Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Law Enforcement Dirty Little Secret; The Trick Question: What Do You Have That Knife For?

Sadly, to many of our young men, and even some adults are falling for the trick question by the New Jersey traffic cop pulling over a motorist and seeing a pocket knife in the motor vehicle. 

By way of background in New Jersey it is not unlawful for anybody to have in their motor vehicle or on their person’s a pocket knife or other types of cutting instruments. For the majority of people the use of a pocket knife is essential in performing essential routine tasks such as anything from cutting fruit to opening that heavy duty shrink wrap plastic surrounding the latest item purchased in a retail store.  However, the law in New Jersey does prohibit the possession of a pocket knife or any other type of cutting instrument for an unlawful purpose.  

The traffic cop pulling you over knows the law, and they know the majority of people do not, and hence, when they are looking to make an arrest they will ask you the trick question, which sadly most people fall for. 

The question the cop will ask with that phony, kind, sympathetic face of a concerned person, although silently salivating for you to fall into the trap, will ask you: “I see you have a knife is that for self-protection?”  Or the more innocuous question, “Why do you have that knife?”  If you answer, “for protection”, 95% of the time you will be placed under arrest for possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose.  Of course, common sense will tell you that self-defense is always a defense in the right circumstances, and the use of a knife to protect yourself under the right circumstances might be a complete defense to having that knife.  But the cop in the small town with nothing to do but harass people will arrest you and charge you with that trick question.  Does this really happen in New Jersey, being a criminal defense attorney for 23-years in New Jersey I see it all the time.  Are these types of arrests really the result of the cop not knowing the law, or sadly just an excuse to lock people up without cause and justification in order to search their motor vehicle?  I do not know the answer to that question, but it happens all the time. 

This is a public service blog for the people.  This legal blog is not meant to give any particular legal advice on any given case or a legal treatise or commentary of every aspect of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.  This blog is not written to disparage honest and hardworking law enforcement officers who everyday try to do the right thing, but only those whom seem to use their power, duty and privilege to oppress, abuse and unfairly use their power to hurt the most vulnerable segment of our society with impunity. 

If you are faced with such charges you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney Vincent J. Sanzone, who has been representing people charged with crimes and disorderly person’s offenses for 23-years.

Sanzone Firm
Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
(908) 354-7006
Dated: September 17, 2013