Freddie Gray's knife could be key factor as charges challenged

Freddie Gray's knife -- and state and city law -- could be key factor as charges challenged.

Now that six Baltimore police officers have been charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, a court fight has emerged over a knife he allegedly carried.

A police report on the arrest states that Gray "fled unprovoked" and that an illegal switchblade knife was later found on him.

Gray was charged with carrying an illegal knife, but authorities have come to differing conclusions about it. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said in announcing charges against six officers that the knife was not an illegal switchblade under Maryland law. Baltimore police have said the knife violates city code.

A defense attorney for one of the officers has challenged the claim by prosecutors that Gray was falsely arrested and filed a motion demanding to inspect the knife.

The knife has not been shown to the public, so it is unclear who is right. But here's a look at the relevant state and city laws:

•Code of Maryland, Section 4-105

(a) Prohibited. A person may not sell, barter, display, or offer to sell or barter:

(1) a knife or a penknife having a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device in the handle of the knife, commonly called a switchblade knife or a switchblade penknife; or

(2) a device that is designed to propel a knife from a metal sheath by means of a high-compression ejector spring, commonly called a shooting knife.

(b) Penalty. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or a fine of not less than $50 and not exceeding $500 or both.

•Baltimore City Code, Article 19, Section 59-22 — Switch-blade knives

(a) Possession or sale, etc., prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, carry, or possess any knife with an automatic spring or other device for opening and/or closing the blade, commonly known as a switch-blade knife.

(b) Penalties. Any person violating the provisions of this section, shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $500 or be imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both, in the discretion of the court.

mpuente@baltsun.com

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