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Can Any Object Be Considered a Deadly Weapon in a Crime?

Guns and knives may be the first items people associate with deadly weapons. New York and other U.S. states have an expansive view of what is considered a deadly weapon. A hammer, hard seltzer cans, and a pitchfork have all made national news recently.

Anyone suspected of an alleged crime in New York that involves a deadly weapon will be prosecuted at an elevated level with increased penalties.

Defining a Deadly Weapon

New York law offers definitions for deadly weapons and for dangerous instruments.

A deadly weapon is defined as “any loaded weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury, may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, dagger, billy, blackjack, plastic knuckles, or metal knuckles.”

A dangerous instrument is defined as “any instrument, article or substance, including a ‘vehicle’ as that term is defined in this section, which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.”

In terms of seriousness, dangerous instruments and deadly weapons have equal standing in New York law.

Elevated Charges When Deadly Weapons Are Involved

Using a dangerous instrument in the commission of a crime leads to more serious charges.

Assault Charges

While some assault charges are misdemeanors, the charge is elevated to a felony whenever a weapon is allegedly used. An individual suspected of causing an injury using a deadly weapon will be charged with second-degree assault, a class D felony. If that injury is serious, the charge can be increased to first-degree assault, a class B felony. An injury is considered serious when it results in long-term disfigurement, risk of death, ill health, or loss/impairment of an organ.

Consequences of a class D felony conviction include the following:

  • Between 2 and 7 years in prison (first-time offenders)
  • Fines up to $5,000, fees, and restitution up to $15,000

Consequences of a class B felony conviction include the following:

  • Between 5 and 25 years in prison (first-time offenders)
  • Fines up to $5,000, fees, and restitution up to $15,000

Robbery Charges

Robbery is another crime that becomes substantially more serious when a deadly weapon is used. Robbery is forcible stealing. The alleged suspect uses or threatens some type of physical force to take property from another.

First-degree robbery – the most serious – is charged when the force used is a dangerous instrument. This crime is a class B felony. Convictions carry a prison sentence between 5 and 25 years for first-time offenders.

Criminal Menacing Charges

Menacing can be charged when someone intentionally places or attempts to place another person in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury, or death. Menacing in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor. When a weapon or instrument is involved, the stakes go up.

A third-degree charge changes to a class A misdemeanor (second-degree menacing) when a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument (or what is believed to be one) is displayed or brandished in the commission of the crime.

Defense Against Weapon-Related Charges

The use of any object to injure or threaten to injure someone is a serious charge in New York. These augmented charges require an aggressive defense.

At Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC, we immediately begin our work to weaken the prosecutor’s case. Depending on the details of the case, possible defense strategies include arguing that the object should not be classified as dangerous or deadly, that the injuries sustained were not severe, or that the incident occurred in self-defense.

We doggedly pursue the best possible outcomes for every client.

Need criminal defense on Long Island or the New York metropolitan area? Schedule a consultation by contacting us online or calling (516) 218-5131.