Is it Illegal for a Student to Have a Pocket Knife on School Property?

In Florida, the laws regarding weapons, violence and threats of violence at school have become much more strict over the last several years. Every now and then, there will be a news story of a child getting arrested or suspended for seemingly harmless conduct. In a recent criminal case south of Jacksonville, Florida, a child was arrested after the school principal found a pocket knife with a 3 3/4 inch blade in his pocket. Under Florida law, it is illegal for a student to possess a firearm or any other kind of weapon at school, on the school bus or at any school-sponsored event. A violation of this statute is a felony. The ramifications of a student getting a felony conviction, or adjudication, at a young age for such a violation are obvious.

The question, of course, is: what is considered a weapon? The criminal statute clearly indicates that box cutters and razor blades are not allowed unless otherwise permitted by the school. However, what about pocket knives, which are fairly common possessions of young kids? Florida law does define the term “weapon” by giving some examples of weapons and also says that any knife is a weapon except common pocket knives, blunt table knives and plastic knives. For some reason, in the case cited above, the principal, the police, the state attorney’s office and even the judge all thought the child’s possession of a 3 3/4 inch pocket knife was serious enough to convict the kid of a felony charge (a conviction is actually referred to as an adjudication when juveniles are involved). Fortunately, the appellate court read the statute and reversed the child’s conviction by finding that the 3 3/4 inch pocket knife was a common pocket knife which is not considered a “weapon” under the Florida criminal statute, and the case was dismissed.

Of course, a school has a right to ban such items from school grounds, however possessing a common pocket knife cannot be the basis of a felony crime in Florida.

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