I have drafted many blog entries and as a New York criminal defense lawyer represented many clients accused of violating New York Penal Law 265.01, Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon. Usually the crime involves either a resident of New York or someone visiting from outside New York City who is unfamiliar with the strict standards of New York crimes involving knives. The law is superficially clear in its application even if it is not known to most New Yorkers. NY PL 265.01(1) codifies the class “A” misdemeanor of knowingly possessing a knife that is either a gravity knife or a switchblade knife. No, this entry will not dwell on the often overreaching impact the crime has on people who use gravity knives at work, purchased them at hardware stores or Amazon.Com, or have no criminal history and completely lacked any nefarious intent. Instead, this entry will review the less common charge of NY PL 265.01(2).
Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon as it relates to PL 265.01(2) mandates that prosecutors ultimately prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly possessed a dangerous knife and you had the intent to use that blade unlawfully against another person. The issue that often arises is when the police arrest an individual and recover a knife that is not by its nature a per se weapon such as a gravity knife or switchblade knife. Instead, the knife can be of any variety and not one we might typical believe is a dangerous weapon because it has many non-criminal uses. Further, prosecutors must ultimately establish that even though you may not have threatened anyone, brandished it, or it was merely in your pocket, you had the intent to use it unlawfully against another person. As your criminal defense attorney can likely explain, sometimes this is an easy task while other times it is quite difficult.
In People v. Abdalla, 2017 NY Slip Op 27014 (NY Criminal Court 2017), the police arrested the defendant in Manhattan and recovered cocaine from one pocket and a box cutter from another pocket. In response to the recovery of the box cutter the defendant stated that he carried it for protection having been jumped before. Although the defendant did not challenge the legal sufficiency of the cocaine charge of New York Penal Law 220.03, Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, he did so for the Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon allegation.
In concluding that the complaint was facially sufficient, the court found that:
“A knife that has nonviolent uses ‘may nonetheless be determined to fall within the statutory prescription when the circumstances of its possession including the behavior of its possessor demonstrate that the possessor himself considered it a weapon'” Matter of Jamie D., 59 NY2d 589, 591 )
“According to the allegations, at the time of his arrest, defendant possessed a quantity of illegal narcotics as well as a box cutter. He told the deponent office that he possessed the box cutter for the legitimate purpose of self-defense (see Penal Law  35.15). The court, however, will not infer that defendant’s intent was to use the box cutter solely for the legitimate purpose of self-defense where defendant was allegedly engaged in other illegal activity at the same time. Here, the court must consider the collective weight of defendant’s possession of two bags of cocaine, defendant’s possession of a box cutter, defendant’s statement to the police officer, and the statutory presumption. The collective weight of the allegations along with the statutory presumption permits reasonable cause to believe that defendant had the intent to use the box cutter unlawfully against another (see e.g., People v Monroe-Francis, 51 Misc 3d 1202 [A] [Crim Ct, New York County 2016]; cf. People v Oldham, 54 Misc 3d 303 [Crim Ct, New York County 2016]).
At bottom, while a box cutter or other blade may not fall into the strict liability and per se crime of PL 265.01(1), it very well can be the basis of an arrest and successful prosecution for violating PL 265.01(2). One should not take home from this case that anything with a blade or sharp point is going to land one in jail or with a criminal record. Obviously, there are many factors. However, be careful. What you say and how you use that “weapon” can certainly land you in jail with a criminal case hanging over your head.
To read more about New York Weapon crimes, including those involving Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, as well as offenses that are often prosecuted in New York City by way of a Desk Appearance Ticket, please follow the links provided in this article.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm established by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC routinely represent clients in matter involving arrests for knives and related blades throughout the New York City region.