Oct. 31, 2014: The City of New York has agreed to pay $7,500 to a falsely arrested knife owner in a Knife Rights supported case. The embarrassing settlement shows that the city would rather pay than try to justify its illegal conduct after police declared his knife an illegal “gravity knife” even though the blade did not lock open. The knife owner (a sculptor who uses a knife for his work) was arrested, handcuffed, booked, and placed in a holding cell like a common criminal.
“New York City’s outrageous persecution of those with common pocket knives must end. This is just one of thousands of similar outrageous excesses by the City and DA. Knife Rights will continue to fight these unconstitutional abuses by the City until we win” said Doug Ritter, Chairman of Knife Rights.
The settlement results from the City’s particularly egregious mistreatment of law-abiding knife owner Jonathan W. (name withheld at his request). Jonathan was carrying a Spyderco UK Pen Knife with a non-locking blade in New York City when he was arrested for possession of an illegal “gravity knife.” After considerable effort the charges in the case were dismissed and Knife Rights then referred Jonathan to attorney Richard Holzberg of Ernest Holzberg and Associates. Holszberg recently obtained a settlement of $7,500.00 for Jonathan’s wrongful arrest, incarceration and malicious prosecution for carrying a pocket knife that was New York City legal, even considering the City’s continued unconstitutional application of state law against owners of common folding knives.
While Jonathan was smoking a hand-rolled cigarette on a sidewalk in Manhattan, he was approached by a police officer who asked what he was smoking. While informing the officer that his cigarette was merely tobacco, the officer noticed a knife clipped into his front pants pocket. The officer demanded to see the knife and, without concern, Jonathan handed it to the officer, explaining that it was a legal pocket knife that complied with all New York City regulations and its unique interpretation of state law (under 4-inch blade and doesn’t lock open). He knew this because he had researched the New York knife laws prior to buying the Spyderco UK Pen Knife (a non-locking slip-joint folder).
According to Jonathan, the officer unsuccessfully attempted to open the knife several times using a so-called “wrist-flick.” He then opened the knife blade halfway with two hands and finally managed to flick it open from there. At that point, even though the knife clearly couldn’t be opened with only a wrist-flick and, and even more to the point, had no locking mechanism, the latter a key element of the state gravity knife definition, the officer placed Jonathan under arrest for illegal possession of a “gravity knife,” handcuffing him in public before taking him to the precinct for processing . (Jonathan could have been given a ticket for carrying the knife clipped to his pocket, which is a violation of a city ordinance, but that is not normally an arrestable offense, more like a jaywalking ticket, and the officer did not do so.)
At the precinct Jonathan was was forced to go through the humiliating booking process like a common criminal and was then placed in a holding cell for over an hour before he was finally given a Desk Appearance Ticket with a court date.
Over the course of the next five months Jonathan had to appear in criminal court on three separate occasions with the threat of up to a year in jail hanging over his head each time. On each occasion, the District Attorney assigned to the case and even his own Legal Aid lawyer kept trying to convince Jonathan to plead guilty, even though he had not committed a crime. Wisely, he refused, and ultimately with the help of an expert witness he proved his knife was legal and the District Attorney voluntarily dismissed the case against him.
Subsequently, Jonathan was referred by Knife Rights to attorney Holzberg to pursue a claim against the City of New York and the NYPD for false arrest and malicious prosecution. After nearly six months of litigation, Holzberg was able to negotiate a favorable settlement of $7,500 for Johnathan.
If you believe you have been falsely arrested in New York City for possession of an illegal knife as Jonathan was, or for any reason, you must act quickly. A false arrest claim against NYC must be filed within 90 days of the arrest or you may be legally barred from filing a false arrest claim. It may well be useful to speak with an attorney who specializes in false arrest claims before your underlying criminal case is resolved, because a conviction may preclude you from filing a viable false arrest claim.
A claim for false arrest, false imprisonment or malicious prosecution can be made even if you did not suffer any physical injury. You may have a stronger case if you were subjected to racial profiling, unconstitutional searches or other illegal conduct. (NOTE that under current local court interpretation, the successful “wrist flick” test on a lock-blade folding knife is generally considered proof of the knife being an illegal gravity knife in New York City, which is the issue of law in our federal civil rights lawsuit.)
Knife Rights appreciates the assistance of Ernest Holzberg and Associates in this matter. Richard Holzberg is a knife enthusiast (we first met him at the East Coast Custom Knife Show a few years ago) and is willing to assist in any similar false arrest cases in New York City. Such cases are handled on a contingency basis and if they do not recover compensation for you, you do not owe any attorney fees. As with all Knife Rights attorney referrals, there is no charge for a consultation. Contact information at: www.holzbergnyinjurylaw.com
Knife Rights’ fight to stop the persecution of knife owners in New York City and to prevent this from spreading to other cities will continue. Click here to read the latest news on Knife Rights’ Federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.
Please support this lawsuit with a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the Knife Rights Foundation
WARNING: New York City has interpreted the state law against gravity knives such that if an officer can “wrist flick” the knife blade open, or alleges that the knife might be able to be opened in such a manner, and the knife blade locks open, that knife is an illegal gravity knife. NYC takes this position even if it requires multiple tries and use of exaggerated arm thrust or motion. Using this interpretation, most any lockblade knife might be deemed an illegal gravity knife.
Note also that New York City administrative code has an under-4-inch length limit and requires knives be carried concealed. Knife Rights recommends that you never carry your knife clipped to your pocket in New York City. Even when covered by a jacket, simply moving the jacket aside to get to a wallet has been enough to get folks arrested. Always ensure your knife is completely concealed at all times, including not “printing” on the outside of your clothing. In addition, be extremely circumspect about using a knife for any purpose in a public setting.