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Brass Knuckles and the Law

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Brass knuckles, also called "knuckle dusters" and "knucks", are used as offensive and defense weapons. In World War I and World War II, brass knuckles were often attached to knives to use in trench warfare. Used on one hand or on both hands, brass knuckles are dangerous weapons and are illegal in many states.

In an apparent attempt to suggest that they are pieces of art, some people sell brass knuckle jewelry to be worn as a necklace. It is possible that dangling brass knuckle jewelry from a chain around your neck could negate concealed weapons charges in a state where concealing brass knuckle weapons is illegal.

Brass knuckles frequently appear in mass media. The movie, Constantine, TV shows like The Sopranos and The Simpsons, the novel, The Kite Runner, and video games like Grand Theft Auto, have all featured brass knuckles in fight scenes or to suggest violence. As a result, many people glamorize these dangerous weapons.

Brass Knuckles and the Law

Are brass knuckles legal? States in the U.S. have differing views on this question.

Some states like California, Michigan, Illinois, and Vermont prohibit the possession, sale, or use of brass knuckles, in addition to devices that look like brass knuckles (e.g., plastic knuckles). Other states, like South Carolina, make possession of brass knuckles illegal only if "they are used with the intent to commit a crime."

Some states only ban metallic knuckles, while others ban hardened knuckles of any kind. Materials used to make hardened knuckles include brass, steel, hard plastics, and acrylic.

Although the possession of a pair of brass knuckles is generally a misdemeanor crime in states where they are against the law, using brass knuckles in a violent crime can lead to felony charges.

Outside the U.S., countries like Switzerland make buying, trading, or the possession of brass knuckles against the law.

Brass Knuckles Dangers

Injuries from brass knuckles can be serious, as the weapons are composed of hardened material like brass, chrome, or hard plastic. Being struck with brass knuckles can inflict broken bones, cuts, concussions, and eye and nose injuries.

Although injuries from brass knuckles are usually serious but non-fatal, there are some cases where the use of brass knuckles has resulted in death.

Brass Knuckles and Your Legal Rights

There are state and federal laws about brass knuckles that people are required to understand and observe.

If you are charged with possession of brass knuckles, or the victim of a brass knuckle-related crime, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

Some of the legal factors that an attorney can review with you include:

  • What it means to be charged with violating your state's brass knuckle law, including elements of the crime, potential defenses, and the length of any possible criminal sentence; and
  • If you or your loved ones are victims of brass knuckle violence, whether you can recover damages from the assailants, their employers, or a third part that may have had a duty to prevent brass weapons from being used.

Brass Knuckles: Getting Legal Help

  • Click here to learn how a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you if you are charged with the illegal possession or use of brass, metallic, or other hardened knuckles.
  • To find an experienced criminal defense attorney, use the "Find a Lawyer" tool on this page, or click here.
  • If you were injured by some using brass knuckles, contact a personal injury lawyer here to review your legal options.

Brass Knuckles Safety Tips

  • Follow your state's brass knuckle laws. Even if they are not illegal in your state, you must still use extreme care when handling them.
  • If you are outside your home state, be sure to check the applicable local and state regulations governing the use of brass knuckles.
  • Like any dangerous weapon, brass Knuckles always have the potential to hurt others, whether purposely or accidentally. If someone is hurt, or property is damaged while you are using brass knuckles, you could be held liable in a civil lawsuit, and/or face charges in a criminal court.
  • Never let children play with brass knuckles.
  • Never use brass knuckles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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