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Illegal Possession of a Dangerous Weapon in Massachusetts

At a Massachusetts juvenile crime trial, a teenager was adjudicated delinquent for assault and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon at school. He claimed on appeal that there wasn’t enough evidence for the judge to adjudicate delinquency on the dangerous weapon charge, among other things.

The teenager was in high school. A teacher saw he’d taped pins to his fingers, and some were on his backpack. They were safety pins without hooks and with jagged edges. When the teacher asked what was on his fingers, he answered he was Edward Scissorhands. He gave her the pins at her request.

Under MGL c. 269 section 10(j), you can be convicted for carrying a firearm or other dangerous weapon on your person in school. The teenager argued that there wasn’t enough evidence that the pins should be considered a dangerous weapon. The law includes as dangerous weapons objects that are made and designed to cause great bodily injury or death or to assault or defend. In this case, there was no argument that the pins on the boy’s fingers were dangerous per se. To sustain the adjudication of delinquency, there had to be a finding that the pins were dangerous as he used them.

The appellate court reasoned that the basic question when deciding whether something is a dangerous weapon is whether, as used by the defendant, it was able to create serious bodily harm. In this case, the evidence allowed the jury to decide the teenager used or handled pins such that they could be considered dangerous weapons.

The teacher had interrupted a teenager who had pins on his fingers. Even if the pins had some potential for harm, the teenager hadn’t used them in a way that could result in apprehension of serious harm or serious harm itself. He turned the pins over when asked, and his intention was to mimic a movie character.

The Commonwealth argued that the case was similar to another case involving a defendant with a knife that had a nine-inch blade. The appellate court disagreed with this analogy, reasoning that the blade in that case was substantially bigger than the pins in this case. It also remarked that the context of the other case was that the defendant brought the knife to a meeting with a cop away from the station while being investigated for molesting a nine-year-old child. He’d followed up by trying to get the cop to go to the railroad train tracks and had kept his knife so that it could be easily used against the cop.

In this case, the teenager didn’t have a purpose for the pins other than distracting himself from school. The appellate court noted it would be a different case had the prosecutor shown any evidence he planned to use the pins as weapons. Simply possessing items with the potential to be dangerous was not enough based on the definition that an object not dangerous per se is a dangerous weapon only when utilized in a dangerous fashion.

However, the appellate court didn’t find that the teenager’s only challenge to the assault count was meritorious. The prosecutor had argued it was possible that he wouldn’t have been charged if he hadn’t misbehaved after giving up the pins. The appellate court agreed that there was evidence the teacher had considered everything fine when he gave up the pins. His misbehavior afterward was what gave rise to an assault and battery charge, and this adjudication was affirmed. The other adjudication involving the dangerous weapon charge was set aside.

If you are charged in Massachusetts with an assault crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015

Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014