Possession of a Knife Attorneys in New Jersey
Defense Lawyers for Illegal Knives in Bergen County and other NJ areas
Most people would agree that knives can be very dangerous instruments and possess the ability to seriously harm and possibly kill an individual. On the other hand, most citizens would also say that banning knives would be ridiculous. Knives can be found in almost every household and restaurant throughout the world and are rarely used to harm or threatened anybody. Likewise, there are countless other objects and common household items such as scissors, hammers, baseball bats, etc. that can be harmful when used in the wrong way. So how do we balance the utility and advantages of these items compared to the possible danger they present? New Jersey has a specific take that is essential to understand if you intend to buy, own, or use a knife and want to avoid risking serious criminal weapons charges.
At The Tormey Law Firm, our weapons defense attorneys regularly represent clients charged with violating New Jersey’ strict laws on knives. We often defend those facing criminal weapons charges for illegal possession of a knife, possessing illegal knives, and possession or use of a knife for an unlawful purpose. From our convenient offices dispersed throughout New Jersey, including in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Middletown, and New Brunswick, we fight knife-related charges in courts across the state. If you are in need of assistance with a weapons case involving knives, simply call (201)-614-2474 or contact us online to discuss your case with an attorney. We provide free consultations around the clock so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Key Knife Definitions in New Jersey
Let’s first turn to the statutory definitions detailed in our criminal code. To begin, the code does not specifically define what a knife is. Most lay people know and understand what a knife is and therefore, drafting a statutory definition would be unnecessary. However, under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-1, our lawmakers did define what constitutes a weapon. According to the code, a weapon is defined as anything readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury. The definition further reads that the term weapon shall include, but is not limited to firearms, components which can be readily assembled into a weapon, gravity knives, switchblade knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, or other dangerous knives, billies, blackjacks, bludgeons, metal knuckles, sandclubs, slingshots, cesti or similar leather bands studded with metal filings or razor blades embedded in wood, stun guns, and any other weapon or other device which projects, releases, or emits tear gas or any other substance intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air.
The first sentence is very broad and potentially embraces numerous objects. Thereafter, the definition becomes more targeted and narrower but nevertheless, the opening statutory definition can arguably include almost any object. Apart from the general weapon’s description, the criminal code offers other definitions for different types of knives.
Kinds of Knives in NJ Knife Laws
With regard to the various kinds of knives specifically addressed in New Jersey laws:
- Gravity knife means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force. A
- Switchblade knife is defined as any knife or similar device which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife.
- Ballistic knife means any weapon or other device capable of lethal use and which can propel a knife blade.
Keep in the mind, the definition section is not a criminal charge. It simply helps us interpret the actual charges when certain language is utilized.
Illegal Knife Offenses in NJ
Next, let’s examine the criminal offenses. New Jersey has three classes of weapon related offenses. State v. Lee, 96 N.J. 156, 160 (1984). The first class of offenses are “per se” possession charges. Meaning, simply possessing a certain item is illegal. It doesn’t matter if the object caused harm or was used in any threatening matter. The simple act of holding, carrying, or otherwise possessing the object is unlawful. This type of charge is directed at items and objects that are so dangerous and hold no useful or safe utility, that our State will not tolerate mere possession. For example, a grenade is deemed per se illegal. Also, a sawed-off shotgun is illegal to possess. The following refers to the various types of crimes for which you can be charged for knives in New Jersey.
Possessing a Knife Illegally
With respect to knives, our criminal code reads under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(e) as follows, any person who knowingly has in his possession any gravity knife, switchblade knife, dagger, dirk, stiletto, billy, blackjack, metal knuckle, sandclub, slingshot, cestus or similar leather band studded with metal filings or razor blades embedded in wood, ballistic knife, without any explainable lawful purpose, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. Accordingly, possessing those outlined items are illegal but, if the defendant can supply an acceptable explanation for why he or she was in possession of those instruments, he or she will not be held criminally liable.
Possessing or Using a Knife for an Unlawful Purpose
The second class of offenses focuses on an individual’s intent. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, any individual who has in their possession any weapon with a purpose to use it unlawfully against another person or property, is guilty of a crime of the third degree. This type of charge is where the balancing of safety and acceptable use of an object verses danger comes into effect. For instance, using a steak knife during dinner is not illegal under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, nor is it per se illegal under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(e). However, if a person suddenly gets into a heated argument with someone and then tries to stab that person using the same steak knife, the situation is transformed, and the person can be convicted of a felony offense. Simply possessing the knife is acceptable and using the knife to cut food is lawful. However, if the person tries to use the knife as a weapon, such conduct is prohibited and consequently, the individual can be severely punished.
Unlawful Possession of Knives
The third and final class of offenses is a hybrid type of charge. It is codified by N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d), which states that any person who knowingly has in his or her possession any weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful use is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. This particular type of charge lies in between per se/illegal possession and the intentional unlawful use of a weapon. Again, unlike N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(e), simply possessing a certain object is not illegal under this statute. However, different than N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, the defendant’s subjective intent is not the focus of the offense. Rather, the aim and concentration of the law is to examine the surrounding circumstances to determine if possessing a certain type of weapon was appropriate.
For instance, in State v. Lee, the defendant was convicted for possessing scissors that were taped to simulate a blade. Also, in State v. Wright, an individual violated the statute by strapping an exacto knife to his leg while wandering through a neighborhood. But, in State v. Blaine, which presents a similar but not exact set of circumstances, the defendant was found walking down the street with a pocketknife in his pocket. However, such circumstances were deemed insufficient for a conviction.
Contact Hackensack NJ Knife Charge Lawyers Today
Knives are interpreted in many different ways in New Jersey. As such, if you or someone you love has been charged with illegal possession of a knife, unlawfully using the weapon, or is facing another weapons related charge for knives, please contact our office for legal assistance. We offer free consultations 24/7 and our New Jersey weapons attorneys are here to answer all of your questions about NJ knife laws and the defense options you may have. (201)-614-2474.
Our firm serves all New Jersey counties, including Essex County, Hudson County, Union County, Bergen County, Middlesex County, and Passaic County.