People v Berrezueta – More Knife Law Lunacy From New York

The New York Court of Appeals is the highest appellate court in the state of New York. They decided a case last week that is very problematic to everyone who owns an assisted-opening knife in the state. In the case of People v. Berrezueta they declared in a 6-1 decision that a spring-assisted opening knife is a switchblade within the definition of the New York’s penal code. The dissent by Judge Jenny Rivera disagreed strongly and pointed out the deficiencies in the majority’s argument.

Doug Ritter has more in an alert he sent out this morning:

Are Assisted-Openers Now Illegal Switchblades ?

As if New York wasn’t already a confusing legal and regulatory nightmare for honest, law-abiding knife owners, the highest court in the state just upheld, in a one paragraph opinion, the conviction of a person in possession of an assisted opening (spring-assisted) folding knife under the theory that it was an illegal switchblade knife under New York law.

The decision was overwhelming, 6 to 1, but it’s worth noting the excellent dissent by Judge Jenny Rivera which is detailed, analytical, logical and very well-reasoned.

Click here to read the decision including her brilliant dissent.

Assisted opening folding knives are widely and routinely carried by millions of law abiding individuals, and given the momentous nature of this decision, certainly affecting hundreds of thousands of pocket knife owners in New York State, a review of the briefs suggests that the seriousness of the issues at stake was not presented to the court. The prosecution fundamentally mischaracterized the nature of the knife as being a switchblade. The significant and fundamental differences between a switchblade and the assisted-opening folder the defendant was carrying were not before the Court.

In addition to completely redefining what a knife’s handle is, essentially eliminating the difference between the handle and the blade, the Court disregarded the fundamental difference in how the two types of knives operate – switchblades being automatic (an essential element of the definition) while assisted-openers are not.

Given that this confusion goes against clear historical precedent and that nobody in the real world is likely to interpret that statute in that manner, it creates a trap for all knife owners who would rationally never consider an assisted-opening folder to be a switchblade, especially if they were intimately familiar with plain wording of New York’s switchblade statue.

265.00 Weapons Crimes – Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons

4. “Switchblade Knife” means any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife. (emphasis ours)

Regardless of whether we win our current civil rights case against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. over their unconstitutionally vague gravity knife prosecutions of those carrying common folding knives, the hundreds of thousands of knife owners who possess an assisted-opening folding knife anywhere in New York state could now be liable to being prosecuted for simply possessing a per se (inherently) illegal switchblade under §265.01, which is a serious crime, a fourth degree misdemeanor with a potential penalty of a year in jail. And, as we have seen far too often in our Federal gravity knife case, anyone who has had a prior conviction, even decades ago, is likely to have the charge against them upgraded to a felony with potentially years of jail time and loss of civil rights.

Actually carrying an assisted-opener will certainly raise the likelihood of arrest and prosecution.

At this juncture we must warn anyone living in New York State, or who visits or travels through New York State, that you risk arrest and jail if you carry an assisted-opening folding knife. Retailers within New York State may want to consider their potential criminal liability in continuing to sell assisted-opening knives.

We’ll certainly be looking to find a solution to this problematic decision, but for now, discretion is the better part of valor with regards to assisted-opening folders in New York State.

And, just to be clear, this assisted-opener issue that covers the entire state of New York is entirely separate from New York City’s gravity knife arrests and prosecutions; as well as New York City’s administrative code prohibiting open carry of a knife (including being clipped to a pocket or “printing”) and its under 4-inch blade length limit. Details at:

VICE News On Doug Ritter And Knife Rights

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I stumbled across this short video yesterday on Reddit. It is an episode of HBO’s VICE News that features Doug Ritter and Knife Rights. It is surprisingly well done and even more surprisingly pro-knife. VICE News talks about the founding of Knife Rights, their success in many states, and then concentrates on the problems with New York City’s “gravity knife” law.

One aspect that is brought out is that the fight against unjust laws can have unlikely allies. As an attorney with  NYC’s Legal Aid Society put it, he never thought “in a million years that he’d be working with a Second Amendment group on a criminal justice issue.”

Knife Law Reform In New York Must Wait Another Year

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) ignored the overwhelming support in both houses of the New York Assembly for reform of New York’s gravity knife law and vetoed the bill today. The bill had the support of groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU who normally would not support a pro-2A bill. In this case, they saw the harm that the existing law caused for the average New Yorker.

I guess I could make a joke about Cuomo getting confused on what he was supposed to do after indulging in one too many of girlfriend Sandra Lee’s cocktails but what he did was give the average New Yorker the finger.

Knife Rights has the full story below.

Cuomo Sides with NYC Pols – Gives Finger to the People 

Waiting until the last possible moment, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed Knife Rights’ Gravity Knife and Switchblade Reform Bill,
effectively giving the finger to New York’s legislature that
overwhelmingly passed the bill and the large coalition of organizations,
many part of his own constituency, which supported the bill. Despite
the thousands who called and emailed the Governor to sign the bill, and
thanks very much for those who did so, he sided with the disingenuous
arguments made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner
James O’Neill and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., virtually the only
ones who opposed the bill. In vetoing this bill he has potentially
doomed thousands more to arrest and prosecution for carrying common
pocket knives that won’t get someone arrested virtually anywhere except
in New York City.

Despite Cuomo’s avowed commitment to criminal justice reform in New York, this veto clearly shows the lie to that claim.
Next year’s session of the New York Legislature is almost
upon us and we’ll be back again working to fix the state’s Gravity Knife
law to prevent these arrests and prosecutions. This bill passed with
such large majorities in both houses of the legislature that an override
of a veto is theoretically possible.

Meanwhile, our five-year-old Federal civil rights lawsuit over the constitutionality of New York City’s “wrist flick” test awaits a decision which could settle the issue for certain.

Knife Rights Needs Our Help In New York

New York City is not only one of the most anti-gun jurisdictions in the country but also one of the most anti-knife. Their prosecutions of honest citizens for “gravity” knives is over the top. There is a bill in the New York Senate that would correct many of these abuses by clearly defining both switchblades and gravity knives. A correct definition would eliminate prosecutions for having your average lock-blade knife.

Knife Rights is urging that anyone who lives, works, or merely visits New York to contact Sen. John Flanagan who chairs the Senate Rules Committee and ask him to schedule a vote on S6483A.

Their alert is below:

CALL or EMAIL TODAY to Schedule S6483A for a Vote


The next hurdle to getting Knife Rights’ New York Knife Law Reform bill (S6483A)
passed to end the widespread persecution of those carrying pocket
knives in New York City is to get the Senate Rules Committee to pass the
bill so it can be voted on by the full Senate.

If you live, work or travel in New York and New York City, please CALL or EMAIL the Chairman of the Rules Committee, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, TODAY
and simply deliver the message that you are “calling/writing to
respectfully request that Leader Flanagan please schedule S6483A for a
vote” and then thank him. Please be POLITE and RESPECTFUL. 

CALL Majority Leader Flanagan TODAY at: 

EMAIL Majority Leader Flanagan TODAY at:

Again, please be POLITE and RESPECTFUL, just deliver the message: “I am calling/writing
to respectfully request that Leader Flanagan please schedule S6483A for
a vote,” and then thank him. That’s it, keep it short and simple and above all BE POLITE and RESPECTFUL.

If Emailing, use the SUBJECT: Please Schedule S6483A for Senate Vote

you call, they may ask you the city and state where you live, for their
call record. If you email, include your city and state. In either case, if you live out-of-state, explain how you work in, or travel to, New York / New York City.
adds clarifying bias-towards closure exclusions to the state
switchblade and gravity knife definitions, similar to that included in
the revision to the Federal Switchblade Act that Knife Rights helped
pass in 2009. This clarifying exclusion should prevent the bogus Gravity
Knife arrests and prosecutions of honest law-abiding individuals in New
York City who are carrying common folding knives, tools that are legal
to carry everywhere else in t
NYC Donate Buttonhe U.S.

Gravity Knives nor Switchblades have a bias towards closure found in
common folding knives to keep the blade safely closed in the pocket.
Only in New York Cit
y has the NYPD and
District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. abused the state’s gravity knife law
to prosecute those carrying simple pocket knives by claiming they are
illegal Gravity Knives.

The City’s Village Voice newspaper found two years ago that there had been as many as 60,000 gravity-knife prosecutions over the past decade! You can read the Village Voice article at:

Hundreds of innocent pocket knife carriers are being arrested every week!

Meanwhile, our Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.
over these unconstitutional arrests and prosecutions continues with a
trial date now scheduled for June 16, which will be just over five years
since the lawsuit was filed. The quicker solution is to get S6483A passed.

Know Your Knife Laws

In an era where virtually everything is a crime, it is important to know the law. This is especially true with regard to knife laws which vary tremendously. They not only vary state to state but from municipality to municipality as there are few state preemption laws with regard to knifes.

The infographic below from is a good start and presents the info in an easily understood form. I’d also suggest becoming a member of Knife Rights as they are taking the fight for knife rights to both the court house and the state house.

One example of how fast knife laws are changing is the info below on which states make automatic or switchblade knives illegal. It lists both Kansas and Missouri as prohibiting them. Thanks to Knife Rights, this was recently changed and they are now legal there.

Infographic removed due to inaccuracies.

If you’d still like to see it, go to See comments below as to some of the inaccuracies. Alternatively, go to Liston’s website here.

H/T Liston Matthews of Good Hill Press