When you use a knife to perform your job, you probably open and close it repeatedly throughout your day. Locking, complex folding blades aren’t the best tool for someone who installs carpet or frequently opens packages on a loading dock. Something that you can quickly and easily open and close makes more sense because efficiency matters on the job.
The very same blades that help some workers stay efficient when performing their duties have put them at risk for arrest in New York. Many easy-open folding blades fall into the category known as gravity knives. Historically, under New York laws, gravity knives were among the weapons banned as inherently dangerous.
Scores of blue-collar professionals in New York have faced arrest and sometimes even conviction over the possession of a blade used for their work. New York has made some changes to the law regarding gravity knives that help protect professionals who use blades on the job.
What changed in 2019?
The law in New York includes any knife that you can open one-handed with a motion of your wrist as a gravity knife. Unlike switchblades, which have a mechanism to open them, they do not have any mechanical assistance. So, lawmakers classified them as dangerous weapons because of how easily they could open and become a threat.
Unfortunately, research has shown that the enforcement of the ban on gravity knives largely impacted people of color in New York. Even those with reasonable explanations for why they had a blade have faced arrest and conviction. Despite lawmakers passing a bill and the governor signing it, state law enforcement officials have still rejected and denounced the change in the gravity knife law.
Carrying gravity knives in certain places, such as on the subway, remains illegal even under the new law. Some people could find themselves getting arrested just because they have a work knife in their pocket.
You can fight back if you get arrested over a gravity knife
Innocent people with no criminal intentions can and do get swept up in law enforcement efforts aimed at reducing violent crime. Tradespeople and other professionals might find themselves subject to arrest both on public transportation or if they encounter an officer who cares less about the law reform than their perception of what makes a dangerous weapon.
If you find yourself facing weapons charges, understanding how the law works and your rights can make it easier to defend yourself.