Under state and federal criminal laws, the term “deadly weapon” refers to firearms, as well as any instrument that is specifically designed and produced for the purpose of inflicting serious injury or death. The term may include:
- Various types of knives
- Billy clubs
- Bludgeons and nunchaku
- Brass knuckles
There may be some variation with deadly weapon laws from region to region. For the most part, the basic idea is the same- any instrument that’s created for the purpose of killing or causing serious physical harm can be considered a deadly weapon. Deadly weapons often require a license in order to own or carry them.
In addition, normal, everyday items can be classified as deadly weapons. This all depends on the way that the item is used. For example, if a pair of scissors is used to inflict serious harm on another person, the scissors may then be considered a deadly weapon, even though they weren’t designed for that purpose.
Other examples of everyday items that are often used as deadly weapons may include:
- Sports gear like baseball bats or golf clubs
- Sticks or branches
- Chains or other metal items
- Sharp implements like shaving razors or even pencils
- Items that can be thrown
Some jurisdictions even consider pet such as a dog as a deadly weapon, depending on the circumstances. For example, if the dog has been trained to attack on command, and the owner commands it to do so, the dog might be considered a deadly weapon. Also, in some areas, the hands and feet of a trained martial arts expert (like a black belt) must be registered as deadly weapons.
When it comes to self-defense laws, the general rule is that you can only use deadly force if deadly force is used against you first. For example, if someone fires a gun at you, you will likely be entitled to defend yourself with a gun or other type of deadly weapon.
On the other hand, if a person attacks you with only their fists, you probably can’t use a deadly weapon against them. Likewise, if you have attacked someone using a deadly weapon, then most laws would allow them to defend themselves using a deadly weapon as well.
The use of a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime is known as an "aggravating factor." It can basically turn what is normally a misdemeanor charge into a felony charge. For example, assault is usually a misdemeanor offense that results in small criminal fines and jail time of up to one year.
However, if a deadly weapon is used in the assault, the charges become "aggravated assault," which is a felony charge resulting in higher fines and prison time of greater than one year. The use of a deadly weapon is common in many other types of crimes, such as battery, car-jacking, shoplifting, and many types of theft crimes.
Deadly weapons laws can greatly affect a person’s rights with regards to the use, possession, and ownership of certain items. If you need assistance with deadly weapons laws, or are facing criminal charges, you should speak with an attorney immediately. A qualified criminal defense lawyer can help explain how the laws in your area work, and can provide you with expert representation in a court of law.