. The sentence is usually a year in jail and some monetary fines.

Alaska – Manufacturing, possessing, transporting, selling, or transferring metal knuckles is illegal in Alaska. If you are found doing any of these things, you will be punished.

Arkansas – The sale, manufacture, and possession of brass knuckles are illegal in Arkansas. Doing any of this will result in a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.

California – The law regarding brass knuckles in California is very strict. It bans the sale, purchase, use, possession, and manufacture of all forms of brass knuckles. Breaking this law will most likely get you prison time and fines.

Colorado – All forms of brass knuckles are illegal in Colorado. As a Colorado resident, you cannot use these items even as accessories. That means no brass knuckles on your belt or chain. The sentence is one-year imprisonment and a $1000 fine.

Connecticut – Brass knuckles are legal in Connecticut, but they must be carried openly. Carrying concealed brass knuckles is a misdemeanor offense if you do not have a permit or license. You can request one if you are eligible.

Delaware – Brass knuckles are illegal in Delaware unless you have a concealed carry permit. The law is stricter here since a first-time offender will be facing felony charges.

District of Columbia – The law in the District of Columbia makes using or possessing brass knuckles illegal for all except a few select officers. These include on-duty military personnel, prison wardens, police officers, sheriffs, and other professionals.

Florida – Brass knuckles are legal in Florida but must be carried openly. You need a concealed weapon permit if you want to carry them otherwise. Flouting this law is an offense punishable by a prison term of three years and a $1000 fine.

Georgia – Georgia permits its residents to own and carry brass knuckles. However, they cannot carry them in places like hospitals or schools. Residents will also face felony charges if they injure someone with brass knuckles.

Hawaii – Hawaiians can own and sell brass knuckles, but they cannot carry them in their cars or store them there. Doing so is an offense punishable by a prison term and a fine.

Idaho – Idaho is one of the states that leaves the legality of brass knuckles for the courts to determine. Brass knuckles are considered a dangerous weapon, and the courts will sentence a person based on whether or not they had criminal intent when using the weapon.

Illinois – Illinois laws make all forms of brass knuckles illegal. Owning or carrying anything that resembles brass knuckles is illegal, and using one is considered a felony.

Indiana – It is legal to carry and own brass knuckles in Indiana. However, using this tool for violence is illegal, and offenders will be punished based on the circumstances of the case.

Iowa – Iowa is another state that allows the court to determine the legality of using brass knuckles. The courts consider how the knucks were used and whether there was criminal intent when sentencing the owner.

Kansas – Brass knuckles are strictly illegal in Kansas, and the prohibition includes using, selling, manufacturing, or exhibiting these objects. Depending on the situation, offenders may be subject to a misdemeanor or a felony.

Kentucky – Brass knuckles are considered deadly weapons in Kentucky, so residents need a permit to carry them concealed outside their private property.

Louisiana – Brass knuckles are legal in Louisiana but must be carried openly. Residents need a permit to carry concealed weapons.

Maine – Brass knuckles are illegal in Maine.

Maryland – Brass knuckles are legal in Maryland but must not be concealed.

Massachusetts – Massachusetts laws prohibit brass knuckles and punish possession with up to a $1000 fine or six months’ imprisonment.

Michigan – All types and forms of brass knuckles are illegal in Michigan.

Minnesota – Brass knuckles are strictly prohibited in Minnesota.

Mississippi – Mississippi laws allow the possession of brass knuckles, but they must be carried openly.

Missouri – Selling, manufacturing, or possessing brass knuckles in Missouri is a Class D felony with a sentence of up to four years in prison.

Montana – Montana laws leave it to the courts to determine whether the possession and usage of brass knuckles are legal, depending on the circumstances.

Nebraska – Brass knuckles are legal in Nebraska if they are not concealed.

Nevada – It is illegal to own or use brass knuckles in Nevada.

New Hampshire – Brass knuckles are illegal in New Hampshire.

New Jersey – New Jersey laws permit the possession and use of brass knuckles for lawful purposes.

New Mexico – New Mexico laws allow residents to carry brass knuckles, but they must not be hidden or concealed.

New York – All activities with brass knuckles are illegal in New York.

North Carolina – It is legal to carry brass knuckles in North Carolina, but you must not conceal them. Failure to follow the law will lead to a misdemeanor charge.

North Dakota – North Dakota residents can carry brass knuckles but cannot conceal them.

Ohio – Ohio laws prohibit using and possessing deadly weapons, and brass knuckles can be considered one.

Oklahoma – It is illegal to carry any offensive weapon in Oregon, including brass knuckles.

Oregon – Oregon laws permit brass knuckles, but they must not be concealed.

Pennsylvania – Possessing or engaging in any activity with brass knuckles in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor.

Rhode Island – Rhode Island laws make brass knuckles illegal. Offenders will be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a prison term and fine.

South Carolina – Brass knuckles are legal in South Carolina but cannot be carried in schools or hospitals.

South Dakota – Brass knuckles are legal in South Dakota and can be concealed if there is no intent to harm.

Tennessee – Brass knuckles are illegal in Tennessee.

Texas – Since September 1st, 2019, it is now legal to possess brass knuckles in Texas.

Utah – Utah laws are not specific about brass knuckles, leaving it to the courts to determine their legality.

Vermont – The law in Vermont prohibits all forms of brass knuckles.

Virginia – Virginia residents can carry brass knuckles but can only conceal them with a permit.

Washington – All activities with brass knuckles are illegal in Washington and regarded as misdemeanors. First-time offenders can be punished with one year of imprisonment and up to $2500 in fines. Second-time offenders will be regarded as felons.

West Virginia – It is legal to carry brass knuckles in West Virginia, but concealing them is a misdemeanor.

Wisconsin – Brass knuckles are legal but can only be concealed with a permit.

Wyoming – Wyoming permits brass knuckles, but they must not be concealed.


The Bottom Line

Currently, federal lawmakers are yet to make a law on brass knuckles nationally. This leaves it up to each state to make different regulations to guide the weapon’s use and possession within their territories.

As a citizen, resident, or visitor to the United States, you are obliged to know the legal positions regarding weapons like brass knuckles. Knowing the laws that apply in your state alone may not be enough, especially if you are traveling to another state.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can you use brass knuckles for self-defense?

No, you cannot use brass knuckles for self-defense. The first problem is with the practicality, while the second relates to the legality. Concerning practicality, brass knuckles alone are not enough to protect you in a fight. You must be able to use them skillfully if you want to defend yourself. If you are not skilled, you are more likely to injure yourself than inflict any real damage to your attacker.

The second issue is legality. Brass knuckles are illegal in many states, and using them for self-defense will not exonerate you before the law. Mere possession will likely render you guilty of a misdemeanor. When you use it as an offensive weapon, it becomes a felony. The difference between misdemeanors and felonies is significant.

Even in states where brass knuckles are legal, they are only allowed for fashion, education, and entertainment purposes.


Where are brass knuckles illegal in the US?

Brass knuckles are illegal in several states in the US. Some of these states directly ban brass knuckles in all forms. These states include New York, California, Colorado, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, some states only make brass knuckles illegal to some degree. For example, South Carolina allows carrying brass knuckles without intention to harm. Some states make brass knuckles illegal only when they are made of metal. In these states, residents can get around the law by using knucks made of plastic or ceramic.


What happens if you get hit with brass knuckles?

Brass knuckles are deadly weapons, even if they are made of plastic or ceramic. They are famous for being used by soldiers during World Wars I and II. During those times, the soldiers wore brass knuckles and used them in conjunction with trench knives when fighting in close quarters. Even when these knuckle dusters are used alone, they are still dangerous weapons.

Knuckle Dusters provide a great deal of force to the attacker’s punch. The consequence is that the person being hit suffers more damage. Injuries from brass knuckles can be minor, such as small facial cuts. However, it can also be as serious as concussions, lacerations, broken bones, etc. In extreme situations, being hit with brass knuckles can lead to death.