“New York City has paid out at least $347,500 over the past five years for false arrest and malicious prosecution claims related to NYPD enforcement of New York’s controversial “gravity knife” statute.”
We’ve chronicled three cases on these very pages that account for a pretty big percentage of that total number just by themselves.
- $7,500 to sculptor Jonathan W. for carrying a non-locking Spyderco UK Penknife
- $57,500 to Bernard Perez after his knife was determined to be legal
- $12,500 to this Hispanic male after his case was dismissed.
In fact, the 347.5K number comes from a total of sixteen cases, which were the only ones revealed by the accounting office of the city’s Law Department due to “limitations on record search capability.” (If that doesn’t sound like government obfuscation, I don’t know what does.) As such, the true amount that the Big Apple has been forced to pay out is likely much higher.
“For everyone who sued and got money,” he says, “there are probably many others that just took an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” a common disposition in gravity knife cases, in which charges are dismissed after a probationary period.
In most of the settlements reviewed by the Voice, the criminal charges against an arrestee were dismissed after the knife in question was found not to meet the statutory definition of a gravity knife. In some cases, there appears to have been virtually no attempt to actually verify whether a knife was illegal before an arrest was made.
“What’s actually happening, of course, is that police officers are committing perjury and lying on an accusatory instrument,” Berger says. “That shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Moral of the story, if you are unlawfully arrested, fight back. As we’ve seen in the cases we’ve outlined before, even if your case is dismissed, the only way to make the city pay is by suing for wrongful arrest. The importance of this can not be overstated. The more expensive NYC’s knife policy becomes for them, the higher the likelihood of positive change for knife owners.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the following advice from KnifeRights.org:
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.
If you are arrested for possession of an “illegal knife” in New York, please immediately contact Knife Rights at:nycity@KnifeRights.org