Before And After

It has been almost a year since the riots in Baltimore ostensibly over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. I am currently in Baltimore for a company meeting. If you look at the picture below, you will see rioters kicking and stomping on police cars. The location is on South Eutaw Street between the Hilton Baltimore and the Baltimore Convention Center.

From Breitbart

I am staying in this Hilton and stayed in it last year a mere month before the riots began. Below is a picture of this same street today. I haven’t talked to any of the hotel staff to see if the hotel was damaged in the rampage.

It feels kind of weird when you blow in for a meeting and blow out the next afternoon when you know that it was the site of a riot. As far as I know, none of the trials of the Baltimore police officers indicted for the death of Freddie Gray are taking place this week.

But What If…

Knife Rights put out a release this past Friday that I didn’t notice until Monday. In it, they discuss the arrest for having a “concealed switchblade” of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. I have posted the release below along with the links.

Knife Rights brings up some interesting points and makes me say, “What if”.

What if Freddie Gray had not been arrested.

What if police treated all knives like ordinary tools.

What if knife laws weren’t based on a 1950s West Side Story myth.

What if the knife hadn’t had a clip – would he still have been stopped.

I’m not saying Baltimore wouldn’t have erupted in the not so distant future. They will always be more incidents that the hucksters and their complicit media allies will play up. I am also not saying that Freddie Gray might not have been arrested for something else. I am saying that policies, laws, and ordinances the encourage the police to stop anyone with a knife that has a pocket clip are flawed, out of date, and unreasonable.

May 1, 2015 – Gilbert, AZ: In the case of the arrest on a knife charge and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged that Freddie Gray was falsely arrested and that the knife in his pocket was not an illegal switchblade. Mosby is filing murder charges against one officer while others are being charged with crimes including manslaughter and assault.

According to news reports and court documents, Freddie Gray was arrested after a police officer supposedly found a “switchblade” in his pocket. But, the court documents (click to review) reveal something else: “The officer noticed a knife clipped to the inside of his front right pants pocket. The defendant was arrested without force or incident,” the documents say. “The knife was recovered by this officer and found to be a spring-assisted, one-hand-operated knife.” (Emphasis added.) Note that the officer did not refer to the knife as a “switchblade.”

Maryland law (§4–101) prohibits concealed carry of switchblades, but open carry and possession are not illegal. The court documents state that the knife was visibly clipped to Gray’s pocket. Therefore, it was not concealed, and accordingly not illegal, even if it had been a switchblade. But, it clearly wasn’t even a switchblade according to the court documents — it was an assisted-opening knife (meaning that the blade had to be opened manually part way before the spring assist was engaged and opened it the rest of the way).

Maryland does not have knife law preemption, so municipalities such as Baltimore are allowed to fabricate laws more restrictive than the state itself. Baltimore’s city code (§ 59-22 Switch-blade knives) prohibits the sale, carry or possession of “any knife with an automatic spring or other device for opening and/or closing the blade, commonly known as a switch-blade knife.” While it might be possible in theory to interpret that unusual definition of “switch-blade” to include assisted-opening knives, such an interpretation would conflict with virtually all other switchblade definitions throughout the country. Additionally, the court documents show that the arresting officer clearly knew it was not a switchblade; the officer easily could have referred to it as a switchblade instead of accurately describing it as a “spring-assisted, one-hand-operated knife.”

While it is theoretically possible that without the presence of a knife in his pocket, Gray might have been arrested on some other trumped-up charge, it is clear that the presence of a knife was used as the actual basis for the arrest, and the practice has unfortunately become a common one.

Thousands of law-abiding citizens are regularly harassed and arrested for nothing more than carrying this basic tool, and that is unacceptable. Knife Rights is committed to forging a Sharper Future™ by passing knife law preemption and removing all restrictions on the lawful carry of knives. Those who misuse any tool (knife or otherwise) in the commission of a crime should be severely punished, but law-abiding citizens who possess knives should be left alone.

Charging Documents in Freddie Gray Case:

Maryland Switchblade Law:

Baltimore Switchblade Law:

As a final aside, I met with a client yesterday who always brings me inexpensive knives as a gift.  The knife I got yesterday had a clip and was a switchblade.

UPDATE: Attorney Andrew Branca has an excellent post up at Legal Insurrection concerning probable cause and the arrest of Freddie Gray. He notes that whether or not the knife in question was actually illegal is irrelevant to the issue of probable cause. This reinforces my point that knife laws are so convoluted and so out of date that you probably could find probable cause to stop someone for carrying a Case Tiny Trapper which is all of 2 3/8 inches closed.

Stuff You Do If Your Law School’s Placement Rank Is 197 Out Of 201

The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is not, how shall I say it, the best law school in the world. In terms of ranking, they fell below the US News and World Report cut-off to be ranked. Their 2013 placement rank for full-time, long-term jobs for their graduates was ranked at 197th out of 201. So when you are down here you have to do something.

In an effort to entice their students into getting some pro bono legal experience, they are allowing them to postpone one exam if … they provide legal assistance to the rioters protesters in Baltimore. Because, you know, cops are bad and burning stores expressing your First Amendment violent outrage concerns is good.

From Dean Shelley Broderick:

Dear Students,

We have been watching the news from Baltimore and know that it is having a profound effect on many in the Law School community. As John Lewis said earlier this week, community/police relations is the civil rights issue of this time. Across this Nation, for nearly a year, the concerns of communities of color about persistent and long standing police abuse, have been reflected in demonstrations and public debate. The energy and commitment of those involved in the movement is inspiring and we want the Law School to be part of it.

The situation in Baltimore is of particular concern. Not only is Baltimore just 30 miles up the road, but many members of our community have roots in the City. It is important that we not ignore what is happening to our neighbors. Several students have come to the Deans with a request that they be permitted to defer an exam so that they can provide legal observer and other assistance to those who have taken to the streets to exercise their First Amendment rights and to address these serious issues.

We would like to support this activism. To that end, if any student wishes to participate in legal support for the demonstrations, we will defer one exam until May 11. To do so, you need to connect with one of the legal assistance organizations, develop a plan for the assistance you intend to provide and get this information to Dean Steward before your exam. If you are having difficulty in identifying a group to work with, please let me know and we can assist you. In addition, because these issues affect everyone at the Law School, we would be pleased to support a student organized teach-in. A community event that brings us together around these issues and promotes mutual support is important during these challenging times.

The police accountability movement needs and will continue to need the best lawyers that we can train. It is our aspiration that you become the future of the legal support for the most important cases of the next generation. It is critical that, while we pay attention to what is going on today, that we not lose sight of the essential role you will play once you pass the bar. We need to invest in you to be prepared to play that role. That is our shared commitment.

Shelley Broderick

Who needs to make up satire when you have self-righteous progressives doing it for you.