Howdy Folks… I hope everyone had a suitably celebratory Independence Day, or perfectly acceptable Tuesday for those not lucky enough to be American (I would hope all our readers feel pride in where they come from just as I do, so please take it in that vein). I hope you paused said celebration long enough to ponder the significance of one of the greatest political documents ever written, as our friend Ethan Becker implored in his essay yesterday. As we all get settled into the remainder of our week, here is the latest entry in our 2017 Reader Submission Contest. The author wishes to remain anonymous, and I am perfectly fine with that. It is not too late to submit a post yourself, just send your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read about the prize pool and contest details here.
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Click here for AKTI’s suggestions on how to handle a police encounter while you are carrying a knife.
The Story No-one Wants to Hear.
On April 13, 2013 my world changed completely. And it was all because of this knife. How could a cheap gun show knife I ‘’bought” for my son do that you might be asking.
Well the story starts many many years before… you see I think I was born with a knife in my pocket. OK, maybe not, but at least I can’t remember a time there wasn’t one there. I used them while fishing, for carving sticks, fixing my bike and everything between when I was a kid. It seems I was always had a use for one and so I always had a knife on me. I remember I wasn’t 10 years old when the first Rambo Movie came out. But I also remember I had a survival knife not long after. And I wore that hollow handled survival knife strapped to my hip just about everywhere I went. As I got older the style knife I carried changed many times but it seemed like there was always a knife in my pocket or on my belt. And I never thought twice about it. I remember my Dad telling me when I was younger to be careful with them. I remember him saying once how he always carried a small pocket knife and no ever bothered him. But I didn’t understand at the time what he meant. Why would anyone bother him for having a knife?
Fast forward many years… I now have 4 kids of my own and still go everywhere with a knife in my pocket. At family gatherings and birthday parties everyone knows “I have a knife to help them open that new gift they just got…” I can even recall a time of getting to my destination and realizing I just had flown with a knife in my pocket, but that was long before 9-11…
So imagine that, my oldest Son developed an interest in knives… In the fall of 2012, at a Gun and Knife show, a particular knife caught my Son’s eye. He had the money to buy it but the vendor refused to sell it to my Son because he wasn’t 18. I gladly assumed responsibility for the sale and exchanged of My Son’s hard earned money for the knife he wanted. He was now the proud owner of a fancy new “spring assisted” knife. We both marveled at how quickly it opened. I gave him the same advice my Dad had given me when I got a new knife. I said intently, “be sure to be careful with that knife”. The knife quickly became my Son’s favorite knife. The next spring as the weather warmed and even though Christmas had provided a few new ones, it was still my Son’s favorite knife. So He took it with him almost everywhere he went.
That is, until April 13, 2013.
It was a perfect night at the end of a beautiful Spring Saturday in April. It was the kind of day you dream of all Winter long in Michigan. That night my oldest Son was out riding his bike around the neighborhood. I wasn’t exactly sure where he was, but I wasn’t exactly worried either as we live in a fairly quiet small town. Besides, my Son had never been in trouble and I wasn’t worried as he’s a good kid and not the kind to go looking for it… But when my ex-wife knocked at my door out of the blue that night and said we needed to talk about our oldest, my world changed completely. I rounded the corner out my front door and onto my porch and saw my Son sitting in the front seat of my Ex’s van. He was as white as a ghost and shaking. His eyes were red and full of tears. I’d never seen his face so full of fear. The two of them explained to me the best they could through the emotions and tears, that My Son had been riding his bike just a few blocks away from My House when a Police officer stopped him and charged him with carrying an illegal knife!!! The Police report later confirmed My Son was doing nothing wrong when he was stopped and that he behaved very respectfully to and with the Officer that night. The Officer had simply seen a clip on My Son’s back pocket and stopped him to see what it was. My Son while still shaking told me “Dad I wasn’t trying to break the Law”, “I thought my knife was legal.” And then that night My Son would say the words that would haunt me to this day!! “If I can’t carry this knife without getting into trouble, what knife can I carry?” “What knife can I carry…?”
It was a few weeks later or so before the first court date so my Ex-wife and I set up an appointment with her Lawyer to meet to talk about what happened. The Lawyer explained the legal process and what to expect next… and I asked about MI knife laws and if the knife My Son had was or was not legal according to the Law. The Lawyer responded that “it didn’t matter what the Law said about his knife”. Simply put, my Son was being charged by the Local Police and the best option, since he had never been in trouble before, was to hope the court would go easy on him. He said since it’s his first offence if he plead guilty he would likely just have to do some community service hours and pay a fine. But I persisted! What about the knife and the Law!?!?!? What does the Law say!?!? But the Lawyer persisted as well and said that the Law did NOT matter! You see the night of April 13th when this first happened I started to do some ‘Google’ searching to try to understand the law and I was getting confused. But I did know the MI State Police web site said knives over 3 inches were NOT illegal, unless the person had unlawful intent. So I called the Officer that night to try to understand the charges. The Local Police Officer who charged my Son told me on the phone that night that any knife over 3 inches was illegal in Michigan… And when I questioned him about why the State Police website said otherwise, he told me to get a Lawyer if I needed help understanding the law because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I tried to explain to him that I believed HE didn’t understand the Law correct… The call ended and I knew we were in for an uphill fight. The Visit with my Ex’s Lawyer was no different. My Son and I talked and neither he nor I wanted him to plead guilty to something he didn’t do wrong.
The months following would prove to be some of the most trying times and frustrating experiences I have ever had. I called Lawyer after Lawyer and heard the same thing, the Law does not matter. But I still kept trying to understand it better, and I ended up finding AKTI and KnifeRights.org. I did everything I could to learn everything I could about knife laws and regulations. But unfortunately where we lived the Laws did not seem to matter, facts did not seem to matter. I’d lose more sleep and eventually succumb to panic attacks and bouts of rage trying to prove my Son’s innocence and understand the charges. Because the truth was traded for opinions and facts were perverted to try to make a innocent child look guilty. We heard excuse after excuse from the Prosecutor as to why My Son’s knife was not legal. My Son’s knife was even recorded as being 2 inches longer than it actually was. At a time when the police department who charged him were teaching and enforcing the law based on the belief that length determined the legality of a knife. Which does NOT agree with the Law. But yet they recorded his knife longer than it actually was, when they believed and were teaching kids that being longer than 3 inches made it not legal. The Sergeant had even signed and verified it into evidence at the incorrect overstated length. The first meeting at the Prosecutor’s Office I questioned the charges and explained I did not believe My Son did anything wrong. The person we were dealing with looked at the Police report and went straight to the the length and said, yes it’s over 3 inches it’s illegal! When I handed them a copy of the Michigan State Police website that contradicted what they were saying about blade length they became irate and turned bright red! It was then we found out the 3 3/4 inch long knife blade of my Son’s knife had been recorded as 5 3/4 inches long! That simply wasn’t right! So I questioned the length in the Police report and the Prosecutor contacted the Police department to verify the length. But I was told they were having trouble contacting them because the Prosecutor could only talk with the charging officer about the case and he worked nights… Eventually contact was apparently made because according to my lawyer the charging Officer stated it was the correct length. How can that be! So I contacted the Chief of Police directly, he was able to review the knife in evidence and confirm the recorded length was not correct! And stated there was no record of anyone attempting to verify its length from the Prosecutor’s Office. Then he told me the Officer was not able to find a ruler anywhere in the Station on April 13th and so he had to print one off of the internet to measure my Son’s knife, that’s why the report was not accurate. So, it makes me wonder why that same Officer didn’t remember the ruler he had printed out that night when questioned by the Prosecutor? Was that such a standard practice he didn’t remember it? Or was he ever actually questioned? Sure makes me wonder…
But once the length issue was disposed of, they said his knife wasn’t legal because it was “Spring loaded”… I had to purchase several knives just like my Son’s to bring to the court to show how it worked, along with Case law and a court meeting or two later and that issue was disposed of… Then His knife was called a “Dagger”… More round and round. Eventually the case went away… But not after spending almost 6 thousand dollars in Legal fees to explain the Law to the Police and Prosecutor/ And the case lingered over my Son for His entire Summer break and into the next school year!!
In the end the charges were eventually “deferred” until they were disposed of, when they should have been dropped right away I believe. The Local Police WERE enforcing and teaching the Law incorrect. They taught for years that any knife over 3 inches is illegal just for being over 3 inches, MI Law does NOT support that claim. According to the City Manager, the Local Police this past School year (2016-2017) have started teaching the law correct. And by ‘teaching it correct’ I mean that according to the City Manager they are no longer talking about knives at all in their training…. But the City Manager told me they have no plans to correct the years of inaccurate instruction they provided to the Grade School kids in the area. The City refused to reimburse me for my legal fees and by the time I gathered the evidence to support my case against the Prosecutor the statute of limitations had expired. Not to mention every Lawyer I talked to told me they would recommend I move out of the State if I wanted to Sue the Police and Prosecutor as they would make my life difficult if continued to live in the same State.
So my life has forever been changed by a cheap gun show knife I ‘bought’ My Son at a Gun and Knife show. Because every way I look at the Laws in this State, my Son’s knife IS and WAS legal. So the answer I keep going back to on the question that has haunted me since April 13th… The Answer to my Son’s question is, “Son the knife you were carrying on April 13Was/IS legal according to the letter of the Law” But because the Laws in Michigan are so poorly written the ‘Law’ allow opinions not facts to decide what the ‘Law says’ in a courtroom and the courts always favor the Police not the citizens, facts or the Law. I never once had a desire to know and understand MI Knife laws like I do today. But now, like it or not it’s all I can think about most days. Growing up I had a Police Sergeant from a different local Police Department as a youth group leader in the church I attended at that time. I spent a good amount of time around him in my formative years, and because of him I grew to have a deep respect and trust in and for the Police. But unfortunately, since my Son’s case, my “eye’s have been opened” to what can happen when the Police do not understand the Law correct, willful or not. And I am much more likely to question things when I hear a story about Police corruption. When in the past I would have been much more likely to have instantly sided with the Police. Michigan’s Laws ARE confusing. They are arguably some of the worst written in the country, but not as confusing as I think the Local Police and Prosecutor tried to make them. Case law dating back to 1945 prove knives over 3 inches are not illegal as long as the person carrying the knife does not have unlawful intent. And even the Michigan State Police website boldly stated that fact until the FAQ section was recently updated. Hopefully soon SB245 will be signed by Michigan’s Governor Snyder, which will repeal 750.226a. When and if that happens, the “spring-loaded”/“spring assisted”/”Switchblade” issue will be settled once and for all in this State. But it’s not the end of the issues with Michigan’s knife laws. This State still needs a preemption bill and 750.227 still needs to be fixed. Because the terms “Dirk, Dagger and Stiletto” are not defined in 750.227. I emailed the MI State Police and I received a reply stating 750.227 only applies to fixed blade knives, but there is NOT case law in Michigan to back that claim. So even though I have an email from the State Police telling me 750.227 does not apply to folding knives, any prosecutor could say differently and I’d have no protection under the Law. And since knife laws are all I can think about most days, I for one will be doing all I can to get them clarified, changed and updated.