Gravity Knife Crimes in New York & A New Line of Defense: Criminal Attorney’s Analyis of Two Recent Legal Decisions

Although legal case decisions establish precedents that New York criminal defense attorneys can sink their proverbial teeth into when attacking a criminal case in New York City or elsewhere, sometimes the practical value of that decision is limited. After all, if the facts or evidence do not establish the point your criminal lawyer is seeking to exploit, the particular legal decisions has limited value. In the arena of New York Desk Appearance Tickets and arrests for gravity knives, pursuant to New York Penal Law 265.01, a decision relating to two companion cases will hopefully be valuable in both the legal and practical context.

The issue raised before the Court of Appeals in the context of a gravity knife arrest or Desk Appearance Ticket was what is necessary to establish an officer’s reasonable cause to believe that the accused possessed a gravity knife as opposed to some other knife or blade? In the two cases, People v. Fernandez and People v. Brannon, the Court of Appeals held (in my own words of course) that in order to establish the reasonable suspicion, there must be articulable factors, but not absolute certainty, allowing the officer to believe that the item in question was an illegal gravity knife as opposed to some other type of blade.

Generally speaking, and as noted by the Court in the Fernandez / Brannon decisions, “before a police officer may stop and frisk a person in a public place, he must have ‘reasonable suspicion’ that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime.” Citing People v. Cantor, the Court further stated that “[a] stop based on reasonable suspicion will be upheld so long as the intruding officer can point to ‘specific and articulable facts which, along with any logical deductions, reasonably prompted th[e] intrusion.'”

In the arena of New York gravity knife crimes and laws, the Court in Brannon applied its holding and found that the gravity knife in question should have be suppressed as a result of an illegal search. There, the officer could not assert that he believed the object in question was an illegal gravity knife, but could have been a pocket knife. In Fernandez, however, the Court found that the search was reasonable and legal. There, the officer testified as to his training and experience, the object in question and why he believed that the knife was a gravity knife.

While the decisions in the two companion cases seem reasonable and distinct from one another (one an officer can articulate his basis for believing the knife was a gravity knife while in the other he cannot), there is a real reason for concern. As noted by Judge Jones in the dissenting opinion:

“Instead of requiring the police and the People to articulate a specific factual basis for reasonable suspicion justifying these stops, in these types of cases, prosecutors will now be encouraged to present police officers who can describe their training and experience with gravity knives, and testify that a gravity knife, and not a “typical pocket knife”, was observed. Given the highly intrusive nature of these stops, the acceptance of these conclusory statements at Mapp/Dunaway hearings as a minimal basis for the admission of evidence poses a significant danger.”

Whether this decision changes the landscape of arrest and searches for gravity knives and other unique weapons set forth in Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree is unknown. However, it is clear, and concerning, as noted by Judge Jones, that the danger is exists that “allows” an officer to throw in some key terms and language about his or her experience as a means to get over this small legal hurdle. Regardless, should this case, and those that will likely follow, be of value to you, consult with your own gravity knife lawyer to see how its implementation may help.

For a wealth of information on New York criminal laws and crimes relating to gravity knives and Criminal Possession of a Weapon, please follow the highlighted link.

Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent those accused of weapon crimes throughout the New York City region.

* In addition to the Saland Law PC website and the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog, please review NYDeskAppearanceTicket.Com for information on Desk Appearance Tickets in New York City.

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