New York City Arrests, Prosecutes, Eventually Settles With Legal Knife Owner


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

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.


(Update 11/4/14: Welcome Instapundit readers. Our mission here at TTAK is to explore both the news/politics/culture of knives, as well as provide the most thorough and comprehensive knife reviews on the internet. Thank you to the Blogfather for sending you our way, and thank you all for visiting. If you would like to receive our latest updates, please “like” our Facebook Page, or follow us at @knifetruth on Twitter.)


  1. Sean Webb says:

    man, New York city sounds like a crazy communist state….hahaha.

    1. Lucky Pierre says:

      How sad….it is clearly apparent that intelligence is no longer criteria for nypd hires.

      1. frank muller says:

        They won’t hire you as a police officer in NY/NJ if you are intelligent. Its a risk to the powers that be. An intellegnt person might not carry out the illegal orders given to them by their commander.

        1. JPC says:

          I can’t fathom that NY City could have ennacted this ordnanace; that any prosecutor would pursue it; that any police officer would arrest and cuffed a fellow citizen for violating it. Tooth picks, pencils, chopsticks, broken glass bottles all must be lesser included offenses. I will never enter NYC where humans are just sheep for the slaughter with no legal mechanism to defend themselves. With this type justice system, slanted in favor of the Criminals/Terrorists, it’s gonna get much worse for NYC inhabitants in the near future.

  2. dph says:

    I’m sorry, but tell me again why anyone would want to live there?

  3. srone says:

    I am sorry, but New York makes Chicago look good. I had to spend a week in Chicago once and I bought a Spyderco Chicago, just so that I would not feel naked.

    1. Tom says:

      Sadly Boston has similar laws (2.5″ limit) when it comes to knives. A tiny fixed blade or a Dragonfly 2 ends up being my EDC most of the time. Luckily they have a provision that allows you to carry a longer blade when you’re going to or coming from work. Been thinking about getting a Techno and getting somebody to grind off that extra 0.05 inches though…

  4. Sam L. says:

    My mind remains unboggled. “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

  5. Winston Smith says:

    I decided a long time ago to stay the f out of NYC. Problem solved, though it causes friction at work occasionally.

    Don’t have to worry about pesky terrorists, either.

  6. GC says:

    “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”

    So a safety device actually makes the knife more dangerous. It must be as deadly as a barrel shroud / shoulder-thing-that-goes-up.

  7. Snortly says:

    Just carry a fixed blade knife.

    1. not found says:

      yes a fixed blade thats over 3 foot in lenght. is called a 2handed sword. ? i wonder wat ny state has under sword laws.

  8. Kevin P. says:

    Also good reading on this subject:

    How a ’50s-Era New York Knife Law Has Landed Thousands in Jail

    80 percent of weapons recovered under stop-and-frisk were knives, according to an analysis of the department’s own statistics. And experts say the vast majority of those were likely misclassified as “gravity knives.” Whether deliberate or not, dramatically expanding the definition of an illegal knife has not only landed thousands of innocent people in jail — it also had the effect of making stop-and-frisk appear far more effective than it actually was.

    Fully 86% of those arrested are Black or Hispanic.

    1. Village Voice did a fantastic job on that article. I’m glad to see it has been making the rounds!

      You can check out our coverage of it here: New York’s Gravity Knife Prosecutions Are Unjust, And New York Knows It

  9. Sam L. says:

    I see Instapundit has linked this!

    1. 🙂

      David does good work. It is nice that it is getting noticed.

  10. Deserttrek says:

    another reason to stay away from the cesspool called new york

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New York City Arrests, Prosecutes, Eventually Settles With Legal Knife Owner

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