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What Constitutes a Deadly Weapon? | LegalMatch Law Library

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What Constitutes a Deadly Weapon?

In criminal law, the term, “deadly weapon” refers to a firearm, or any other object that is used or intended to be used in such a way that it could cause death or serious injury to another human being. 

Legally, the term is much broader than what most people think. For instance, defendants who have been found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon have acted in the following manner:

  • Attacking someone with a bat or other athletic gear
  • Wielding a knife at someone, intending to injure her
  • Aiming a gun at someone’s head and threatening to pull the trigger
  • Purposely using a vehicle to hit another driver or pedestrian
  • Running after a person with an ax

What Types of Weapons Are Considered to Be Deadly Weapons?

In addition to guns and knives, other items can be used as deadly weapons. A few examples include: broken bottles, dogs, power tools, gardening tools, blunt objects, boats, and any motorized vehicles.

There is a reason why the law is broad, and that is to avoid any loopholes in determining what constitutes a deadly weapon. Basically, anything that can lead to great bodily injury and/or death is punishable in a court of law.

Can a Person’s Hands, Feet, or Teeth Be Used as Deadly Weapons?

In some states, a person’s hands, feet, and teeth may all be used as deadly weapons. Though the human body itself is not a deadly weapon, it can certainly be used to cause another person great bodily injury or death.

Other states such as California define a deadly weapon as an object that is external to the human body. However, California also has a clause that states “any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury,” which would warrant an assault with a deadly weapon charge. If someone attacks a person by choking, kicking, or punching, he could face assault with a deadly weapon.

Can a Vehicle Constitute a Deadly Weapon?

Yes, a vehicle is considered a deadly weapon in cases where the driver intended to hit another driver or pedestrian. Some driving under the influence cases are also charged as assault with a deadly weapon.

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Is Carrying a Deadly Weapon Illegal?

Depending on the state, carrying a gun may be legal if the person has a permit. Carrying concealed weapons, illegal or dangerous, can warrant serious charges. Items such as switchblade knives, brass knuckles, or machetes, are illegal to carry, amongst others.

What is Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

Assault with a deadly weapon is an aggravated form of assault that is usually charged as a felony offense. In some states, such as California, it is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the case. This aggravated assault is typically one person threatening another to cause serious harm or death.

Are Deadly Weapons the Same as Illegal Weapons?

Deadly weapons can certainly constitute illegal weapons. Items such as billyclubs, switchblades, and cane swords can cause serious injury or death. What constitutes an illegal weapon is up to the state in which you live. For example, a baseball bat is not an illegal item (typically not a weapon) but it can be considered a deadly weapon if used during the course of a crime. But a switchblade is a deadly weapon and illegal in several states.

Should I Contact an Attorney If I Am Facing a Deadly Weapon Charge?

If you are facing a deadly weapon charge, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, provide guidance in the legal process, and represent your best interests in court. A deadly weapon charge is serious, speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

Photo of page author Sarah Tipton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-13-2018 11:01 AM PDT

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