Federal Judge “Surprised” by NYC’s Gravity Knife Interpretation, DA’s Attorney Agrees with Knife Rights

Image courtesy Knife Rights

Early proceedings in Knife Rights Federal Civil Rights case against New York City appear to have been favorable for knife owners living in, and traveling to/through the big apple. After initially being dismissed, the case is back on appeal and oral arguments seem to have gone well, with the DA’s attorney effectively confirming what Knife Rights has argued all along–that the District Attorney’s interpretation of New York state’s gravity knife statute is overly broad and unconstitutionally vague.

From kniferights.org: (emphasis added in bold)

Jan. 16, 2015: Oral argument in the appeal of Knife Rights’ Federal Civil Rights case against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., which was dismissed on standing grounds, was held on January 13 in New York City. In response to questions from the bench, the DA’s attorney was forced to admit that what had happened to plaintiff John Copeland could happen to anyone. When asked directly if someone could show his knife to two policemen who tested the knife with the city’s (indeterminate) “wrist-flick” test and found the knife legal, that the same knife could later be found illegal by a third policeman, he agreed that was the case. That goes directly to the claim in the lawsuit that this test is unconstitutionally vague because no one can know if any Common Folding Knife is legal.

The DA’s attorney further admitted that any knife could be legal one day and illegal the next, claiming that they expect all knife owners to test their knife “regularly” (perhaps meaning before every use) to determine if it is still legal, an absurd requirement, even were an individual’s own “wrist-flick” test determinate, which it is clearly not.

Knife Rights’ summary of the proceedings are a showcase of the DA’s attorney getting egg all over his face, including his mischaracterizing the Federal Switchblade Act and his unfamiliarity with the actual (mis)application of the law by the District Attorney’s Office. This little gem in particular caught my eye.

In response to a question about Swiss Army Knives, our attorney, Dan Schmutter, responded that some Swiss Army Knives with locking blades could be deemed gravity knives by the DA and NYPD if someone could “wrist-flick” the knife open. That response appeared to surprise the judge asking the question.

There is still a ways to go in this fight, but we can hope that these recent events portend well for Knife Rights and for all of us. Be sure to read the full article which also includes a timeline of the case so far.


  1. travis m. says:

    There aren’t many pocket knives I can think of that would fit NYC’s requirements, there’s this concept design: http://www.core77.com/gallery/new-designers-2013/35.asp called the “wind up pocket knife” which has a crank attached to a worm screw to open and close the knife.

    1. Roger says:

      There are a number of “magicians” knives that can’t be opened without taking a extra(often hidden) step. Buck makes one, nutnfancy reviewed it years ago, so does Case and “Imperial Knives”. I’ve thought about buying one just to carry in NYC but they have a bit of a prohibitive price point.

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Federal Judge “Surprised” by NYC’s Gravity Knife Interpretation, DA’s Attorney Agrees with Knife Rights

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