If the Police Fail to Establish their Training and Experience in Your Gravity Knife Arrest is it Grounds for Dismissal: Facial Sufficiency & PL 265.01

If you are reading this blog entry regarding a gravity knife arrest in New York City or any other jurisdiction or municipality, there is a good chance you were stopped innocently walking down the street or driving your car and the police saw the knife’s clip outside your pocket. After stopping you, the police flipped the knife around, flicked their wrists and tried as hard as they could (it may have been fairly easy or awfully difficult) to open the knife with the use of gravity. Whether they did it on their first attempt or the police were only successful after numerous tries, the officers placed you under arrest, finger printed you and charged you with possessing a gravity knife in violation of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, New York Penal Law 265.01(1). If it was your first offense and you have no criminal record (and you can provide a local address in the New York City area), the police may have given you a NYC Desk Appearance Ticket with the top offense charge of PL 265.01.

Assuming you consult with a criminal attorney or New York City weapon defense lawyer for the Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon DAT, you will likely be asked numerous questions about the legal basis of your stop as well as what transpired when the police tested the knife. Ultimately, however, when you go before a judge for your arraignment (this is where you are formally accused and advised of your criminal arrest charges), the legal work of your attorney will really begin. Certainly your lawyer may want to ask to see the actual knife (it will take some time), but within the four corners of the complaint against you there may be fertile ground for dismissal. One potential basis is how the actual complaint is drafted. It must sufficiently establish a “knife which has a blade [that] 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.” For the purpose of this blog entry we will briefly address how the police establish that a knife in question is in fact a gravity knife as defined by the New York Penal Law. More specifically, if the police merely test the knife, but do not establish their training and experience in identifying these weapons, will the complaint be facially sufficient? After all, how can you affirmatively test something that you have no training or experience in identifying or handling?

In People v. Sans, 2013 NY Slip Op 51464 – NY: Appellate Term, 2nd Dept. 2013, an appellate court dealt with the exact issue addressed above. There, the police officer stated in the complaint that he tested the knife and it opened in a manner consistent with PL 265.01. However, the defendant’s counsel protested the complaint and argued it was not legally sufficient because the officer did not mention any training or experience in identifying gravity knives. This failure, according to the defendant, was fatal to the complaint and rendered it facially insufficient.

In finding the complaint legally sufficient however, the Court stated as follows:

“[A]n accusatory instrument must be given a reasonable, not overly technical reading” (Konieczny, 2 NY3d at 576; see also Casey, 95 NY2d at 360). When the accusatory instrument herein is given such a reading, the “fair implication” (Casey, 95 NY2d at 360) of its averments supports, or tends to support, the charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. The arresting officer’s conclusion that the object he observed in defendant’s possession was, in fact, a gravity knife, was based on his personal handling and testing of the knife (cf. Dreyden, 15 NY3d 100).”

Unfortunately for an accused, while there may be many worthy grounds for dismissal or challenging an arrest for PL 265.01, clearly a failure to establish training and experience alone is not one of them. What your best defense may be is something to ascertain and implement with your own criminal counsel. Unfortunately, while your mistake may be solely based on your ignorance of New York law, an arrest and ultimate conviction for a weapon crime is something that will remain permanently on your record.

To read about defense, statutes, cases, legal decisions and interpretations of laws involving New York weapon possession crimes, follow the links found throughout this entry, the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com and the CrottySaland.Com website.

The New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC represent individuals investigated and arrested for weapon crimes involving firearms, gravity knives, and other alleged contraband identified in section 265 of the New York Penal Law throughout the New York City and suburban area.

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