So according to New York City, any locking knife is considered to be an illegal gravity knife. If one wants to stay on the right side of their law, what are the options for those who still want to carry a one hand opening folder? Sculptor Jonathan W. (last name withheld) knew of the pitfalls of carrying in NYC, and therefore chose the Spyderco UK Penknife (pictured), a non locking, slip joint folder, which should have been in the clear.
But that wasn’t good enough for the NYPD (who arrested him), the DA (who charged him), or even his public defender (who recommended he plead guilty). This latest example of the systemic persecution of knife owners in the most populous city in the U.S. boggles the mind.
First, one of New York’s finest asked to see the knife in question when he noticed it clipped to Jonathan’s pants pocket while he was outside smoking a cigarette (itself bad juju in Bloomberg’s city). From kniferights.org:
According to Jonathan, the officer unsuccessfully attempted to open the knife several times using a so-called “wrist-flick.” He then opened the knife blade halfway with two hands and finally managed to flick it open from there. At that point, even though the knife clearly couldn’t be opened with only a wrist-flick and, and even more to the point, had no locking mechanism, the latter a key element of the state gravity knife definition, the officer placed Jonathan under arrest for illegal possession of a “gravity knife,” handcuffing him in public before taking him to the precinct for processing.
It is bad enough that Jonathan was arrested, but after reviewing the evidence, the District Attorney still brought charges against him.
Over the course of the next five months Jonathan had to appear in criminal court on three separate occasions with the threat of up to a year in jail hanging over his head each time. On each occasion, the District Attorney assigned to the case and even his own Legal Aid lawyer kept trying to convince Jonathan to plead guilty, even though he had not committed a crime. Wisely, he refused, and ultimately with the help of an expert witness he proved his knife was legal and the District Attorney voluntarily dismissed the case against him.
Not content with just a dismissal, Jonathan (with the help of Knife Rights and attorney Richard Holzberg) sued the city for false arrest and malicious prosecution. After stretching out the litigation for more than six months, the city eventually settled with Jonathan for $7,500 taxpayer dollars. The DA could have saved everyone a lot of money, and over a year of Jonathan’s time, had they used their head and not prosecuted a man they knew to be innocent from the get go.
You can read Knife Rights’ full statement on the matter here, and I will leave you with their standard NYC warning below. I would only add one thing to their advice. In a place where your public defender urges you to plead guilty to a crime you have not committed, look up a good lawyer in advance!
From Knife Rights: New York City has interpreted the state law against gravity knives such that if an officer can “wrist flick” the knife blade open, or alleges that the knife might be able to be opened in such a manner, and the knife blade locks open, that knife is an illegal gravity knife. NYC takes this position even if it requires multiple tries and use of exaggerated arm thrust or motion. Using this interpretation, most any lockblade knife might be deemed an illegal gravity knife.
Note also that New York City administrative code has an under-4-inch length limit and requires knives be carried concealed. Knife Rights recommends that you never carry your knife clipped to your pocket in New York City. Even when covered by a jacket, simply moving the jacket aside to get to a wallet has been enough to get folks arrested. Always ensure your knife is completely concealed at all times, including not “printing” on the outside of your clothing. In addition, be extremely circumspect about using a knife for any purpose in a public setting.
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