NYC Knife Seizures

CJ Buck

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We have been following a case where store owners were arrested and knives conviscated for being illegal switchblades. Here is a link for the story

Newsday Article

It is amazing how onesided this article is. It never even hints that one hand knife access is a wonderful utility.
 
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Sadly, this is the trend here in NYC. When I was in law school, our criminal defense clinic took in three cases in one month where citizens were charged with possession of a gravity knife.

Being a life-long collector and former law enforcement officer, I took an interest in the cases.

All three were common folders. Notwithstanding our expert affidavits that a "true" gravity knife has certain characterisitcs NOT possessed by these knives, the cases went forward. Neither the DA's office nor the assigned judges were interested in our arguments.

The problem is the NY penal statute definition of gravity knife. On its face, it includes any locking folder that can be opened by the force of gravity or centrifugal force. As we all know, just about every folder can be flicked one way or another.

I now have to advise people that carrying a common locking pocket knife clipped to your pants is an invitation to a night in central booking in NYC.
 

TOMBSTONE

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Sad Indeed.Not the America we used to be lucky to live in. :barf:
 
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bad. I have noted that to older "13 colonies" states have some really restrictive knife laws re: "gravity" "assisted opening" and "stiletto" or "dagger" knives...

Guy from Australia (Queensland?) said that in the city they can come up to you and search you with a metal detector, and simply confiscate ANY knife they find.

Keith
 
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It is sad that the authorities implement something to protect us, the citizen, without complete research into all permutations and implications. The publicly elected, often yet to be convicted, should not be dictating what forms the laws.

First and foremost why should we need daggers and switch blades to defend ourselves? It is a serious failure in a system that calls for a citizen to require a nature of defence that can likely end in his own injury. :mad:

My Katana and Dagger were purpose made for scenarios that should not have arisen in Zim, they were legal but not as useful as a Victorinox. I carried them because I had to, these situations the thugs were going to hurt you and they did prevent situations getting out of hand. Yet…. I remember an incident in Zim, where lock blades were not permitted, a colleague was being threatened with prosecution for possessing one of the liner lock Victorinox yet he was legitimately carrying a Glock 21.?? Nuts. :yawn:
 
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Weird. Here in the US (midwest), a concealed carry permit allows for the carry of all sorts of personal protection devices, knives, collapsible batons, auto knives, etc, fixed blade knives, etc. The only stipulation is that you have to carry it concealed.

I've stopped carrying the gun but prefer the knife or baton, much easier to control, good for close defense, no innocent bystander shootings, etc. There are other reasons as well.

Keith
 
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Sliplock...what about presenting the argument that prohibiting any knife is a reverse discrimination against healthy people due to the fact that the Federal ADA laws allow the carrying of auto's by the handicapped?
 
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Ferrous Wheel – I think sad is the word. :grumpy: Having left Zimbabwe some time back I was updated this week that in Zimbabwe they can nail you for carrying anything worse than a pencil “if you are opposition”. Following the lead of 9/11 the sods have used the terrorism threat for further suppression. I didn’t ask if the actual laws have changed as the Zim Police there impose their own rules and ignore the courts when it suits them. Mind you looking seeing the news recently they have locked up two reporters-so maybe the pencil is also considered a serious threat? Nuts. :eek:
 
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In the US, we call this "Martial Law," and it has the same weapon prohibitions. If martial law were declared, you could be shot for carrying a brick or big rock. (and at that point, you'd probably want to carry a gun concealed anyway, if stuff degraded to that level)

In CA, you can't carry a gun without a hard-to-obtain permit. A buddy of mine said during the LA riots in the 90's, he carried one anyway, because things were sketchy and chaotic for a while there.

Keith
 
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Sir,

In connection with the postings about knife seizures in NYC:

As I mentioned, I have been innolved with litigating this issue on behalf of defendants in NYC.

I am frequently asked about knife legality, and must give the distressing answer that liner locks, especially, are most likely gravity knives under the NY statute.

I note that you have had some success in California in legislative reform. This is clearly what is needed in NY.

I have at my disposal the willingness and resources of the clinical staff of a reputable NY law school. I would like to set them on the path to Albany and legislative reform.

Any advice or assistance you might offer would be invaluable and would serve your customers and all the other unwitting violators subject to NY's poorly worded law.

I must emphasize to others reading this that the assumption that knives are legal weapons is NOT contemplated by the statute or the caselaw. The law prohibits weapons. Knives, however, are first and foremost tools.

Our argument cannot be that these knives ought to be legal weapons, it must be that they are safer tools than their non-locking variations, and that locking mechanisms are in the interest of public safety, which the laws are written to promote.

Otherwise, we'll be left with our SAKs and out mutli-tools, and little else. I say, we ought to be able to cut dry wall or rope or the belt of our trench coat that gets caught in a subway door, and we ought to be able to use a sturdy, locking, one-hand opener to do it without fear of imprisonment.

However, until the statute is re-written, you won't find me in NYC with anything but an SAK.

Seth DuCharme
 
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Hello from AKTI:

The situation in New York appears to be "on hold" since we are not aware of any new retailer arrests since January 2004.

II am following these comments with two articles I prepared recently that cover the situation as we know it.

Ultimately, this situation will probably only be solved by a bill that clarifies the New York statute language. Such a clarification took three years and $50,000+ in California four years ago. And clarifiying a Florida statute took two years and more than $25,000 for lobbyist fees, as well as countless hours and emails at the time of key committee and floor votes.

AKTI will be addressing New York at its board meeting next week in Atlanta prior to the Blade Show. And questions will come up such as ... What can we expect if the law is not changed? Who will it affect if it remains unchanged? What will it cost to promote a bill with clarifying language? Who will pay for that effort? And, finally, what are our chances of success?

AKTI would be remiss if it did not caution you that the New York statute, as written, can and has been applied to virtually any type of folding knife in the industry. Just because you do not think it is a gravity knife doesn't mean you could not currently get arrested.

David D. Kowalski
AKTI Communications Coodinator

Here are the two articles ...

AKTI Responds To NYPD Targeting of Knife Retailers

At least five Manhattan and Queens knife retailers have been arrested since October 2003 in a series of NYPD raids on knife stores. The retailers were cited under the New York State gravity knife statute that has been wrongly interpreted, AKTI believes, to include virtually any model of one-hand-opening knife commercially available.
More than 300 different knife models were confiscated in the raids, including high-dollar "gentlemen's folders" and "multi-tools." In some cases, not all units stocked by a retailer of a particular model were seized. Officers left those where the set screw was too tight to allow them to swing the knife open, even when they first started the blade by pulling it out of the handle.
The NYPD had not provided inventories of seized knives to affected retailers as of court dates for several of them of April 1, 2004.
According to reliable sources, AKTI has learned that one retailer was allowed to plead guilty to what would amount to an ordinance violation equivalent to having the wrong kind of awning on his building (which is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony). Another had his case continued while the judge considers a motion for dismissal. A third will probably be convicted because his inventory included specifically banned items such as Kung Fu stars.
Prior to the April 1 initial court dates of the various defendants, AKTI located and spoke to the police lieutenant apparently most active in this NYPD initiative. We also provided copies of the following letter to defense attorneys for their use in a possible defense based on "industry standards" and generally accepted definitions within the knife industry.

March 11, 2004

Dear Lieutenant Kenny:

Thank you for talking to me last night about NYPD efforts to deal with sellers of "gravity knives" as defined by your state statutes.
The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) is the national organization that represents individual knife owners and major retailers, manufacturers, and distributors in the U.S. knife and tool industry. AKTI has a long history of working with and supporting law enforcement in our common goal of protecting law-abiding citizens. AKTI has always steadfastly opposed the use of knives for any criminal activity or assault. We believe that any person who uses a knife in the commission of a crime should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
I do not know the personal histories of any of the retailers arrested in this recent initiative to enforce the "gravity knife" statute. But it appears that at least some of these arrests have occurred because New York knife retailers still perceive "gravity knives" to be a distinct, different category of product from what the knife industry calls "folding knives." But I heard you loud and clear when you said you were enforcing New York law as it is written. And all of us at AKTI applaud your efforts to keep predators and violent criminals off the streets.
AKTI and AKTI members would hope that a meeting with New York law enforcement could clear up any ambiguities in this situation, perhaps even producing a list of banned knife models, and help ensure that NYPD efforts to protect law-abiding citizens is fair, equitable and consistent.
If we can come to a clear understanding of exactly how the "gravity knife" statute will be interpreted, then blatant criminal offenders will be distinguishable from law-abiding citizens. We can also save potentially thousands of manufacturing and retail jobs in New York City and New York State. And I know there are currently hundreds of thousands of law-abiding New Yorkers and New York visitors who would be shocked to learn they are now de-facto criminals because they carry a small pocketknife or multi-tool that is now being considered a "gravity knife."
Let me try to paint a clearer picture of why AKTI and the knife industry, including retailers and individual knife owners might find this interpretation of "gravity knife" very unclear. Our member companies make several hundred models of knives commonly used as tools. They range from what we would call traditional pocketknives (like your and my old Boy Scout knife) to hunting knives to folding "rescue knives" (thousands of which were donated by companies in our industry to New York City policemen, fire fighters and rescue personnel in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy).
Gravity knives, which were used by the German Army in WWII, have been banned in this country under Federal Law since the 1950s. NO major manufacturer in our industry makes or distributes them because they could be prosecuted under Federal Law.
I do not claim to know the mind of every New York legislator who voted to ban "gravity knives" decades ago. But if they were shown such a knife before the vote, here's what they would have voted to outlaw….
A gravity knife has a button in the handle that first releases the blade … then the blade can slide or drop out of the channel in which it is held inside the body of the handle into a locked position by its own weight when the tip is pointed down. If the blade tip is held in a horizontal or upright position, a "flick of the wrist" would then be necessary to create "centrifugal force" sufficient to slide the blade straight out of its housing in the handle. The blade of the gravity knife does not pivot or fold out of the handle; it slides out of the handle from the end of the handle.
By contrast, the "folding knives" you have been confiscating have a blade pivot at the front of the handle and if the pivot screw is loosened, such blades can, with a great deal of centrifugal force applied, be made to swing out of the handle. Such folding knives do not have the release button found in the handle of the gravity knife. The blade of a typical folding knife must first be manually "started" by thumb pressure on a blade stud or hole in the blade before it can be made to swing out. And to take the blade of a knife in the fingers, then try to swing the handle out and away from the blade is actually an easier way to get "centrifugal force" to open the blade because knife handles are typically heavier than the blades they house.
Here's why that grab-the-blade-and-swing "test" … as you described it … would seem "unusual" to the typical New York knife owner or out-of-state visitor who might be carrying a small Swiss Army knife, for example. That's simply not the way knife owners open their knives. And knife owners are everywhere. We know that virtually every person in this country uses a knife of some sort in their daily lives. Whether hunting, fishing, camping, biking, kayaking, backpacking or doing carpentry, plumbing, electrical or mechanic work, or rescuing an accident victim by cutting their seatbelt with a one-hand-opening knife while pulling a piece of twisted metal off them with the other, a small folding pocket knife is one of our necessary tools. My 85-year-old mother and every other gardener in this country probably has a small folding knife in their gardening kit. Your current interpretation of this "gravity knife" statute would make de facto criminals and innocent victims of all of them.
I do not believe that was the intent of the New York lawmakers who passed this statute. And arresting 85-year-old grandmas who were pruning their roses with these so-called "gravity knives" would be a social catastrophe beyond measure.
Here's how we worked with California law enforcement in 2001 when they were facing the issue of "junk knives" being carried by gang members. AKTI provided (and police departments, the California State District Attorneys Association and ultimately the California legislature accepted) the definition of a "folding knife" as one that (1) has a bias toward closure and (2) has a détente in the handle. The cheap, folding "junk knives" that California law enforcement saw as favored by gang members do not typically have those two features. As a result, that definition accepted by California lawmakers in 2001 is now the recognized industry standard for "folding knives" or "one-hand-opening knives" as distinguished from other distinct categories of knives such as switchblade knives and gravity knives.
Once again, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and other members of the law enforcement community to discuss how best to help protect New York's law-abiding citizens, the tourists who spend billions of dollars every year, and the legitimate, tax-paying retailers, distributors and manufacturers who sell legal folding knives and have done so for decades.

(Signed) David D. Kowalski
AKTI Communications Coordinator

New York State Penal Code …
(Section 10 - Definitions)
12. "Deadly weapon" means any loaded weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury, may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, dagger, billy, blackjack, or metal knuckles.
(Section 265.00 Definitions)
5. "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.


Criminal Lawyer Believes NYC Prosecutions are Threat to Entire State
Scott Tulman, Manhattan attorney and past president of the New York Criminal Lawyers Association, told AKTI he believes the recent New York City Police Department initiative to arrest knife retailers could be used on a statewide basis to harass and arrest individual knife owners, prosecute retailers and ultimately attempt to shut down the entire knife industry in New York State.
"I represent a client charged in Queens Co. who has been effectively put out of the knife business," Tulman said. "And I have spoken to attorneys representing Manhattan defendants who have also been effectively shut down."
In raids dating back to October 2003, the NYPD has confiscated hundreds of knife models from at least five retailers under the state's gravity knife statute. The seizures have included a broad variety of one-hand openers, as well as high-end "gentleman's folders" and "multi-tools." The "test" of the statute used by arresting officers has been whether they can cause the blade to open by "centrifugal force" using very dramatic and repeated arm-swinging. In some cases, they have even resorted to grabbing the knife blade and then attempting to get the handle to flip open away from the blade and lock.
"If I were asked to advise retailers currently selling knives in New York, I would tell them that selling virtually any one-hand opening knife puts them at risk of arrest and prosecution under the present circumstances," Tulman said. "And if aggressive prosecutors and police departments wanted to pursue this statewide, they could put several major manufacturers and suppliers at risk."
The knife raids and the threat of future raids have made even "unraided" retailers unsure about which knives they can sell. AKTI has been attempting to schedule a meeting with the NYPD to at least get a list of prohibited knife models. But as of early May 2004, the meeting has not been scheduled, and no clarifications have been provided by NYPD.
"The arbitrary application of the current statute, the uncertainty about which models are legal, and the questionable 'testing' of seized knives will only be effectively dealt with if AKTI attempts to clarify the New York gravity knife definition through new legislation," Tulman concluded.
AKTI-sponsored legislation in California (2001) and in Florida (2003), saved one-handers and a broad variety of other knives in those states.
 
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Thanks David for your efforts and the efforts of the AKTI in this regard.

Maybe there is still hope for those of us that would like to be able to carry our knives in NYC.
 
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Feb 14, 2003
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--to all--

latest bad news to report-- a tourist flew into New York from a foreign country to attend a wedding here this past memorial day weekend. In departing from JFK, the individual was confronted about a folding knife discovered in his checked luggage.

Local authorities identified the knife as a gravity knife and arrested the individual who was lodged at Riker's Island, and ultimately released on $500 bail.

The arrest puts his immigration status in jeopardy. Next hearing is scheduled for June 16.

--- David---

Thank you for your hard work. Please let me know if you would like to coordinate efforts with the Forham University Law School Criminal Law Clinic, as I have made inquiry there with some receptiveness. A team of students might be helpful.

Sincerley,
Seth DuCharme, Esq.
 

CJ Buck

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Apr 15, 1999
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Hey Buddha...if you run a search for threads from the beginning for AKTI you will come accross all the threads started to update on the florida ballistic knife law.

Seth...AKTI legislative committee is working on creating model definitions that we will be working with states to adopt in the future(such as switchblades, gravity knives etc...) We need to see if we can duplicate the success we had in california for other states. It is expensive and this dictates a slow but persistent approach.

What was your connection to the law school you mentioned and what kind of help would they be willing to provide?

cj
 
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CJ,

I attended Fordham Law School, where I worked in the criminal defense clinic on several gravity knife cases and developed a good relationship with the clinic faculty, all of whom are accomplished criminal defense lawyers.

I have been keeping the clinic up to date on this issue and I have spoken with other lawyers in NY to make them aware of possible defenses to gravity knife claims.

As it stands with Fordham, the clinic has aksed me for a proposal. They are willing to devote some resources, including student time, to this issue. I have suggested that a legislative reform project would serve their client base, since many individuals are arrested for gravity knives and presently there is no reliable legal defense.

Please let me know if you'd like to pursue this option. Maybe we can speak privately.

Seth
 

CJ Buck

Moderator
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Apr 15, 1999
Messages
898
In the very least it would be good to have them review our definitions. What we are trying to do is clarify aspects to protect knives and the utility they offer from being lumped into descriptions considered illegal. One of the largest culprits for misinterpreted knife legislation is the vague definition of a gravity knife. Depending on skill level all folding knives remotely functional can be flipped open with centrifugal force.

In California we added a "bias toward closure" into an exemption from gravity knives that has been effective in clarifying what should be considered a gravity knife. We would be open for comment on the definitions we come up with.

If you would like to continue this conversation you can email me at [email protected].

cj
 
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