As New York Criminal Defense Lawyers we have sounded the alarm on numerous occasions about the draconian enforcement of New York Knife laws by New York City Police Officers and the 5 New York City District Attorney’s Offices. Now an amendment to the New York State Penal Law may severely restrict those arrests if the bill passes the full Senate and the New York assembly. The scope of the problem is enormous. A report in the Village Voice found that more than 60,000 individuals have been arrested for possessing common pocket knives.
The problem stems from the definition of a “gravity knife” found in New York Penal Law 265.00(5). The definition essentially includes as a gravity knife, any lock back knife that can be opened by the application of centrifugal force. That is to say that if a 250 pound police officer can “flip” opened a knife, the knife can be a considered a gravity knife.
The proposed fix to the law would require prosecutors to prove “unlawful intent” before they can convict someone of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree to convict for possessing a Gravity Knife.
Be careful, as we have reported in the past, in a case entitled People v. Richards a judge ruled that the statement of a defendant that he had the knife for self-defense was enough to establish that he possessed a knife with intent to use it unlawfully against another. In that case, the criminal court judge reasoned that by stating that the knife was for self-defense it showed that the person considered the knife a weapon as opposed to a tool. Therefore, even if the law is amended, and the person admits to the police that the knife is for self-defense, that statement may be sufficient to convict a person of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.
It is also important to note that this amendment will not fix the two statutes found in the New York City Administrative Code which also result in many criminal summonses and arrests. The first New York City knife law to be aware of is possession of a knife that is in plain view. Many in New York City get arrested or summoned for having a pocket knife clipped to their pocket as many people do. The other statute bans all knives over 4” in length in public. As we have previously reported, even a steak knife at a restaurant can be illegal under this statute.
As a result, for the time being, it is important to vigilant and not bring a knife into New York unless you are well versed in New York knife laws. For more information please read our knife law blogspart 1, part 2 and part 3 and contact us if you need additional information.