New York’s highest court on Tuesday upheld a driver’s conviction for illegal possession for a gravity knife, rejecting arguments that he didn’t know the folding knife he used for work could open with a flick of the wrist.
Elliott Parrilla was pulled over for traffic and equipment violations in upper Manhattan in 2011. He told authorities the knife in his pocket was bought at a big Bronx retail store two years earlier to cut sheet rock, that he opened it only with two hands and had used it that morning to cut tile on a renovation project.
The Court of Appeals, ruling unanimously, concluded that not knowing about its illegal features doesn’t invalidate the conviction.
“The Legislature intended to impose strict liability to the extent that the defendants need only be aware of their physical possession of the knife,” Judge Michael Garcia wrote. “It is not necessary that defendants know that the knife meets the technical definition of a gravity knife under penal law.”
New York law defines a gravity knife as one whose blade is released from its handle or sheath by gravity and centrifugal force and locks into place with a button, spring lever or other device.
Parrilla, now 36, was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison because of a prior criminal conviction. The illegal weapons charge normally is a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail.
In 2010, following an agreement with New York prosecutors, the retail store stopped selling similar knives in New York, according to the court.
Corrections records show Parrilla spent almost two years in prison and was paroled in 2014.
Calls to his attorney and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office were not returned Tuesday.