Until recently, a person carrying a gravity knife in New York could be stopped on the street, arrested, and charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a class A misdemeanor. As of May 30, 2019, it is no longer a crime to simply be in possession of a gravity knife in the state of New York. Of course, using any knife to intentionally injure another person will still get you charged with the crime of assault, and using a knife to threaten another person can result in a charge of menacing.
What Type of Knife Can I Legally Carry in New York City?
In New York City, you may carry a concealed knife with a blade less than four inches long in most public places. Note, however, that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) broadly forbids possession of weapons including gravity knives and box cutters on NYC subways and buses (21 NYCRR 1050.8a).
Be sure the knife is completely concealed. If you clip the knife to a pocket and the clip remains visible to others, you could be charged with a violation of New York City Administrative Code 10-133(c), carrying a knife outside your clothing or in open view. This offense is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and/or up to 15 days in jail. The police will also commonly seize the knife, and it may take months of effort to get it back.
How Is a Gravity Knife Different From a Switchblade Knife?
Most people are familiar with folding pocket knives that require you to pull the blade out of the handle or press some type of button or lever to open the knife. These manually-operated folding knives often require two hands to open and lock the blade into place.
Gravity knives, on the other hand, open with just the flick of your wrist, making them a popular tool for tradesmen such as electricians and landscapers. Gravity knives are widely available in hardware and sporting goods stores.
In contrast, a switchblade knife has a spring-propelled blade that snaps out at the push of a button. This type of knife is still illegal throughout New York state. Folding knife owners should take special note of the June 2018 ruling by a New York appellate court that an assisted-opening or spring-assisted folding knife qualifies as a switchblade knife (People v. Berrezueta, 2018 NY Slip Op 04032).
What Was the Controversy Over Gravity Knives?
The New York Police Department opposed any easing of weapons laws, declaring that the city has already seen more than 1,600 stabbings and slashings this year. However, in March 2019, a federal judge in Manhattan found the state’s ban on gravity knives to be “unconstitutionally vague” and created “a high risk of arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” At issue was the subjective “wrist flick” test used by police officers to determine if a knife qualified as an illegal gravity knife. State legislators in favor of making gravity knives legal argued that the ban unfairly targeted black and Latino workers. Of 3,500 gravity knife related arrests last year, 85% involved minorities.
An Elite Manhattan Criminal Defense Lawyer