one recent Manhattan case, a fashionable New York photographer was arrested for the very serious
sounding crime of possession of a weapon with intent to use it unlawfully
against another. The "weapon": a two-fingered ring with a flat
and narrow metallic bar extended across the outside of the hand which
was marketed, sold and worn exclusively by the photographer as a fashion
accessory. No less than fashion and cultural icon Kim Kardashian has been
photographed wearing a virtually identical ring. Although she may draw
criticism from the fashion police, it is doubtful that she will attract
the professional interest of law enforcement.
But according to New York police and prosecutors, this item is not a ring;
it is a dangerous set of "metal knuckles."
New York Penal Law Section 265.01(1) states that possession of "metal knuckles" is a Class A misdemeanor
punishable by up to one year in jail. Although the
Penal Law defines other types of weapons, such as gravity knives ("a knife
with a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the
force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force which, when released,
is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device")
and switchblade knives ("a 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") the Penal Law remains silent on the definition of
Thus, police, prosecutors and courts are left with little guidance in determining
whether any particular item qualifies as "metal knuckles." Unfortunately
for the New York photographer, this lack of clarity led to his arrest
and prosecution for what amounts to a fashion choice rather than a common
sense analysis of whether he posed a danger to the public safety or fostered
any criminal intent.
What is the definition of "metal knuckles"?
The leading authority on what constitutes "metal knuckles" are
People v. Laurore,
30 Misc.3d 1237(A) (Rockland Cty. Sup. Ct. 2011) and
People v. Singleton, 127 Misc.2d 735 (New York Cty. Crim. Ct. 1985). These courts applied a
three part test to determine whether an object was "metal knuckles,"
thereby making possession of it a per se criminal act. These were: (1)
whether a blow by a fist wearing the instrument in question would cause
metal to come into contact with the victim's body; (2) whether the
instrument is designed so that it readily can be used offensively against
the human body, and (3) whether the design is such that the item cannot
reasonably be put to any use other than to enable the wearer to inflict
a blow with a fist covered by metal or pieces of metal.
The first two factors would seem to apply to any metal object held by a
person, including keys or even a cell phone. Thus, the third prong of
the test—whether the object reasonably can be said to have a use
other than striking a blow with the fist—is usually the critical
Laurore, the court found that the item in question, a "cat key chain"
which was worn over two fingers and included two metal pointed spikes
protruding from the back of the hand constituted metal knuckles because
it was designed specifically marketed, sold and designed for use in hand-to-hand combat.
So what about the New York photographer's ring? Fortunately, if the
court applies the
Laurore/Singelton test, then the case appears destined for dismissal. He wore the ring in
a manner precisely with how it was marketed and sold: as jewelry. He was
not observed acting in a manner suggesting that he intended to use it
as a weapon. In other words, the ring could reasonably be put to use for
a purpose other than pummeling another human being: use as a fashion accessory.
Time will tell how the prosecution and court treat this matter. Hopefully,
the matter will be dismissed by the District Attorney as a matter of prosecutorial
Have you been arrested? Call our NYC criminal defense firm!
Unfortunately, many law-abiding people are arrested and prosecuted in New
York City for criminal possession of "weapons" such as rings
or pocket knives used as tools, which are incorrectly classified by police
and prosecutors as "metal knuckles," "gravity knives"
or "switchblade knives" by police.
The Law Office of Mark A. Bederow, has successfully defended several
law-abiding citizens who have been arrested for criminal possession of
a weapon, including
gravity knives and
switchblade knives. If you are in need of criminal counsel for possession of a weapon, please
contact us in order to discuss the matter. New York City criminal defense
lawyer, Mark A. Bederow, is a
former Manhattan prosecutor with vast experience in both prosecuting and defending New York weapons cases.
For your complimentary case evaluation, please do not hesitate to get in
touch with our New York criminal attorney today.