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Unlawful Knife Arrest In New York City Leads to $12,500 Settlement

Image courtesy KnifeRights

New York’s Finest are at it again. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar…

  • New York City cops pull over a Hispanic man for being Hispanic.
  • The cops find a common utility knife in the car and claim it is a gravity knife.
  • The man is arrested, booked, and held for 15 hours.
  • The man is forced to appear before court 3 times.
  • The case is finally dismissed.
  • The man sues the city
  • City settles, paying the man $12.5K

I’m beginning to sensepattern here…

Even more troubling in this case is the apparent racial component to this particular event. Tell me again how stop-and-frisk is a good idea?

Here are all the sordid details from KnifeRights.org:


Once again, a particularly unjust gravity knife arrest in New York City has resulted in a big dollar settlement, this time for $12,500. The person arrested, who we will call “John” (Hispanic male whose name is withheld at his request), was, according to John, driving his late-model Audi sedan when officers in an unmarked NYPD car stopped him. He claims he was approached by three plainclothes police officers and despite the fact that John claims that the car was in perfect working order, one of the officers claimed it had a broken taillight.

For no apparent reason, according to John, he was ordered to exit his vehicle and was brought around to the back by one of the officers where he was questioned about where he lived and worked, and how someone like him came to be driving a luxury vehicle. While John was being questioned, one of the officers, without permission or apparent probable cause, according to John, conducted an unauthorized search of the vehicle. Afterwards, John says he was told to puts his hands behind his back because he was under arrest for possession of a gravity knife.

John is a mechanic who uses his pocket knife, which was purchased at a local hardware store, for work. Despite the fact that his knife was secured out-of-sight in a closed zippered canvas bag with his other mechanic’s tools, according to John, in the criminal complaint the arresting officer claimed that John’s pocket knife was in the passenger compartment, visible and in plain sight, arguably a violation in New York City, when he initially approached the vehicle.

John claimed he never saw the officers perform the “wrist flick” test. He says they simply claimed the knife was a gravity knife. John states that though the knife did lock open with a liner lock, it was not “flickable,” and that two hands were needed to open it.

He was handcuffed and transported to the local police precinct where he was finger printed, had mug shots taken and had his name checked in the various law enforcement data bases to determine if he had a criminal record. Despite the fact that John’s record came back clean (indicating no prior criminal convictions), the arresting officers apparently declined to exercise their discretion and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket and brought him to Central Booking where he waited in a prison cell until 3:00 pm the next day to be arraigned (total time from arrest to release after arraignment was approximately 15 hours).

Over the course of the next three months John 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 his third court appearance, John’s case was dismissed.

NYC Donate ButtonSubsequently, John contacted Knife Rights and was referred to attorney Richard Holzberg to pursue a claim against the City of New York and the NYPD for false arrest and malicious prosecution, resulting in the settlement of $12,500.

While the settlement shows this is yet another egregious violation of the law and public trust by NYPD, Knife Rights reminds those who live or travel in New York City that the City’s administrative code has an under-4-inch length limit and requires knives be carried concealed at all times. 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.

Note also that NYC has interpreted the state law against gravity knives such that if an officer can “wrist flick” the knife blade open 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. If you are arrested for possession of an “illegal knife” in New York, please immediately contact Knife Rights at:nycity@KnifeRights.org

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