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Author Topic: Getting caught with a blade: conversations with a cop  (Read 4922 times)
Tiny
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« on: February 26, 2004, 03:53:15 PM »

Okay, for some of you, this will be old info, or just plain intuitive, but I've met a number of people who can be really stupid when it comes to carrying...so I had a really good conversation with a friend of mine who just happens to be a police officer and asked him half a dozen or so questions.  I've taken parts of our looooong conversation, distilled it, and drawn in some of his direct quotes.  This is not legal advice, so do not take it as such -- this is just a brief summary of a conversation I had with an officer, and it only applies to California law.   It doesn't flow all nice and neat, but I'm too lazy to turn this post into a laborious work of nonfiction.  So Here You Go:

1)   "My first advice to you, my dear, is NOT TO CARRY A KNIFE."

2)   If you are on ANY school grounds with a blade 2" or over, including private colleges, it's an automatic felony.

3)  If you take out a knife/weapon to show an assailant in order to deter an attack or settle an argument, that's called "brandishing."

4)   Carrying an illegal knife is a felony...carrying a switchblade is a misdemeanor to a up to a certain point, then it's a felony.

Quote
Here's what I love...you can carry a loaded gun in your waistband, and if I stop you, it's a misdemeanor.  I catch you with an illegal knife, and it's a felony...now that's a strong gun lobby.


5)   When transporting legal OR illegal blade(s) or weapons of any kind (including sticks), make it/them inaccessible.  Illegal blades include spring and gravity, and are part of CA penal code 12020 (for martial arts blades) and 653k (all others).

Quote
There are many interpretations as to the nature of "accessible."  Generally, that means in the passenger car.  Especially if it's next to you under, or behind the seat.  My recommendation is keep it/them in the trunk, locked, and out of sight or reach.

If you get stopped:  If it's in the trunk and out of access, keep your mouth shut.  If you've got a gear bag, it's in the back seat, and they [officer/officers] ask you 'what's in the bag' you're S.O.L.

If you tell the officer that you've got a weapon, it gives the officer reasonable cause to search the entire vehicle.


6)  If you get stopped, and for some reason the knives/weapons are seen (even if they are illegal):

Quote
It's a good idea to explain that you use them for martial arts training...people get into trouble when they say 'I use it for self defense' or 'You never know what might happen...' You've just told the officer you're carrying a weapon and that you use it for self defense...'self defense' -- those two words change everything.  Case in point, and I've had this happen:  I stop a guy and there's a baseball bat sticking out from under the seat, and I say, 'What's that?' and the guy says, 'It's a baseball bat...I use it for safety, you know, you never know what can happen..."  That guy just told me that he's carrying a weapon...a hidden one, now I've got to do something about it...too bad he didn't just say 'Little League.'

If you get searched and you have an illegal blade, you're kinda S.O.L.  By the way, there's no exception on nunchaku, even for transporting; they're illegal, period.  But oddly enough, you can use them as part of martial arts training...so if you get caught with them, explain they're for a martial arts class...any cop's gotta know that if you use them in a class, you've got to get them there somehow.  Again, in the trunk's best, and if they're there, keep your mouth shut.  


7)  If you have a knife on your person and you are stopped.  Again, inaccessible, closed, etc. is best:

Quote
 First of all, what are you getting stopped for?  I hate to say this, but if you are just getting stopped for jay-walking, keep your mouth shut...in other words, if you know you're not going to be searched -- you don't have any outstanding warrants, etc. -- keep your mouth shut, no matter what you're carrying.  Don't say much if there's no risk of physical custody.  If I stop you for littering, and you tell me you're carrying, I'll be searching you...if you tell me you're carrying an illegal weapon, you've just admitted to a felony.

If you know you're going to be searched, you might as well tell me, 'cause I'm going to find it anyway.  Here's what I like to hear:  keep your hands in view, cross your arms and say, 'Officer, I have a 2-inch blade on my hip, I'm not going to reach for it, but I want you to know.'  If it's legal, likely I'll take it for the duration of the search, then you'll get it back, if it's illegal, you're S.O.L. and you've just lost your right to vote.  I'll often be more willing to "forgive" you if you tell me...it's like hypodermic needles; if you've got one, tell me, because if I have to search and find it, I'm gonna be f-ckin' pissed.


Well, there you have it.  My friend also recommended the California Legislative site:  www.leginfo.ca.gov  .  He also said that women are far less likely to be searched, though this depends on the circumstances... sorry.

I also stumbled across the following site which has so-called tips for what to say when you get caught -- you could try them, but I ran them past my pal, and he just chuckled; you might also check with your local law enforcement agency for updated laws/regulations:

http://www.equalccw.com/knifelaw.html#SECTION%203.7

One final quote from my friend, who is actually a very nice, decent human being, who's just trying to keeping people safe, "God, I hate people with knives...I'd rather deal with anything...I hate 'em."  He certainly doesn't have an easy job.  If I hear of anything else, I'll be sure to post it to this forum thread.

Hope some of you can use this info...
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Arkangel
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2004, 10:37:15 PM »

Excellent post, thanks for taking the time to putn this up and share.
I will be showing this to my students. PRetty much common sense I'd say.
Here in Canda, if you ask the Cop does he have reasonable cause, that will give it to him/her!
Best bet be polite and cooperative. Paperwork sucks.
Hurcum
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James
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2004, 09:33:36 PM »

I guess the key is to carry a LEGAL Knife; for example a "normal"
folder.  As long as it is closed when the officer seaches/sees you it can be any length and frankly, for any purpose, i.e. self defense.  As regards to school grounds, the rule quoted only applies to K-12.  On a State College Campus including community colleges, you may carry a folder of any length - again it must be closed.  Note, each city for example LA has their own rules, but again they basically do not apply to a folder in your pocket.
I suggest you check Bladeforums.com and other sites; they have a good explanation of CA law.  Oddly enough, many police officers do not know the law so be careful.
James
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2004, 11:01:46 PM »

Woof:

"for any purpose, i.e. self defense"

To the best of my knowledge, this is quite wrong.  My understanding is that one should NEVER say this as it constitutes an admission of intent that the knife is a weapon which per CA law is a no-no.

Crafty Dog
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James
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2004, 11:13:27 AM »

Crafty,

You may be right, I am not an attorney like yourself, however I do go to
court quite often (Fraud Investigator) and base my opinion on the LA
Superior Court's Sheriff's Desk (I always carry a knife but declare it loudly upon making my entrance at the courthouse and of course leave it for pickup later at the front desk).  Two month's ago I was carrying a large folder; when asked "why?" I honestly said "self defense". The Sheriff at the entrance took offense, saying "bad answer" and took my knife because it was "too long."  I politely disagreed (I was in a suit and I do not look like a gang member) and suggested that we go to the Main Desk upstairs.  There, the Sargent in front of his staff pointed out that while a knife can give the wrong impression, I was right.  He pulled the appropriate codes for the benefit of the "new" sheriff.  He confirmed, "a folder knife (any length) in a folded position is perfectly legal and the question of why I have the knife is my business".  Note, I did say "self defense" not to threaten or rob someone, etc.  For example, I have friends who have a concealed weapon permit.  Obviously, when asked why they carry a .45 they will say "for self defense".  Why can't they say the truth?

If I/he is wrong I would appreciate knowing for my future reference where it says if you carry a legal folding knife you cannot say for "self defense".  I try very hard not to break the law.
Thank you for your advice.
James
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2004, 01:12:37 PM »

Woof James:

  My status as an attorney is quite "de minimis"-- it was over 20 years ago in Washington DC and since that time I have been "inactive status".  That said, as a CA resident I have tried to keep an eye on my legal environment.

  The last time I looked was quite a while ago, but the way I remember it, the poorly written and internally inconsistent statute made the INTENT to carry the knife as a weapon illegal with no specification made as to the purpose of the intent (e.g. self-defense or criminal.)  Similarly an intent to carry a baseball bat for self-defense is/can be illegal even though the bat is normally presumptively legal.

"For example, I have friends who have a concealed weapon permit. Obviously, when asked why they carry a .45 they will say "for self defense". Why can't they say the truth?"

Amongst the sundry inanities of CA law, illegal carry of a gun is a misdemeanor and illegal carry of a knife is a felony.  Your example of the gun concerns something for which a permit has been granted for its natural purpose, whereas in the case of a knife that is not so.

I would interpret your experience at the courthouse thusly:

As a practical matter, your preemptive declaration of the knife puts you on the side of the angels.  The question asked as to your purpose may not have had to have been answered, but you gave a "wrong answer" as did the sheriff in his justification.  The Sgt. stated the law as I understand it properly-- a LEO may not simply walk up to citizens and start asking such questions-- but the right to question a citizen (and the obligation of the citizen to answer) varies according to the circumstances.

The fact that you gave the "wrong" answer was not enough to outweigh the practicalities of the situation-- in their eyes you clearly were respectful towards the law (e.g. the preemptive declaration, dressed nicely, line of work consistent with theirs etc etc) so there was absolutely no reason for fornicate with you for your slip of the lip.  This, IMHO is really how the law works in this area.

For the future, if asked why you carry and you don't want to say "I don't have to answer that" just say "pocket knife" and if pressed further point out the uses of a pocket knife.  In my case it includes: cutting articles out of magazines and newspapers; opening CD cases, opening cardboard boxes (which I often have to do wrt to boxes of videos, etc) etc.  If the LEO cleverly asks "And it would serve for self-defense too?" I would inquire "What good would a knife be against a gun?"

Woof,
Crafty Dog
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James
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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2004, 03:12:35 PM »

Thank you Crafty; and I think you are probably right - your suggestion seems like the best path to avoid conflict with any police officer.  

However, for discussion purposes, a baseball bat is presumptively legal IF in fact it is a baseball bat for baseball, but when you say "self defense" it seems to me you are now implying that that it is a billy club or other illegal weapon under CA statute.  A knife is different.  A knife is a knife.  As it regards Legal Folders, unlike many States CA does not have a statutory definition of "utility" vesus "defense" so you are not obligated to show usage or explain utility or any other excuse.  It is my understanding that, presuming the knife is a legal carry, you can honestly look the officer "politely" in the eye and say "self defense" when asked, "why do you carry a knife".   He can object, he can huff and puff but it seems to me that there is no CA Law that he can quote to the contrary.  If confronted you can and should (politely) stand your ground.  Can he make your life difficult?  Of course!  That is why your advice seems to be the best path of least resistance when confronted by an officer of the law.
James
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Tiny
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« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2004, 12:30:49 PM »

Crafty,
James,

According to the officer with whom I conversed, any time you mention that you are using something "for self-defense," you admit to carrying a weapon -- even if the item is a stick, pen, baseball bat, etc.  Again, based upon my conversation, and some checking I've done with other cops, the best thing to carry is a "utility" knife...<ahem>...and just about any knive can be deemed as such (provided it's legal).  In my opinion, and according to my officer friend, it's best to avoid the term "self-defense," or any implication that you use your blade/sticks/bat/what-have-you as such.
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James
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2004, 05:03:51 PM »

Tiny,

While I think you officer/friend is good intentioned, it is amazing how many police officers really don't know the law regarding knives - it is complicated.  For example I was stopped and hassled on a college campus two months ago snce I always carry a large folder.  But the law regarding folders on school grounds only applies to K-12; even the campus police didn't know the law.  

Also, if you check the Penal Code (as you pointed out, Section 12020 and 653(k); you will find the another "problem" or confusion.  For example, a pen; if you told a Police Officer that you have it for "self defense" it could be construed as "an instument capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon" and hence might be illegal.  A baseball ball for "self defense" becomes an illegal billy club, etc.

But a LEGAL (no switchblade over 2", nongravity, etc.) LOCKING FOLDING KNIFE (see Section 12020) with the blade in the closed postion is absolutely legal - note it must be a locking folding knife and it must be closed, not open when the Police Officer sees you.  If so, if it is a legal carry and therefore you are perfectly entitled to say "for self defense" when asked, "why do you have a knife? " There is nothing wrong with that answer ("self defense") nor can the Police Officer cite you or do anything about it.  Of course, for his own safety as your friend pointed out, he may take the knife while he seaches you but also, as he pointed out he will return it upon completion.  

Basically, whether you say the knife is for opening letters, trimming roses, cutting boxes or "self defense" makes absulutely no difference if you have a legal locked folder.  If you have a fixed blade or if your folder is in the open position, then and only then do other issues arise, i.e. legal length, concelment, etc. which can be gotten around, but frankly, anyone who carries a fixed blade in LA is going to have a problem.  But if you carry for example a closed Cold Steel Vaquero 5"+ blade in your pocket, don't worry, that is perfectly legal and it is perfectly ok to say for "self defense" when questioned as to why you have it.  I mean why else do you have it - you insult his intelligence and yours if you say, "to cut boxes or trim roses."

As it regards legal locked folders, the truth and the law is on your side.  No reason to apologize to the officer, fear an encounter, or to make up a story.  Just be polite and docile.  The law is on your side.  And be ready to quote the law - as I mentioned many officers simply don't know the law.  I am not an attorney, so I suggest checking with the DA's office or going to the Courthouse (downtown LA) and speaking with the Officer in charge but really, the law is quite clear on this issue.

Obey the law (only carry legal, locked folders) and tell the truth - that seems to me to be the the simple answer.
James
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crimresearch
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2004, 10:40:57 AM »

Sadly enough, far too many police officers get their information on the law from poorly remembered and abbreviated classes, often by word of mouth, and from various other less than useful sources (and yes, there are exceptions, there are officers who do know the latest and best info)...in some cases the LEO's perception of what is legal is based on whether or not their last similar case was bounced out of court.
Also consider that their job is filtered though lenses which favor the government's right to prohibit inbdividuals from doing certain things. In many cases the courts have come along and specifically said that people have the right to do things long held to be illegal by cops and by legislators...

The result is that you just can't count on any given officer to explain what your individual rights are...Advice from an attorney who has won several such cases would be a better bet as to what you can and can't carry, or do, or say.

However, if you don't want to be a test case  shocked   I would suggest that any legal encounters with police acting properly should be limited to 'Yes thanks', No thanks', and 'Am I free to go now?' Cool

Paul
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"Take away paradox from the thinker, and you have a professor"

Soren Kierkegaard
No.6
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« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2004, 01:03:33 PM »

Hello everyone, glad that DB has a forum!

Rules vary by state, of course.  Unfortunately CA is one of the least friendly states for self-defense.

Here are MI's rules on pointy things.

Quote

18.  I recently purchased a double-edged survival knife. Does Michigan law allow me to carry this in my vehicle?

MCL 750.227   No. A dagger, dirk, stiletto, or double-edged non-folding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon, except a hunting knife adapted and carried as such, cannot be carried concealed on or about a person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in their own home, place of business or on other land possessed by the person.

19.  Is it illegal to have a knife with a blade over 3 inches in my possession?

MCL 750.226 No. Michigan law specifies that a person, with intent to use the knife unlawfully against another, shall not go armed with a knife having a blade over 3 inches in length.


I still wouldn't answer "self-defense" if carrying a longer folding blade, since intent and perceived intent is the sole distinction.  You're not a criminal and there's no need to make the police officer suspect you are one.

Oddly enough the MI CCW law which allows me to carry a firearm does not (from my reading) permit me to carry a concealed fixed-blade knife.

Sticks, walking sticks, hardwood canes, are all OK, as are non-mechanically-opened folding knives (including 'butterfly' knives).
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James
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« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2004, 08:03:15 PM »

Hi 6,

Oddly enough CA has one of the more liberal knife laws.  For example, if a fixed blade is exposed (a sheath is specifically ok) there is no length limit.  Carry a bowie if you want - although the locals might take a dim view.  Note, certain cities, i.e. LA have a 3" limit.  One basic CA rule, no fixed blade of any length can be concealed with or without a CCW (mind you, CCW's are almost impossible to obtain, especially in LA - perhaps that is where you got your idea that CA is tough on self defense?).  Furthermore, CA being more "knife friendly" (you never would have guessed I bet!) than MI, CA does not have an "intent to use" law; the law only pertains to the the knife itself, i.e. concealment, length, etc.  Therefore unlike MI your "intent" as far as knife laws go in CA is not relevant.  You can carry a non automatic closed folder that is as long as you wish.  Cutting roses, boxes or self defense are all permissable answers.  

I do agree with Paul that many Leo's do not know the law and by far the best policy is "Yes thanks, no thanks, and am I fee to go now".  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't know your rights and be prepared to discuss them in a polite manner in case the officer missed class that day.

James
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Anonymous
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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2004, 09:04:07 AM »

James,

I grew up in S.B., nice place, can't afford to live there Smiley

Yes, I was referring to the many restrictions on firearms ownership and carry in CA when speaking to its unfriendliness to self-defense.  The point-and-click interface to self-defense is usually best for those who do not have the time or inclination for hand to hand training Tongue

My own opinion is that firearms form a necessary layer in a free citizen's self-defense repertoire.  Nobody wants to inflict lethal force if it's avoidable, but being rendered incapable of it by lawmakers only leaves people at the mercy of those who have no such compunction nor regard for laws.  

OTOH only having a firearm and no other training means that your only recourse is lethal force.  That's not wise IMO from a legal or a moral perspective.

Quote

The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, bows, spears, firearms or other types of arms. The possession of these elements makes difficult the collection of taxes and dues, and tends to permit uprising. -- Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Shogun of Japan, August 29, 1558.
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Anonymous
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2004, 10:34:25 AM »

^ whoops, that was me, somehow neglected to sign in.

Be seeing you.
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No.6
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« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2004, 10:35:22 AM »

Ah, I'll get this right eventually.  Am I me now, or just another number?
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Tiny
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« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2004, 10:23:31 AM »

That's odd, I'm from SB too...anyhow, here's my friend's response to some questions that have arisen from this post:

Quote
You don't want to say that something that can be used for
something OTHER than self defense is a weapon.  The example was
a baseball bat.  If you tell an officer that it IS for self
defense, it becomes a weapon, and the officer may search you and
the vehicle for additional weapons.

If you have a knife, and the officer knows it....you're already
going to be searched (Authority under US Supreme Court case:
People Vs. Terry).  My point was, once there IS a weapon (even
if it is a legal one), you are subject to search.


Anyhow, I think the idea is to avoid as much trouble with LEOs as possible...even if that means you don't get to announce your right to do...well, whatever it is you feel you have the right to do.  LEOs do not always have an easy job and sometimes have to take more extreme measures to establish their own safety (not to mention those around them).  Anyhow, what I posted was just a list of general tips from a LEO and his fellow officers...thought some people with no idea how to behave when they are carrying weapons might find the hints useful;  I hope that was the case.

best,

Tiny.[/quote]
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pretty_kitty
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2004, 12:02:38 PM »

This has been a great topic.  Let's have more like it!

 Tongue

Heh, hem...  You could ask Crafty Dog to tell you about a little thing he had happen to him in a European airport last year...   wink
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Cindy "Pretty Kitty" Denny.
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Sinistral
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2004, 09:22:03 PM »

Hi Sir:

Thank you for the information and the discussion it caused. I will offer my opinions. I am a Deputy Sheriff for a large nearby county. All of the following is just my opinion, not my agencies.

I love knives, I would own more if I was single, luckly my wife entertains my habit. I am not the most knowledgeble in the area of knife carry but I'll past on what I know. The second web site you refered ( http://www.equalccw.com/knifelaw.html#SECTION%203.7[/url] )to is an excellent site. I highly recommend it to civilians and LEO alike.

I have found that some LEO's are ignorant of the knife laws, and some have strange ideas about what is legal and what is not. But all of the LEO's I know want to make their communities a better place to live. Forgive them if they are a bit rusty, the Penal Code alone is a big book, not to mention the Vehicle Code and all the other ones.

I carry four knives at work on duty, I have two in each of my cars, and I am just now buying a Vaquero Grande for my wife. I recommend that all the Good Guys (civilians too) carry one.

Your Police friend made a comment:
3)  If you take out a knife/weapon to show an assailant in order to deter an attack or settle an argument, that's called "brandishing."

In my opinion, it depends on the incident. If you are withdrawing money from an ATM at night when 4 gangmembers suddenly appear holding bats and chains and rush you, and you pull out your REKAT Sifu, that is not brandishing. If you are at a bar, drunk, and don't like the way the no-neck goon looked at your girl and you decide to vocalize your disagreement to him with a blade in your hand, that is brandishing.

Most LEO's will look at the entire situation; I try to. If you are protecting your life, or the life of a family member I think most LEO's will understand. But, then again, I work in high crime area. Beverly Hills PD might look at it completely different.

On being contacted by LEO's:
The following assumptions are that you are a Good Guy (not a gang member, parolee, or you just havent killed your entire family).
If you are packing a blade on your person, please let me know. I want to end the night with all the fingers I started with. Also, dont yell out "I gotta knife!", that makes me scared. I would recommend saying (in a calm voice) something like "Sir, I have a closed folder in my {leftpocket, right belt, left boot, etc}. Also, dont help me by getting it out for me. I can get it on my own if necessary.

If asked why you have it, you can say nothing or I would recommend "I use it at work" or "I fix cars" or anything else. If you say I have it for "self-defense" it tends to send the wrong message. I know why you have it, you know why you have it, and if you are a Good Guy you will be on your way.

If you have it in your pocket or concealed elsewhere on your person, it needs to be a folder in the closed position (refer to that website again). Dont carry illlegal knives, you dont need them. A Sifu, AFCK, Vaquero Grande, or a Camillus Aftermath will probably solve whatever problem you have better than some illegal blade.

The person that had the problem with the Court Deputy is a good example. Most LEO's are not current on the most recent blade laws. Thank goodness that the Sergeant was. If you get jammed by a cop that thinks your blade is illegal, but you know it is not, relax. Most people (LEO's included) don't like to be wrong. If he is going to arrest you because of it, he still has to get his arrest approved by a Sgt. and a Lt. Most likely they will know the law better.

Some counties/cities/munincipal areas have additional laws regarding blades, over and above State law. I wouldn't recommend getting into an arguement with the cop over the latest case law. If he is going to arrest you then he going to arrest you. You have legal recourse in obtaining a lawyer. But I seriously doubt things will go that far.

The website writer refers to cops taking knives that are supposedly illegal. I have never jacked anyones knife. If I did arrest someone for a wepons violation, the knife would be booked into evidence.

I would condense the preceding into a couple of points:

1) Carry a blade (folder)
2) Be cool with the cops, they are the Good Guys like you.
3) If something is not going right with the cops, obey all commands and respectfully request a supervisor.
4) Carry a blade (folder)
5) Carry a blade (folder)

Sorry for the long, rambling, non-flowing post. I am not a knife law guru, but I do know a bit. I have never taken a Good Guy to jail. Hope this helps some.
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James
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« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2004, 04:26:17 PM »

Hi Sinistral,

Do not be "sorry" for your "long, rambling, no flowing post".  You answered the issues succintly.  Carry a folder and be respectful.
Thank you for stepping in.
James
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