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COA: Switchblade ban not unconstitutional

March 24, 2009

A portion of Indiana Code that prohibits a person from owning a switchblade isn't unconstitutional as applied to a defendant and doesn't place a material burden upon the core value of the right to defend herself, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

At issue in April Lacy v. State of Indiana, No. 31A04-0810-CR-571, is whether Indiana Code Section 35-47-5-2, which defines the crime of possession of a knife with an automatic opening blade, is unconstitutional.

Lacy argued the code is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to her, and violates her right to bear arms under Article 1, Section 32 of the Indiana Constitution. The Court of Appeals passed over Lacy's argument the code is unconstitutional on its face and instead focused on whether its application in her case was unconstitutional.

Indiana courts have already held the right to bear arms is not absolute, but the state hasn't addressed the constitutionality of a statute that prohibits a specific arm. The statute in question here doesn't completely ban a class of weapons but bans only knives that automatically open or may be propelled by a device.

The Court of Appeals didn't agree with Lacy that the Oregon Supreme Court case State v. Delgado, 298 Or. 395 692 P.2d 610 (1984), was persuasive for her argument.

"In summary, we cannot say that switchblades are typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for self defense purposes. We also conclude that Ind. Code Section 35-47-5-2 is limited because it does not prohibit the possession of all knives but only knives that open automatically or 'may be propelled ... by hand pressure applied to a button, device containing gas, spring, or other device in the handle of the knife,'" wrote Judge Elaine Brown. "Based upon these conclusions, we hold that Ind. Code Section 35-47-5-2 does not place a material burden upon the core value of Lacy's right to defend herself."

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