According to Rhode Island’s criminal offense law found under § 11-47-42, the mere possession of various non-firearm type weapons may result in a criminal charge. The type of items prohibited include, among other weapons, a blackjack, slingshot, stun gun and metal knuckles. It also prohibits the concealed carrying of blades over 3 inches long. One does not need to have any intent to do harm to be in violation of the law. In this law, the length of the blade is a critical element to the crime.
The law is applied to both minors and adults. Although a Swiss Army type knife may be carried and used as a helpful tool by many, it may result in a violation. In the case of In re J.S., the Supreme Court of Rhode Island upheld a Family Court ruling finding a minor to be delinquent after assaulting another with a deadly weapon due to his use of a blade causing injury to another. In that case, the juvenile had also been charged with a violation of § 11-47-42, due to carrying the concealed knife. However, the charge was dismissed prior to appeal specifically because the state was unable to prove that the blade exceeded three inches.
The length of the blade can make the difference between criminal charges and a useful tool. If carrying a pocket knife, safely under three inches may be the more prudent choice.