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Question for police members

Oct 3, 1998
I live in PA, where autos are illegal. At the moment, I sometimes carry a mini-UDT on the theory that it is obviously not being carried as a weapon. I'd like to carry other autos, since some knives that I like are not available as manuals.

In general, if I'm not using the knife as a weapon, do most LEO's see this as a really risky thing to be doing? (I know that you can't speak for every officer...)

Anyway, I'd be interested in what our officer members think.


I'm not an officer, but I'm sure many cops would use it against you if you were searched or pulled over. Otherwise, I don't really know, and I don't wanna find out either. -AR

- Intelligent men, unfortunately, learn from fools, more often than fools learn from intelligent men.

About a year ago, the Calif. Legislature amended Penal Code Section 12020 to state that a folded knife was not a "dirk or dagger" and hence not a felony to carry...It did nothing to Penal Code Section 653(k) which outlaws all switchblade knives with a blade length over 2 inches...At least in Calif. there is no LEO exception to 653(k).

I don't find my self being patted down frequently, or have my car searched routinely so, perhaps I have a jaded view but, how importent is this?

If your knife stays in your pocket is only used in a low profile way, why would anyone look? If you are flicking it in public, you stand a much better chance of getting hassled or thrown in jail.

I will note, that it is amazing what a polite and courteous conversation with a police officer will do for you. After all, there is a lot of discretion to how things are handled on the street in most areas (also known as selective enforcement). How many people get off a speeding ticket with a verbal warning or a no cost simple written warning - Thank you Sir! Now, shout and call them every name in the book. Tell them Nazi/liberal gun conspiracies are denying you , your second amendment rights. That you are going to sick the ACLU and every elected official you can think on them to take their badge (and job). The results now would be much different.

Police are normal people too. Treat them like you want to be treated and life is much more enjoyable. How many people can tell the difference in a manual action or double action SOCCOM anyway, especially from a distance? Think low profile and don't scare people....

I personally would not want to risk antagonizing a LEO just because I disagreed with a law and had the ability to break it. That “polite and courteous conversation with a police officer” could take an ugly turn if the individual found out that you commonly ignored the laws that it is their job to enforce, no matter what your general attitude is. For example, most police officers won’t go out of their way to make an arrest for possession of marijuana (at least not here in San Francisco) but you would still be ill-advised to be caught smoking it on a street corner. At the very least, you will have your illegal possessions taken away from you.

I don't really need an automatic knife, what with the many one handed styles of quality folders available, so have no good reason to even try to carry one. I do know of several people who do carry and use them for work, but consider it an unacceptable risk. They are endangering their liberty and livelihood through this action, and the risks hardly outweigh the benefits.

I have the utmost courtesy and respect for the men and women who have dedicated their lives to upholding the laws that govern our society, and know that any injustice within those laws can only be dealt with through the legislative and governing bodies. That is why a Medical Marijuana initiative was brought forth and passed in a general election here in California, one of the first steps in allowing its use for that purpose to clear through Federal channels.

I suggest that you spend the time and energy you might use to circumvent any law that you disagree with on actions that might actually have some effect towards changing those laws. Use your position as a citizen and a voter to effect change. Let the LEO’s do their jobs.


[This message has been edited by stjames (edited 05 June 1999).]
I'm a Police Officer in NJ, where everything fun is illegal. What we knife types refer to as an "automatic" is a "switchblade" to the rest of the world. As such, it carries with it the stigma of crime and violence. It is, of course, no more "dangerous" than any other edged tool, but most folks don't look at it that way. Do yourself a favor, and refrain from carrying anything that could get you locked up, as I fear that my peers are not quite as understanding in these matters. Your intentions won't always matter, as the item in question is prohibited, regardless of its intended purpose.

[This message has been edited by SNAPCUT (edited 05 June 1999).]
Fred: Do the benefits outweigh the consequences if you are caught? While I do not advocate its unlawful possession I would think real hard about the choices.

I'm in Santa Clara CA, no idea how our local LEOs compare to yours. However, I asked two friends who are local LEOs, both said they'd bust you for carrying an auto, weapon or not. Is carrying an auto a misdemeanor or felony in your area, and if a misdemeanor what are the possible penalties?

Just my opinion... if it is illegal to carry an auto in your area but legal to carry a comparably-sized manual one-hand-opening folder, it is beyond foolish to risk fines, jail time, felony status and possible loss of a right to own a firearm by carrying the auto. Especially when you can be carrying a manual that does the job just as well.

Your area may be different than mine though. Maybe your local cops would let you skate, who knows. If you get caught, let us know, maybe we can arrange to sell your firearms (through proper legal channels) so you can pay for your defense lawyer.

I am from N.Y. and our laws are basically pretty self explanitory.
You may not be in possession of a "swithblade" type of knife outside of your residence, unless under the following circumstances. Handicapped persons with the use of only one arm/hand, while afield( hunting), or while fishing. There is also a LEO exception. Even though I can carry an auto, most times mine are just left in my showcase. With all of the one-handers out there these days that can be deployed every bit as fast as an auto, there really is no need to carry one, especially if you are not authorized. Why take the chance?

C.O.'s-"It takes balls to work behind the walls "
Thankk you all for your input. My basic feeling has also been that it's not worth it to carry an auto with so many great manuals. It's just a shame that some interesting designs aren't produced with the manual users in mind.

Why not go for a Kershaw Ken Onion Ricochet / Random Task? Its more or less an auto but supposedly legal. Besides, its a nice knife. 440v blade and G10 scales that look and feel like micarta.
FYI, I'd take a close reading of your state's laws before carrying a Speed-Safe knife. In Massachusetts, the law states:

"...any knife having an automatic spring release device by which the blade is released from the handle..."

I agree that A) all switchblade legislation is ludicrous, and B) the Speed-Safe knife is initially released from the handle by thumb pressure... but I wouldn't care to argue the point with an officer, let alone in court. These knives are for sale in Massachusetts, and I doubt one will ever be the source of any trouble, but if there was trouble I think an officer and maybe the courts would call it an auto. See what your own laws say.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)

From what I understand about the Kersahw/Onion, and from what Ken Onion said, the Speed Safe is NOT spring activated. It works off of a cam, much the same way a compound bow ecentric cam works. Besides that , the knife is brought into action with an initial push out from your finger and not on a "button or plunger" type of release, which should make it perfectly legal, albiet every bit as fast as an auto.
If this description is wrong, maybe Ken can clear it up for us. How about it Ken?

C.O.'s-"It takes balls to work behind the walls "
I Emailed Ken Onion about this last week and he stated the following:

"Per the letter of the law no the Speed Safe is not illegal if it was we
wouldn't be selling it . Seveeral law firms and lots and lots of money has
been spent on it and no one can say it is illegal .However a plastic fork can
be illegal of used in a threatning manner . Realisticaly most liner locks are
more illegal than Speed safe because you can flick your wrist and open most
of them hence they can be classifyied as gravity or inertia knives"

So, since it is sold as a non auto I think the risk of a felony conviction is low. The only problem is dealing that dealing with the authorities is itself expensive and a punishment, even when you win.
Kinda late posting this but here goes...
I'm a Depty Sheriff in what most would call a rural county(5th largest co.in state with 20,000 residents)
I generally don't get real upset so much over the hardware as I do the attitude that comes with it. That being said, I really don't see much high end cutlery other than on other LEOs.
Mostly where our Dept sees problems is with the transient person ie, we're not familiar with them (don't know there daddy, etc), and likewise them not familiar with a hayseed Deputy. Unfamiliarity can breed contempt.
Couple this with the fact that Crank Labs are the fastest growing business in our region, and it lends one to have a real suspicious outlook towards strangers in a POOR community packing high end toys...at best it'll probably get them detained for a good while making good on an explanation.
I would probably be less inclined to hassle someone for a 1911 on their seat than a Microtech in their pocket.
I guess it is a double standard since most of my Dept carry AFOs on duty(although I carry Spyderco on my EMS job)
I'm also late on this point, but can only add that in Michigan, the only person permitted carry OR POSSESSION (no freebies in home) of an auto-knife is a one armed person. I can acquire a machinegun because I'm a police officer, but cannot have a switchblade. In Michigan, you won't find many LEOs sympathetic to your case if they catch you with an auto...even if you claim to be a "collector" (no such exemption exists here).
not an officer...but i have many friends who are....and dont know one who would hassle someone who wasnt causing trouble...but the bottom line is......IS IT WORTH THE CONSEQUENCES? THE ANSWER IS OBVIOUS....
I'm a LEO in Colorado. The following comes right out of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

18-12-101(j) "Switchblade knife" means any knife, the blade of which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other devise in its handle.

18-12-102(2)(4) "Possessing a dangerous or illegal weapon." (2)As used in this section, the term "illegal weapon" means a blackjack, gas gun, metallic knuckles, gravity knife, or switchblade knife. (4)A person who knowingly possesses an illegal weapon commits a class i misdemeanor.

18-1-106 "Misdemeanors Classified."
Class 1: Minimum sentence = six months imprisonment, or $500 fine, or both.
Maximum sentence = eighteen months imprisonment, $500 fine, or both.

I would not recommend being caught with an automatic...

I have noticed and ambiguity from my fellow enforcers, and I think I can illuminate it.

As officers we do have a great deal of discretion, what we "see" what we ignore, what we give warnings on, cite for, and arrest. We do not want to say that "if your attitude is good we will let you go for...", because it sets us up for a lawsuit. Am I ignoring that illegal pink hippo you are transporting because I don't think pink hippos are bad? Is it because I am your friend or I think you are an OK person? Each situation is unique, and we cannot give you a blanket answer because we don't know. In many areas you will not get a speeding ticket untill you are doing more than 10 mph over. If an officer says that they are basically setting themselves up to lose in court on a case where this guy needs to go to jail.

Think about this. If you get ticketed for having a tail light out, and you are given thirty days to fix it, is it legal for you to drive that car before it is fixed? Can you be ticketed again? The answer is yes. I don't know of many officers that will do it, but legally you must be, as it is a violation of law that the officer observes.

The arguement that you need to look at the cost associated with being conviced is accurate. I will not give you permission to violate the law in my area, but I will educate you in the consequences of your behavior. You do not have to know that an act is illegal, you just have to do it intentionally to be convicted.

Are you willing to bet your freedom and hard earned money that the officer that stops you will see life exactly as you do and allow you to break the law, possibly sacraficing his career?