NY Knife Law

A Carter Cutlery damascus Bowie style blade
A Carter Cutlery damascus Bowie style blade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I frequently get asked questions about the legality of carrying a knife in NY. The following is a response  I wrote on one occasion:

The legal definition of the crime of Criminal Possession of a Weapon 4th is:

Section 265.01 Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree

A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when:

(1) He possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star”; or

(2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another; or

Some weapons are illegal to simply possess. You can’t be carrying one PERIOD, while some are illegal to possess only if you intend to use it unlawfully against another, otherwise they are not illegal. The difference is very important in terms of my probable cause to arrest. But oddly enough NOT so different at the same time….read on.

The “any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another;” part covers using just about any object as a weapon as long as you are using it unlawfully.

What is a “dangerous knife”?

Matter of Jamie D., 59 NY2d 589 (1983). Whether a “knife” is a “dangerous” knife may be determined on the basis of three alternative considerations: one, its own characteristics which show that it is primarily intended for use as a weapon; second, a modification, which converts what would otherwise be a utensil into a weapon; and third, the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool.

In other words “its not what it does that’s important…its how it looks thats important”. If it looks like a weapon instead of a tool/pocket knife it will be treated as a weapon. Something to keep in mind.

That last sentence there is an eyeopener too isnt it? The “the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool. ” one?

There are no specific limits on blade length in NYS Law. NYC has a city code on carrying blades longer than 4″. But that’s local law.

To throw another thorny legal issue into the mix (in NY) is the fact that PL 265.15(4) dictates that simple possession constitutes presumptive evidence that the possessor intends to use the instrument unlawfully against another.

4. The possession by any person of the substance as specified in section 265.04 is presumptive evidence of possessing such substance with intent to use the same unlawfully against the person or property of another if such person is not licensed or otherwise authorized to possess such substance. The possession by any person of any dagger, dirk, stiletto, dangerous knife or any other weapon, instrument, appliance or substance designed, made or adapted for use primarily as a weapon, is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another.

So what that means is that if an officer has some reason to be dealing with you and discovers a dagger on you he can “presume” (in the eyes of the law) that you intended to use it unlawfully on another and arrest you for it. To be honest, if you were a decent person/victim/or otherwise respectful and with no “history” of criminality, you probably wouldnt be charged. You may have the blade confiscated. It is sort of circular reasoning. The statute says that a “dangerous knife” is legal to own and only illegal if carried with intent to use against another, but then another statute states that simple possession is enough to prove “intent”.

What it means is…if you carry a knife stay out of situations where the cops would be likely to search/detain/ or otherwise “deal” with you.i.e. “STAY OUT OF TROUBLE” and people places and situations that attract trouble.

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