In a setback for sanity, or at least those who wish to carry tools without running afoul of the local gendarmes, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that while it has limitations – the 3.5″ blade limit established by the legislature is a duly legislated designation and therefor upheld a lower court’s conviction in a weapons case.
“The problem is there are so many knives that have legitimate purposes,” Lincoln attorney Jerry Soucie said. “If you have a fillet knife in a tackle box, you’re violating the law. Restaurants have the same problem.”
Soucie represented Bao Minh Nguyen, who was stopped by authorities in 2014 for failing to use a turn signal. A search turned up meth and a folding knife concealed in the visor of his vehicle. The knife had a blade length of 3¾ inches.
Nguyen was convicted of both offenses and sentenced to one to three years in prison for each conviction.
Nguyen did not contest the meth conviction, but he appealed the weapons charge. He pointed to prior State Supreme Court precedents that, taken together, said the prosecution must prove that the party in possession of the knife intended to use it for criminal purposes.
Put another way, intent also matters, not just size.
Lancaster County District Judge John Colborn ruled on the appeal first. He said the Nebraska Legislature amended the law in 2009, after the high court’s precedent decisions on concealed knives. The amendment struck language on specific types of knives and instead added the general term “knife” as a deadly weapon.
Colborn’s decision was upheld by the Nebraska Court of Appeals”
While an imperfect solution, affirmative defense “carve-outs” would be helpful to protect the innocent. I disagree with them on principle, since no free person should have to justify simple possession of a tool to authorities. However, in practical terms, they offer discretion in those cases where someone is transporting a knife for work or recreation – not that this was the situation in Nguyen’s case.