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: http://www.kniferights.org/263171878-Freddie-Gray-Charging-Documents.pdf
Baltimore Switchblade Law: http://baltimorecode.org/19/59/59-22/
About Knife Rights
Knife Rights (www.KnifeRights.org) is rewriting knife law in America™, aggressively fighting for a Sharper Future™ for all knife owners. Knife Rights is dedicated to providing knife owners an effective voice to influence public policy. Knife Rights promotes legislation that eliminates irrational restrictions on knife possession and opposes anti-knife legislation, as well as defending knife owner civil rights ion the courts. In the past six years, Knife Rights has passed pro-knife legislation in 13 states and prevented anti-knife legislation in four states. Knife Rights is also the lead plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City’s persecution of knife owners.
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