Muldoon, Getz & Reston

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Issues In NY Criminal Law--Vol. 5, #4©

Issue: "Butterfly knife" is not a "gravity knife" in New York State

Penal Law article 265 outlaws various weapons, either possession with intent to use unlawfully, or mere possession. Various types of knives come within the CPW statutes, including a switchblade knife, gravity knife, dagger, dirk, razor, and stiletto. Penal Law § 265.01(1),(2). Other knives do not.


Definition of "gravity knife"

A "gravity knife," one of the proscribed objects, is defined as: ". . . 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." Penal Law § 265.00(5).


One type of knife that police have seized on numerous occasions is commonly known as a "butterfly knife." Decisions of New York State courts addressing possession of this instrument hold that it does not come within the definition of "gravity knife."


Court rulings

In People v Zuniga, 303 AD2d 773, 759 NYS2d 86 (2d Dept 2003), the Appellate Division held that possessing a "butterfly knife" did not constitute a "gravity knife." The butterfly knife requires manual locking and thus does not come within the definition of "gravity knife."


Similarly, in People v Mott, 137 Misc2d 757, 522 NYS2d 429 (County Ct 1987), the judge inspected the knife and recorded his observations: "Such a knife is a folding knife with a split handle. In the closed position, the knife is covered on each side and at the point by two metal guards attached to the blade's base. To open the knife, the metal guards are folded back until they meet and are clasped and thereby form a handle for the blade." Again, the court held that the butterfly knife did not constitute a "gravity knife."


In People v Dolson, 142 Misc2d 779, 538 NYS2d 393 (County Court 1989), the judge stated: "While this appears to meet the first part of the statutory definition of a gravity knife, an important difference exists here. The blade of the knife recovered from Appellant does not lock into place 'when released' from its cover."


No New York cases hold otherwise.


QUOTATION:
"If you purify the pond, the water lilies die." William Stafford


SLANGUAGE:

violent felony override (State) - Process by which some inmates convicted of a violent felony, who would otherwise be prohibited from eligibility for temporary release and therefore work release, can obtain an "override" from the Temporary Release Committee chair, making the prisoner eligible for temporary release programs. See 7 NYCRR § 1900.4.

 

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