Legal challenege to a Zero Tolerance school situation


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CAS700850
April 9, 2008, 05:13 PM
I've read enough posts around here about zero tolerance policies at school that I thought this case would be of interest to many of you.

http://www.ohio.com/news/16621346.html

Here's the issue in a nutshell. Kid caught with pocket knife at school. Charged with felony charge of Illegal Conveyance of a Dealdy Weapon into a School Safety Zone. Ohio Revised Code section 2923.122. Under Ohio law, an object is deemed a "Deadly weapon" is it is (1) capable of causing death and (2) is designed, used as, or carried as a weapon. In teh case, the claim is that he just had a "boy scout" knife in his pocket, and that he did not use or carry it as a weapon, and it is clearly not designed as a weapon. Therefore, it is not a deadly weapon. This argument failed at the trial court and Court of Appeals (don't ask me why, I'm still reading into it.) The case is headed to the Ohio Ssupreme COurt on the issue.

This may be of concern for you all for two reassons. First, it is a significant challenge to the zero tolerance rules we've beaten about around here for some time. Second, it could well impact the very definition of deadly weapon in Ohio. On one hand, if the Supreme Court finds that the conviction is solid, they may well be ruling that all knives are deadly weapons, which would make all of us subject to CCW and other charges just for dropping a Swiss Army Knife in our pocket. On the other hand, if they throw out the conviction, it may well throw out some of the zero tolerance crap we've been reading about.

Personally, and professionally (I am a lawyer in real life ), I find the law to be common sense as it is on the books now. Carrying a tool in your pocket is not a crime unless and until you use it as a weapon. On the other hand, if you've got a trench knife tucked in your belt, it probably ain't for cutting apples. My concern is if the Supreme Court tosses the definition for some reason, the legislators will come up with something even worse, like a blade length law or something else that will determine deadly weapon status beased upon appearances.

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lance22
April 9, 2008, 05:22 PM
I'm surprised they didn't call SWAT and the National Guard when they found out he had a boyscout knife in his pocket. They didn't lock down every school within 20 miles to deal with this threat? Where was the bomb squad while all this happened? I'm sure if they search the boy's home they can find wires in his garage, nitrates inside of a bag called 'fertilizer', and a cell phone which of course is a detonation device. Sounds like they can hand him over to the department of Homeland Security for prompt execution.

I'm sure when the knife was confiscated and it's mighty 1 1/2 inch blade displayed with theatric flair [cameras rolling] that some of the more progressive school teachers soiled themselves and fainted in horror that such a thing would be within a mile of a school-ground, much less found within the hallowed halls of academia.

Boyscout knives ... only the government should be allowed to possess such dangerous weapons.

brighamr
April 9, 2008, 06:32 PM
zero tolerance = zero common sense


Doesn't matter what the policy's for, it's just an excuse for people to have black/white and no grey

mekender
April 9, 2008, 07:24 PM
see here in NC, folding knives with blades under 3" are not considered weapons under state law...

mp510
April 9, 2008, 07:44 PM
Therefore, it is not a deadly weapon. This argument failed at the trial court and Court of Appeals (don't ask me why, I'm still reading into it.) The case is headed to the Ohio Ssupreme COurt on the issue.
There was a similar type case in MN several years ago.

Since I presume you also have access, Westlaw search In re the Welfare of CRM

In short, school officials were searching jackets for contrban, and found a 4" folding knife in one of the jackets. They confronted the students in the class, inquired on who's jacket it was. CRM came forward, admitted it was his jacket, and that he forgot the knife in his jacket after using it for whittling over the weekend. Anoka PD charged him with felony posession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds, despite MN law not establishing a clear definition of whether the knife would be a dangerous weapon by definition.

He made a successful (the case was remanded to the court of original jurisdiction) appeal to the MN Supreme Court. Interestingly, his contention was not that the knife was not a dangerous weapon, nor did his atty claim that the search was unconstitutional (if the situation was exactly as written in the case background, it is on thin ice to say the least). Rather, he made a mens rea argument that since he was not knowingly carrying a dangerous weapon, as he forgot that it was in the jacket. He also contended whether or not the statute was necesarily one of strict liability.

Whilethe case was not specifically addressing the weapon, the court did make an interesting comment about it when they wrote in the ruling
Thus we conclude that in light of our jurisprudential history requiring clear legislative intent to dispense with proof of mens rea and our heightened concern when it relates to felony level crimes, and because we believe the nature of the weapon here-a knife-was not so inherently dangerous that appellant should be on notice that mere possession would be a crime, respondent was required to prove that appellant knew he possessed the knife on school property as an element of the section 609.66, subd. 1d, offense charged.

txgho1911
April 9, 2008, 09:03 PM
Could the lower courts have this case in mind to correct the application of policy accross the state?

rocinante
April 9, 2008, 10:30 PM
As a parent this stuff scares me. When I was a kid EVERY boy carried a pen knife. Maybe it was country but a knife was damn handy. Ever try to gnaw hay bale twine with your teeth? Me neither I had a knife. Even today in town they are useful. Since the chinese came up with that stupendous plastic packaging I carry a pen knife just to get into stuff. Never mind the dull pencil .

Part of me can't blame the schools. Everyone is so ready to sue and try to cash a check on any pretense it has everyone spooked. Maybe we have finally entered an orwellian world where common sense is not to have any.

I took my kid to an appleseed shoot last weekend and we got really nice t-shirts with a minuteman with a rifle on it. All kind of AMERICAN principled quotes on it. Will I let him wear it at school. Not on your life. He knows he is a member of a sects. He knows a few kids with common interest and they whisper.

The world is nuts and it has common sense on the run.

FTA84
April 9, 2008, 10:40 PM
Part of me can't blame the schools. Everyone is so ready to sue and try to cash a check on any pretense it has everyone spooked. Maybe we have finally entered an orwellian world where common sense is not to have any.


I think that this is the main cause for the situation in the country. For every 200 people, there is at least one, that would rather have their rights violated (or be discriminated against, ect, ect) in order to get a free piece of the pie than for there to never have been a violation.

A school, a business, a legislator, ect. has to constantly inconvience and upset 200 people so that 1 person doesn't sue them blind.

Rights violations / accidents / misfortunes / abuses have become the new lottery over the last 20 years. Anytime there is a hint of one, people are looking to exploit their winning ticket.

CAS700850
April 10, 2008, 10:34 AM
Could the lower courts have this case in mind to correct the application of policy accross the state?

Highly unlikely. If they had wanted to make an example of the policy, it would have made more sense to rule against a conviction, finding that the law in question did not make the boys actions illegal, and then comment that the zero tolerance policy is wrong.

Henry Bowman
April 10, 2008, 11:32 AM
There is a big difference between school rules and discipline on one hand and a felony charge (without proof of intent) on the other. I wish I could have more faith in the Ohio Supreme court doing the right thing on this case.

ScottsGT
April 10, 2008, 12:01 PM
I work on a college campus and carry a Kershaw Ken Onion Whirlwind. State law says nothing over 1 1/2" blade (if memore serves me correctly) on a campus. Sorry, but this is a TOOL I use in my everyday work. I'm hanging off the top of an 8' ladder trimming a ceiling tile, and I'm not going to try and grip a knife that small. As a matter of fact, working at the campus PD, I whipped it out and flipped it open in switchblade fashion right in front of the guys, and all I got was "Cool knife".

CAS700850
April 10, 2008, 01:43 PM
Henry, you are absolutely correct. State law and school rules are truly apples and oranges. But, as you said, hope for the Ohio Supreme Court to do the right thing is low. Speaking attorney to attorney, my hope is that they strictly interpret the statute, and in so doing require that the State prove the "designed as, used as, or carried as a weapon" for knives. It's just one of the few examples of Ohio law where I've seen common sense practically applied. My concern is that they may hold something stupid like "all knives are designed as potential weapons" or something similar. Even worse, the could create a rebuttable presumption that a knife is a weapon, and put the onus on the defendant to prove the knife is just a tool.

This could be good, or very , very bad.

svtruth
April 10, 2008, 02:41 PM
I carried a knife every day, and it was a Quaker school. Of course I graduated in 1965, when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth.

CAS700850
April 10, 2008, 03:07 PM
I graduated in 1987, and also carried a swis army knife in my pocket every day. Teachers often borrowed it.

that was before I'd every heard of a place called Columbine...

rtroha
April 10, 2008, 03:25 PM
If you want to see something scary, watch yesterday's oral arguments in the Ohioans for Concealed Carry vs City of Clyde case which is before the Ohio Supreme Court.

http://www.ollserver.state.oh.us/ramgen/court/2008/2007-0960.rm

ctdonath
April 10, 2008, 05:04 PM
Summary of scariness?

rtroha
April 11, 2008, 12:18 PM
Summary of scariness?

This case revolves around Clyde passing a city ordinance forbidding CCW in its city park which violates Ohio's preemption law. There were lots of questions from the Justices indicating a high level of cluelessness on the subject of CCW and gun ownership.

"Why would anyone want to carry a gun in a park?"

"Why would people carrying guns have any problem obeying a multiplicity of disparate local city anti-gun laws? They have no problem obeying various speed limits as they go from city to city."

I'm paraphrasing from memory but those are the types of questions they asked.

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