Intent matters in some criminal charges, but not always in cases of possession of illegal weapons. You may believe that the knife in your pocket complies with state law, but the courts may not agree with your interpretation of state laws.
Many people who work in manual trades, from delivery people to carpenters, carry folding knives to help them do their work. New York places limits on what kind of knife you can carry in order to deter violent crime. Unfortunately, tradespeople may end up paying the price if they get stopped by law enforcement.
Under current knife laws, it is possible for innocent workers to wind up prosecuted for carrying a folding knife. Many popular folding knives used in professional settings fall under a broad definition of the term "gravity knife."
Lawmakers have been attempting to change these laws, going so far as to pass revisions to the law to clarify and reduce the scope of banned knives several years in a row. These bills have all gotten vetoed, but that hasn't stopped the Assembly from passing yet another bill aimed at reducing unnecessary arrests and prosecution for knife offenses.
What kind of knives are illegal in New York?
First and foremost, it is illegal to carry a knife if you intend to use it to harm another person. It isn't legal to own any knife primarily used as a weapon. It's also important to note that you can't carry a knife that is more than four inches long.
The following knives aren't legal in New York:
- metal knuckle knives
- pilum knives aka ballistic knives
- throwing stars
- cane swords
- gravity knives
The notable exception to these limits is the legality of folding knives or switchblades carried for fishing or hunting, provided the carrier has a valid fishing or hunting license. It's also important to note that non-citizens of the United States aren't allowed to carry knives.
What is a gravity knife?
If you are wondering if your folding pocket knife could get considered a gravity knife, you aren't alone. A gravity knife has a concealed blade within its handle. A gravity knife should open by gravity alone. Many have mechanical devices that keep the knife locked in an open position until a button or level is depressed. The law is vague, allowing for a lot of confusion about what knives are legal.
Law enforcement officers often use a "flick test" to see if a folding knife is a gravity knife. If they can open it by flicking their wrist or arm, they classify the knife you were carrying as a gravity knife. That means it is illegal. The knife could get confiscated or the carrier could get charged with a crime.