Gravity Knife Case

CJ Buck

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I received the following email:

I am referred to you by Ralph Mroz because I am an attorney defending a young man charged with possessing a gravity knife; a misdemeanor under New York Law. The knife is a "Fury16060" apparently imported from China by Joy Enterprises of Mangonia Park, Fla. Overall length =4" Tang to tip= 2 1/2" serated edge. The applicable statute in New York reads, " ' Gravity Knife' means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring,lever or other device"

Is the "Fury16060" a "gravity knife"?
Thankyou for your help.

Frederick C. Meyer


Anyone out there have any experience with this knife. Gravity is such a subjective call by the officer and the DA. I do not know any other details about this case but would like to offer Mr. Meyer any case histories involving this knife or one just like it.

thanks


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CJ Buck
Buck Knives, Inc.
AKTI Member #PR00003


 
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Naturally, the NY statute lacks the thumb stud proviso that's now in the CA code section (thank you, Buck!), which creates a safe harbor for most of our one handers that we also flip open without touching the blade.

The Fury 16060, which an AltaVista search located at bodyjewelry.vabch.com/stores/knives/onehand.html , is a shameless PRC clone of the Spyderco Merlin, so we pee upon it from a great height.
redface.gif


I haven't handled the Fury, but evil graviity flippability can and does vary from specimen to specimen, as well as from make and model to make and model. Any folder that isn't positively locked closed, but held closed by a combination of spring tension and friction, can be flipped opened with enough G-force applied to it. I can't flip out the blade of the Merlin I just checked out, but can flip the handle down from the blade. Between two lightweight Spyderco Natives I just checked out, I can't flip out the blade of one, but I can flip out the other on the third try, and I can do it every time with my G10 BladeForums Native, and I can flip down the handle of any of them.

So if that Fury piece of $#!% is an evil gravity knife, so are most other folders we know and love.

A cop can make a knife flip open on the fourth try too, if he thinks that somebody needs to be taken downtown, and the knife he's carrying is the excuse he needs.

The Fury, of course, came through Customs as a non-switchblade, non-gravity knife, and is no doubt sold openly in knife stores in 50 states to customers who have no reason to believe they're buying contraband. For the authorities of one state or county to come along and decide that it is contraband in the hands of one particular end user amounts to an ambush.

I wonder what the young man was doing to bring himself to the attention of law enforcement.


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- JKM
www.chaicutlery.com
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/begin physics geek/
It's sad to see a court case based on a law including the phrase 'centrifugal force'
/end physics geek/

Depending on the tack wished to move upon here, there are several ways to go about such a case. The knife does not fall under the selling category of Gravity Knife, nor, do I believe, was it built to function as such. One method that could be used would be to hire a physics-type person to do calculations for standard, everday knives, such as SAKs, Case whittlers, and other penknives, and prove that each of these is capable of being opened in the manner the law describes as 'centrifugal force'. If this case were in front of a jury, you could ask permission to give each member of the jury a NIB sealed merlin, or the Fury xxxx, to see if they can successfully inertially flick said knife open. There exists the possibility that each could, but I doubt it. You could also try demonstrating the inability of your defendant to do so, though I don't know if he actually can or not.

In the end, as a physics geek, I must confess that a great many normal blades fall under the category of 'gravity' knives as defined by the above statute. This knife undoubtedly does, and may even be loose enough to do so readily, and possibly frequently in the hands of the accused.

On a completely different path, this law, enforced to its fullest extent, makes almost every one of my folders, and undoubtedly everyone else's here, illegal. I would be interested, as I am sure the manufacturers of the many knives I carry are, in lobbying against such laws, or for better writing of them.


Stryver
 
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I believe that it would be quite easy to argue that a knife IS NOT DESIGNED to function as a Gravity Knife if it has spring tension or a Ball Bearing Detent holding it closed.

We could even introduce the numerous posts from Bladeforums warning that our knives are not designed for "Flicking" even though it is possible to do so with a smooth opening folder.
smile.gif


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A purpose-built "gravity knife" has the blade retained in the handle by a positive catch of some sort, and is designed to flop open when the catch is released with the blade held downward, so the earth can pull it out, or with the knife swung outward so that centrifugal force equivalent to earth gravity pulls the blade out.

Giving the blade more G-force than a fighter pilot could withstand, to turn it into a gravity knife violation, is cheating IMHO.

BTW, I have met occasional liner locks whose ball bearing detents are so weak and whose pivots are so smooth that they'll practically flop open if you hold them blade-down.



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- JKM
www.chaicutlery.com
AKTI Member # SA00001
 
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I will agree that the average loose lockback does not fall under the general category of gravity knife. I would also be willing to stand up in a New York Courthouse and affirm, under oath, that Centrifugal Force does not really exist.

However, in the very specific text in New York's lawbooks, all the lockbacks I carry on a day to day basis _can_ be called 'gravity knives'. I do not like this. It is a very good reason to stay away from NY, but it is the truth, based on the technical wording of their law. To save this poor sot, you would need to either convince the Jury that a knife that can function as a gravity knife is not necessarily always a gravity knife, or convince them the law is silly, and the guy should go free because of that. Good luck vs. a good defense attorney. The law, unfortunately, is against this particular guy, and any of the rest of us who wander through NY.

Stryver
 

CJ Buck

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I have been in contact with Fred Meyer (the attorney). He is checking this thread so keep the posts coming.

If anyone knows of cases where he might get some comparisons to other "legal" knives etc.

I told him that the gravity knife description in this law is subjective and if law enforcement was on a mission to make something stick here he was in for a tough time.

If I do not hear from him today I will send him a link to this thread.

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CJ Buck
Buck Knives, Inc.
AKTI Member #PR00003


 

I would suggest contacting Bernard Levine(one of the new moderators on BladeForums) who has some expertise in this area. He has been used as an expert witness in a number of cases and I'm sure that his expertise would be valuable under these particular circumstances.

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Harry

L'audace, toujours l'audace!!!

[This message has been edited by Kozak (edited 03-17-2000).]
 
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May I suggest that you contact Bernard Levine? He has acted as expert witness in several cases involving this topic.

Cases I have found-

State of New York v Martin Dolson Appellant
People v Dolson,142misc.2nd 779 (N.Y 1989)
County Court, Onondaga cty Jan.23,1989

State v Strange,785 P2d 563 (Alaska 1990)
Nos AA-2637,A-2638
Court of Appeals of Alaska Jan 19,1990

Examples of Gravity Knives can be found at knivesat/knifeshop/auto/auto7e.html

Any hinged knife that is not locked shut will open by angular momentum (not centrifigal force) if it is flipped with enough force.

I hope this is helpful.

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Dave
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If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, why worry about it?

[This message has been edited by Columbo (edited 03-17-2000).]
 

RH

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Colombo, that link's dead. I would be interested in seeing one of these mythical gravity beasts.

I would argue that all these types of knives would now fall under the "typical pocketknife" description, since you can barely get anything else anymore ! Having grown up in NY, I can tell you, if you want a cheap, locking, 2-4" bladed folding knife, this is all you're gonna find, and every Asian Import/MA store will have oodles of them. I think flippablity is mostly a function of blade to handle weight ratio. So, on any lightweight, the steel blade will outweight the plastic handle, and will carry more inertia to pull it out against the backspring. Now, there are folks who say they can flick the heavy-handled Buck 110, I don't have a physics explanation for that ! The question is, what crime was this person committing that a weapons charge would be tacked onto ? On it's own merits, with no brandishing or other crimes, it's pretty weak. I also recommend Mr. Levine's services.
 
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The definition as given is so vague as to be useless. Virtually any folding knife, held correctly and moved with sufficient force could be made to open by centrifigal force. IMHO, The way to approach this is, is the knife in question defined as a gravity knife by the U.S. Customs Service or by any applicable U.S. Government rule or regulation concerning its importation.
Fight if it is a felony bust, if it's a misdemeanor, pay the fine and move on.

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The thorn stands to defend the Rose, yet it is peaceful and does not seek conflict
 
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RH, I think that it's not necessarily a function of the handle weight vs. the blade weight, but in the Buck 110 example you offered, it's also a matter of the blade weight vs. backspring tension.

A lightweight blade with a heavy backspring my require substantial force and/or velocity for the blade to snap open, while a heavy blade and a light backspring will flick open with a twitch of the wrist.

James brings up a good point. I have a BM 910 Stryker with a very smooth pivot, no backspring, and light detent ball pressure. If I wanted to abuse this knife, I could continually flip the knife so that the blade swings open with a flick, but the knife wasn't specifically designed to be opened this way. Gravity knives are specifically designed to open by releasing the blade to fall with only assistance from gravity to its fully open position. That a flick of the wrist may open the blade more quickly is academic to the argument, since the knife will open of its own accord without this centripedal (is that the correct term, Stryver?) assistance. Standard lockbacks, liner locks, etc., are designed to stay closed, either through tension of the backspring or detent ball until opened by a specific manipulation of the operator, other than releasing the blade to fall of its own accord.

This is very similar to proving intent in a criminal case. Joe Schmoe was Joe Schmoe innocent bystander until he intended to mug Sally Smith. A gravity knife is a gravity knife because it was intended to open through the sole source of gravity as an opening force. Lockbacks and linerlocks are not intended to open through the sole source of gravity as an opening force.

I'm sure a competent defense attorney can put a more precise legal spin on what I'm trying to convey.



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Don LeHue

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings...they did it by killing all those who opposed them.
 
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I'm no legal expert by any means. But if you ask me this case is going to depend on how many sheeple are on the jury. Sheeple probably aren't going to have much sympathy for the guy if you start arguing that its made to be flicked open with your thumb and not just dropped open. To them its just another wicked knife.
But from a knife nuts point of view there is no way that can be considered a gravity knife. The thumb disc itself shows that it was intended to be opened by hand, manually. It may have a ****ty backspring, but thats just because its cheap. The guy should have to do community service for owning one of those but not because its a gravity knife.
One thing you might consider in the defense is the mechanics that go into a lockback. I would show a diagram of how that tang and locking lug meet in the closed position of the knife. Make it very clear how the tang is not perfectly round, and show how the radius from the pivot pin is not a constant distance.But instead is longer at the back of the tang to give a surface for the bar and spring to push against and hold the knife closed. Motives for having the knife, and guesses on how that guy was planning to use it can be argued. But the mechanics are either there, or they aren't.
Just my 2 cents.

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Fix it right the first time, use Baling Wire !
 
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The knife in question is not the problem, it is that stupid law. I can open all of my folders with a strong flick of my wrist at just the right angle. even my spyderco rescue Jr. with stainless handles.

I also am not sure if the "it is not designed for that" arguement is very strong concidering that the law specifically states " "ANY" knife that CAN be opened blah blah blah"

With this type of wording no knife is safe.

There has to be a way of changing this law. Can't AKTI do something about this? Isn't that what they are supposed to be there for?

This law is an infringemet on our rights and something must be done.

WHAT CAN WE DO???

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Louis Buccellato
http://www.themartialway.com
Knives, Weapons and equipment. Best prices anywhere.
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"only the paranoid will survive":)


 

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
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Here's how to fight this:

The blade in question is a "mid-back lockback design". Translated, that means the button in the middle of the spine releases a catch that otherwise holds the blade open.

If you hold that button down, the blade will swing open and closed easier.

The problem is, since this is a cheap clone with low-grade steel in the pivot pin and cheap plastic instead of Zytel or other high-tech nylon on the grip, it doesn't take too many opens and closes for the blade to rattle around and get "loose as a goose" once you hit the release pin.

There's a fair chance that hitting the button will indeed cause the blade to swing open with minimal "centrifigual force" pressure. It might even be so loose as to swing around by pure gravity, I've seen specimens of cheap copycat lockbacks like that.

HOW TO FIGHT IT:

Get ahold of a couple of models of REAL name-brand Zytel mid-lockbacks of the same size range. Definately score a Spyderco "Harpy" (see also http://www.spyderco.com/displaycategory.cfm?Categoryid=2 ) and throw in a Cold Steel 4" Voyager (pics are at http://www.coldsteel.com - avoid the Scimitar, it's a different lock!). Mike Turber and/or Sal Glesser at Spyderco might be willing to loan you samples, worst case buy 'em for about $50 a pop online. If you buy 'em, make sure the dealer hand-picks some "tight" ones. James Mattis is a good dealer who hand-inspects stuff prior to shipment anyways, he'd be my first pick to fill that special need. His website is http://www.chaicutlery.com .

The jury will see that the "real ones" will have no blade play once locked open but they'll be stiffer due to tight tolerances. Also point out the radical difference in grip material quality, it'll be dead obvious that the Fury is low-grade plastic that'll wear quickly and cause the looseness you're probably up against. Grab the open blade of the cheapo and rattle the grip, the knocking noises will probably be audible across the room if it's light enough to really snap.

The cop will probably be able to operate it on the stand exactly like a switchblade, or at least that's how it'll look from across the room. He'll curl his trigger finger, depress the lock release and snap it open real easy. You've got to point out how loose the blade is at ALL times (including open and in use) and why it's like that: low quality. Have the cop try it with the name-brand Zytels.

YOU THEN ASK THE JURY IF THEY'RE WILLING TO CONVICT SOMEBODY FOR BEING TOO POOR TO AFFORD A $50 KNIFE, AND WENT FOR THE $10 CHEAPO INSTEAD.

That's really all this case boils down to...

Jim March
 
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RH,

Sorry for the dead link. Try www.knifeshop.com. and go through their menu.

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Dave
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If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, why worry about it?
 

Cougar Allen

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Many (most?) states have wording like that. AFAIK the courts have always disallowed the "centrifugal force" language because many of us can do inertial openings with any lockback and most slipjoints ... I've read about a number of trials where somebody demonstrated that and the judge ruled the "gravity knife" prohibition only applied to knives that are designed to open by gravity, literally (there are some, though they're rare. The German army issued an OTF gravity knife to paratroopers until recently.)

I can't cite cases; you need a lawyer for that, not just a dork with a modem.

-Cougar :{)
 
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Sense the knife is a rip off of one of spyderco's design, why don't you talk to Sal and ask him if the design was intended to be a deadly weapon or a tool. It is not a gravity knife by any stretch of the imagination. There are very few gravity knives available in this country, because if they did try to bring one in, it could be confiscated by customs.
The problem is, that the average knife now a days, even with traditional designs, are very easy to open. If they want to ban easy to open knives, they will have to ban about half of the knives out there. This is unconstitutional, sense the constitution allows for people to own weapons, as prescribed by congress. While congress can regulate what weapons people can and can not own, they can not ban weapons, unless you want to throw away the constitution and start all over again. No one at any time in history has ever tried to ban tools. Yet that is exactly what they are trying to do today, is ban tools in their effort to keep so called weapons out of the hands of people.
 

Sal Glesser

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JohnR7 - As I understand it, the Model in question is a "knock off" of the Spyderco Merlin.

The Merlin is a lightweight and less expensive version of the Spyderco Harpy.

The Spyderco Harpy was originally designed (my design) to provide knife for Seiners fishing the Northwest Pacific. The curve was designed to provide additional purchase on the line being cut. Our Mariner design was cutting line well, but occasionally the line would roll off of the straight shape of the serrated Mariner. The curve was added to prevent this "rolling". The thinner point was shaped to more easily "pick" in between the holes in the net.

I can say that this design was not "created" with "gravity knife" in mind. Besides, why? with the hole, would we need a gravity knife?

That is reality!

I don'thing that Fury had this in mind when they prouduced their version. Certainly part of the problem.

I must agree with those comments earlier on both "intent" of the user as well as "intent" of the designer. Education, it seems, is still the answer. However, education is very difficult with someone resistant to learning.

This discussion is also providing exactly the type of discussion and unity that AKTI is all about. Thanx for the effort.

sal
 
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