When is an Item Common Enough to be used as Criminal Defense? Part Three

Question: Is a visible construction tool probable cause for an arrest?

In United States v. Irizarry, 509 F. Supp. 2d 198, 209 (E.D.N.Y. 2007), a police officer saw the defendant walking with a metal instrument clipped to his pants. He believed it was a type of gravity knife and stopped him. When questioned about it, the defendant explained that he used it to cut sheet rock at his job. Unsatisfied with the response, the officer put him under arrest. During the pat down he found a loaded revolver.

At the suppression hearing, the defendant testified that the cutting tool was a utility knife, i.e., a Husky Sure-Grip Folding Knife, which he had bought two years earlier for his work using the company credit card. A store manager from Home Depot took the stand to describe the nature and uses of the tool, which were intended for contractors to cut sheet rock, carpeting, etc. He also indicated that it was “a top selling product,” and they sold more than 50,000 a year. An expert and owner of a cutlery factory reported that the same type of utility knife was sold under different brand names, and the manufacturer of this one sold over 1.7 million in 2006.

Ultimately, the issue became whether possession of a Husky knife was sufficient for probable cause to arrest the defendant. Judge Jack B. Weinstein held that it was not and concluded: “The widespread and lawful presence of an item in society undercuts the reasonableness of an officer’s belief that it represents contraband.”

In Louisiana an officer must have probable cause or a warrant based on probable cause to arrest someone.  An officer has probable cause to arrest if he believes that the person in question has committed a crime.

If you or someone you know thinks you were arrested without probable cause and charged with a crime, contact Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Carl Barkemeyer by visiting https://www.attorneycarl.com.

Source: www.law.com, “The Commonality of Technology as Defense,” November 28, 2011.