New York City Administrative Code 10-133(b) (Unlawful Possession of Knives or Instruments), makes it illegal to possess a knife with a blade of four inches or more in any public place in New York City. Criminal Lawyers and Judges have struggled with this section for years because the reach of the statute is so broad and because of how easy it is to violate this statute.
Firstly, there is no specific “mens rea” or mental culpability required for this offense. Most criminal statutes require a person to act intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. This statute does not even require that the person knowingly possess the knife. Most weapons offenses require that the possession be knowing possession. In addition, as all of us know, knives have many legitimate uses and even the average kitchen knife has a blade length over four inches. To demonstrate the reach of this statute, over twenty years ago a Queens Criminal Court Judge ruled that the statute could be applied to a Sikh priest who had the knife as part of a genuine religious observance.
Last month another Queens Criminal Court Judge ruled that possessing a knife over four inches in a car is not a violation of this New York City Administrative Code section since a person’s car, even though on a public street, is not a “public place.” In the recent Queens case, the knife was seen in the center console of a vehicle that was stopped by the police for a routine traffic infraction. The Court ruled that the center console of a person’s vehicle is not a public place and dismissed the New York City Administrative Code violation.
Unlawful Possession of a Knife is a violation, not a crime under the New York City Administrative Code. Although only a violation, a person accused of violating this section faces up to 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.
If you, a family member or friend receive a summons or are arrested for violating the New York City Administrative Code, take the matter seriously and contact an experienced New York Criminal Attorney.