Former Penn State All-American linebacker Dan Connor of the New York Giants was arrested on July 6, 2013, at Philadelphia International Airport and charged with the offense of “Prohibited Offensive Weapon,” pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908. Connor, the all time leading tackler in Penn State football’s storied history, is accused of having a switchblade, which was discovered by TSA in a x-ray machine. Prohibited Offensive Weapon is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 2.5 to five years incarceration and $10,000 fine, but most first time offenders can expect a sentence of probation, or they may even be accepted into a first time offenders program such as ARD, which allows defendants to avoid a criminal conviction.
What constitutes a prohibited offensive weapon varies from state to state. Prohibited offensive weapons in Pennsylvania include switchblades, brass knuckles, stun guns, tasers, and police batons (blackjacks). Certain firearms are also banned, such as machine guns, sawed off shot guns with a barrel of less than 18 inches, and firearms either equipped with a silencer or specially modified or adapted for concealment. Grenades and bombs are also covered by the prohibited offensive weapons statute.
I have represented my share of people charged with prohibited offensive weapons over the years, and one common thread among all of these clients is that most of them did not know the weapon was illegal under Pennsylvania law. It is easy to see how people could make such an honest mistake. In every prohibited offensive weapons case I ever had, the client purchased the weapon in question either in a store, at a carnival or on the Internet. Thus, these clients logically concluded that if a vendor is selling these weapons, then they must be legal. Also, everyone knows that the right to bare arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. If guns ownership is protected by the United States Constitution, one would logically conclude that a far less powerful weapon like a police baton or switch blade would have to be constitutionally protected as well.
I strongly suspect that Dan Connor had absolutely no clue that possessing a switchblade is illegal in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, he would not have tried to take it through an airport. Obviously, Connor can afford to hire one of Philadelphia’s elite criminal defense attorneys, of which there are quite a few. Hopefully, Connor’s lawyer will achieve a good result for him.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney, Penn State alumnus and avid football fan in State College, Pennsylvania. He limits his practice to criminal law. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/