Friday, September 14, 2007

Concealed weapon convictions reversed

A box cutter is not a weapon and a pistol is no longer “about the person” if its owner immediately moves away from it after placing it in a car console, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled today in reversing two convictions for carrying a concealed weapon after having been convicted of a felony.

The box cutter case, Harris v. Commonwealth, reversed Obanion v. Commonwealth, a 2000 opinion from the Virginia Court of Appeals. Although the box cutter in question contained two razor blades and a razor is listed as a weapon that can be concealed, “the item must be designed for fighting purposes or commonly understood to be a ‘weapon’ ” before it will support a conviction, the court said.

In Pruitt v. Commonwealth, the court distinguished the defendant’s actions from those in which the suspect had a weapon in a saddlebag and a purse. “[T]he weapon is not as readily accessible,” the court said.

In another criminal case, Anderson v. Commonwealth, the court rejected a challenge to Virginia Code § 19.2-310.2:1, which requires the collection of a DNA sample after the arrest of a defendant for specific offenses. The collection is analogous to the taking of fingerprints and does not implicate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, the court said.

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