As criminal defense attorneys who handle a large number of gun and weapon charges we have seen an substantial increase in clients who come to us with charges relating to possession of knives. Now, in the wake of the New York Post article which reported that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has entered into a deal with retailers such as Home Depot, Eastern Mountain Sports and Paragon Sports to stop the sale of many folding knives it seems appropriate to review the legality of knives in New York.

As we wrote in our April 2, 2009 blog, New York State Penal Law sec. 265.01 makes it a crime to possess any of the following knives: a gravity knife; switchblade knife; pilum ballistic knife; metal knuckle knife; and cane sword. The problem starts with the definition of “Gravity Knife” from the New York State Penal Law. Sec. 265.00 (5) states that a Gravity Knife is any knife that can be opened by gravity or the application of centrifugal force. What the latter part means is that if the knife can be “flicked” opened (centrifugal force), it is illegal to possess. It gets more complicated if you think that a large, experience police officer can probably “flick” open any knife given a couple of attempts and enough force and so virtually any lock-blade pocket knife can probably be considered a switchblade. It is this “gravity knife” issue that caught up major retailers like Home Depot.

Additional issues arise from the “exemptions”, which are defenses listed in the Penal Law. These are codified in Penal Law §265.20(6) an make it legal to possess a gravity knife or switchblade for use while hunting, fishing or trapping by a person carrying a valid license (for hunting, trapping or fishing).

In the next part of this series we will explore the legality of daggers, dirks, stilettos, dangerous knives and razors. In the meantime, these complicated and ambiguous knife laws are getting innocent people caught up in the criminal justice system. Be careful and if you or any loved ones are charged with a weapons related offense contact Tilem & Campbell for a free consultation. .

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