Dangerous Weapon Possession
There are a few main types of weapons that fall under this statute, which is section 4-101 of the Maryland criminal code. Upon conviction a defendant faces up to three years in jail and a fine of $1,000, but unlike the handgun laws there are no minimum mandatory sentences. Knives are clearly the most common type of weapon for this charge, and they are also the source of the most confusion. To be precise, the law only prohibits switchblades, star knives, bowie knives, and dirk knives but few people and police officers actually know the exact differences between each. A switchblade or automatic knife typically has a button that deploys the blade, while dirk and bowie knives do not have any type of buttons or folding mechanisms. Star knives are also called throwing stars, and are rare but widely recognized from various ninja movies. Penknives, which include pocketknives and non-automatic folding knives are the most common type of knife regularly owned and carried, are not illegal under this statute. But just because they are legal does not mean a cop will look the other way if he or she finds one. Penknives are often the root of many unlawful weapons arrests, and these cases require skilled representation in order to assure their dismissal.
To the surprise of many, Mace and other types of pepper spray are also included in the dangerous weapons statute. The law provides a defense against this particular violation, but sadly needing to use a defense means that and arrest was made or citation issued. A cop typically will not initiate charges for someone carrying a small cased pepper spray on a key chain or in a pocketbook, but it does happen, and there is no guarantee that the case will be dismissed or dropped before court. Various types of clubs and less common things like nunchaku are also prohibited under 4-101.
Dangerous weapon charges are also common in Ocean City where we have seen numerous wrongful arrests. Inexperienced police officers could easily arrest a person under the municipal ordinance that makes possession of an assisted opening knife illegal, when in fact the weapon is a legal penknife. Ocean City law prohibits possession of other martial arts weapons under division 2 section 58-121 of the city code such as metal knuckles (commonly called brass knuckles), batons and butterfly knives. A violation of this set of laws could land a defendant in Worcester County jail for up to 6 months, so it's important to have an experienced lawyer with you at the district or circuit court.