Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon: NY Penal Law 265.01(1)

As criminal defense lawyers in New York City, we need not tell you that you can be arrested in midtown Manhattan, off the beaten path in Brooklyn or outside your home in Queens for possessing certain kinds of knives or other weapons. No, not every knife or sharp object is considered contraband and is therefore illegal to possess, but there are many “per se” weapons according to the New York Penal Law. Codified in New York Penal Law 265.01(1), Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, knives such as gravity knives and switchblade knives are illegal to possess in New York no matter what your intent is when possessing them. In fact, as a weapon defense lawyer representing clients arrested in New York City for PL 265.01(1) with regularity, a common anecdote shared with our criminal lawyers involves a visitor, tourist or mere “average Joe” getting arrested by the NYPD after a police officer observes a knife clip sticking out of a pocket.

The penalty for a PL 265.01(1) conviction is arguably extreme in certain circumstances. Certainly, the New York State Legislature and the numerous police departments that enforce the criminal law have our best interest in mind and safety at heart, but the practical result of zealous enforcement of subsection one of Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon can be downright ridiculous. This reality is exemplified in many gravity knife arrests, Desk Appearance Tickets and eventual prosecutions. According to 265.00(5), a gravity knife has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath by the force of gravity or centrifugal force which, when released, locks in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device. Sounding fairly scary on paper (or your cell phone), these types of knives are commonly used by people who work in construction, carpentry, skilled and unskilled labor, professionals such as artists and architects, and office staff. Further, hunters, fisherman, and other outdoor enthusiasts carry “evil’” gravity knives as part of their tools. Unfortunately, after an arrest, and definitely after a conviction, these law abiding people face consequences adversely impacting their employment, legal status and professional licensing as a result of a very broad law.

The real question should be why is a knife that can be purchased legally at Home Depot and a hardware or outdoor recreation store be the basis of a strict liability crime in New York? If you know you possess the knife, even if you don’t know it is an illegal gravity knife, then you are guilty of a class “A” misdemeanor with a penalty and punishment of up to one year in jail or three years probation. Complicating matters, if you reside out of state or if you are visiting from out of the country and you are given an appearance ticket, you may not even be in New York City – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx – on your scheduled future court date. Obviously, a bench warrant is not an option and neither is a criminal conviction.

Despite all of the problems with PL 265.01(1) in its routine application to law abiding citizens, there is silver lining as relative as it may be. After your criminal lawyer challenges the legality of your stop and first, aka, your search and seizure, and confirms whether or not the knife in question is in fact a legal gravity knife, there still are options if all other defenses fail. With the right mitigation, prosecutors may consider a downward departure to a non-criminal resolution such as through a Disorderly Conduct or an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). This latter deal will not merely avoid a criminal record, but will ultimately result in the dismissal and sealing of your case.

Remember, each and every case is different and mandates review by your criminal lawyer for the best potential defense. If you are in New York and you knowingly possess any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, plastic knuckles, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star” you will be arrested for and charged with Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, NY PL 265.01(1). If you take the right steps, implement the correct defense and work with the best criminal defense lawyer to resolve your criminal case, what likely started as a traumatic incident can end without a permanent mark on your otherwise pristine record.

Call us at 212.312.7129 or contact us online today to speak with our New York attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors.