In the recent case of Salt Lake City vs. Miles, the Supreme Court addressed the issues of what constitutes a dangerous weapon. Miles was a homeless man who tried to get on a light rail train with a shopping cart and was denied entrance as a result. The police were called, he became irritated and began swearing at the cops. He threatened that if he had a knife or a gun he would kill the cop. He was arrested and a search of his person and items revealed a small three inch pocket knife. He went to trial and was convicted of various crimes including possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.
The trial court advised the jury to apply the following four factors to determine whether the pocket knife was a dangerous weapon:
- The character of the instrument, object, or thing;
- The character of the wound produced, if any;
- The manner in which the instrument, object, or thing was used; and
- The other lawful purposes for which the instrument, object, or thing may be used.
On appeal the defendant argued that all four factors must be present (i.e., that the object must actually be used to cause harm) for the object to be considered a dangerous weapon, but the court disagreed and instead held that the object does not have to be used for a defendant to be convicted of possession of a dangerous weapon. The court then affirmed the jury’s finding that Miles was guilty of possession of a dangerous weapon.
Justice Davis dissented from the court’s opinion and said that he would have reversed the conviction because there was no evidence of Miles using the knife or even accessing it. Justice Davis found that the majority of the court focused too much on what Miles might have done with the knife, but that mere potentialities does not satisfy the high burden the city had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lesson for those charged with this type of crime: anything can be considered a dangerous weapon so lawyer up. Call our Utah criminal defense attorneys at 801.618.1334 for a free consultation.