By Kevin Deutsch
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office will vacate gravity knife convictions for those found guilty under a now repealed state law, Bronx Justice News has learned.
Prosecutions for possession of the work tools ended due a bill passed earlier this year by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Previously, their possession was considered class A misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to a year in prison.
Hundreds of Bronx residents were arrested and prosecuted each year under the old statute—and can now seek to have those convictions erased from their records.
“We will be vacating convictions for gravity knife possession on a case by case basis,” said Patrice O’ Shaughnessy, Director of Communications for the Bronx DA’s Office. “If there is a direct appeal or someone makes a 440 motion to vacate we will consent.”
Under the old law, police and prosecutors considered a gravity knife to be any knife in which a foldable blade locks into the handle, and could be opened with the flick of the user’s wrist—a test ruled unconstitutionally vague by a Manhattan Federal Court judge in March.
Richard Joselson, a Supervising Attorney with the Criminal Appeals Bureau at The Legal Aid Society, which routinely defended Bronx residents charged under the repealed statute, said:
“Albany spoke decisively and loudly when lawmakers repealed New York’s broken and antiquated gravity knife statute this past session. Possession of these basic work tools should never have been the basis of a criminal conviction, and now that the law has finally been repealed, district attorneys must heed the public’s message by vacating these convictions immediately.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.