Criminal Possession of a Weapon in New York City – Fourth Degree


The term “weapon” is broadly defined in the New York Penal Law section 265.00. Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, Penal Law § 265.01, lists a multitude of different items that are illegal for a person to possess, including: firearms, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy club, blackjack, bludgeon, plastic knuckles, metal knuckles, chukka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type sling shot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star.” While criminal prosecution for the possession of a firearm is commonly known, the rest of these items sound as if they literally fell out of an action movie.

Although most people consider a firearm to mean a gun, there is actually a legal definition for this term with specific technical requirements. Under PL § 265.00 a firearm is defined as (1) any pistol or revolver (2) a shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length, (3) a rifle having one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length, (4) any weapon made from a shotgun or rifle which has a length of less than 26 inches and (5) an assault weapon. The law then goes on to specify how the measurements of the barrel should be taken. Only if a gun falls within these barometers is it outlawed by the weapons possession statutes in New York.

Aside from firearms, criminal prosecution for the possession of a gravity knife is actually quite prevalent in New York. A gravity knife is a knife where with the flick of a wrist, a blade will spring out. Gravity knives are quite commonly used by electricians, contractors, plumbers and construction workers. Many individuals are unaware that these objects are illegal and can subject them to criminal prosecution. A contractor driving home from work can get pulled over for a traffic violation and if the police officer sees a gravity knife in the vehicle with the rest of his tools, he may find himself in a sticky situation. What started as a traffic ticket could end up as a weapons arrest with the possibility of jail time.

Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree has a second list of weapons in which the possession of the weapon itself is not outright illegal, however when the weapon is intended to be used unlawfully against another, a crime has occurred. In other words, if a person intends to use an object to cause harm to another or to threaten harm, possession of that object becomes criminal. According to subsection two, if an individual possesses a dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with the intent to use the same unlawfully against another, then they are in violation of PL §265.01 Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.

The penal law defines a deadly weapon as any loaded weapon from which a shot, capable of producing death or serious physical injury may be fired, a switch blade knife, gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, dagger, billy, blackjack, plastic knuckles or metal knuckles. A dangerous instrument is defined as any instrument or object, including a vehicle, which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used is capable of causing death of serious physical injury. The dangerous instrument category is a catch-all for any object that can be used as a weapon but is not specified in the deadly weapon category. Depending on its use, a dangerous instrument can include mundane everyday objects such as pens, coffee mugs or a laundry iron.

Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, is an A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Because this statute is so broad in the types of weapons it criminalizes, the charge is often added on in cases where more serious weapons possession felonies are charged. It is also commonly charged together with PL § 120.05(2), Assault in the Second Degree, where one element of that crime is to cause injury to another by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Because New York law is very detailed and specific about the types of weapons one can possess and for what purpose, it is important to hire an attorney who is familiar with all the nuances of the law as well as the defenses. The weapons possession attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman know these laws inside and out and have had positive results fighting these cases – including getting cases dismissed pretrial. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a weapons possession charge, give us a call at (212) 581-1001.

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