As a New York criminal defense lawyer in New York City and Westchester (White Plains), I have handled numerous weapsons charges. A new decision toughens the requirement of what officers must put in a criminal complaint to establish a knife is a gravity knife. Officers in New York often claim that every knife they find is a gravity knife to justify the charge. However, not every knife is a weapon for purposes of Penal Law.
§ 265.01 (1) outlaws possession of a gravity knife, among other weapons. The Penal Law defines a gravity knife as one with a blade that (1) “is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force” and that (2) “when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device. This definition distinguishes gravity knives from certain folding knives that cannot readily be opened by gravity or centrifugal force. the law in New York requires that the blade lock in place automatically upon its release and without further action by the user distinguishing a gravity knife from, for example, a “butterfly knife,” which requires manual locking.
The New York Court of Appeals recently held that a conclusory statement that an object recovered from a defendant is a gravity knife does not alone meet the reasonable cause requirement. The Court held that an arresting officer should, at the very least, explain briefly, with reference to his training and experience, how he or she formed the belief that the object observed in defendant’s possession was a gravity knife. Where, the accusatory instrument contained no factual basis for the officer’s conclusion that the knife was a gravity knife, as opposed to a pocket knife, craft knife or other type of knife that does not fit the definition of a per se weapon as defined in Penal Law article 265, the charge should be dismissed.