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City of Seattle v. Montana

filed: August 1, 1996.

CITY OF SEATTLE, PETITIONER,
v.
ALBERTO MONTANA, RESPONDENT. CITY OF SEATTLE, PETITIONER, V. HENRY MCCULLOUGH, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from Superior Court, King (90-1-07612-8/91-1-06734-8) County; Honorable Brian D. Gain, Judge. Judgment Date: 9-30-93.

Talmadge, J., Dolliver, Smith, J.j., Pekelis, J.p.t., Alexander, J., (concurring by separate opinion), Madsen, Johnson, J.j., Durham, C.j., (concurring by separate opinion) Guy, J., Sanders, J., (did not participate)

Author: Talmadge

EN BANC

TALMADGE, J. -- Alberto Montana was arrested for drug traffic loitering, and a paring knife with a three-inch blade was found concealed on his person. Henry McCullough was arrested for theft. A knife with a long blade (six to nine inches) used for filleting fish was found in a sheath under his shirt. Both defendants were convicted in Seattle Municipal Court under Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 12A.14.080, which prohibits carrying a dangerous knife in Seattle. The King County Superior Court ruled SMC 12A.14.080 violated the right to bear arms in art. I, § 24 of the Washington Constitution, and reversed the convictions. Art. I, § 24 of the Washington Constitution, however, is not absolute and permits reasonable regulation of arms. We find SMC 12A.14.080 is a reasonable arms regulation and exercise of police power that is neither vague nor overbroad. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the King County Superior Court and reinstate the conviction of defendant Montana and remand defendant McCullough's case to the trial court for further proceedings.

ISSUES

1. Does SMC 12A.14.080 violate the right to bear arms in art. I, § 24 of the Washington Constitution?

2. Is SMC 12A.14.080 unconstitutionally vague or overbroad?

FACTS

In 1990, Seattle police officers arrested defendant Alberto Montana on a Seattle street. In his inside breast pocket, the officers found a small, straight-edged knife, with a fixed blade about three inches long. Montana was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with drug traffic loitering, and with unlawful use of weapons (UUW) under SMC 12A.14.080 and 12A.14.010. The jury convicted him only on the UUW charge, and he appealed.

In 1991, two security guards detained defendant Henry McCullough after seeing him steal a watch inside a Seattle hardware store. In a sheath, worn under his shirt, McCullough carried a six- to nine-inch long fish fillet knife, with duct tape for a handle. He did not contend below that he was having the knife sharpened or repaired. The jury in Seattle Municipal Court convicted McCullough of theft and UUW, and he appealed the UUW conviction. The King County Superior Court reversed both defendants' UUW convictions, holding the ordinance violated WASH. CONST., art. I, § 24, and was vague and overbroad. Seattle sought review. Division One certified the cases to this court, and we accepted transfer under RCW 2.06.030.

Discussion

A. SEATTLE'S REGULATION OF KNIVES

Seattle's Municipal Code contains a comprehensive scheme for regulating weapons generally, and knives in particular. SMC 12A.14. Seattle bans the sale, manufacture, purchase, possession, or carrying of switchblade knives. SMC 12A.14.010E; SMC 12A.14.080A. Seattle makes it unlawful for a person to carry "dangerous knives," whether concealed or unconcealed. SMC 12A.14.080B. "Dangerous knives" are defined as any "fixed-blade knife" or any other knife with a blade more than three and one-half inch in length. SMC 12A.14.010A. A "fixed-blade knife" is further defined as

any knife, regardless of blade length, with a blade which is permanently open and does not fold, retract or slide into the handle of the knife, and includes any dagger, sword, bayonet, bolo knife, hatchet, axe, straight-edged razor, or razor blade not in a package, dispenser or shaving appliance.

SMC 12A.14.010B.

Seattle also exempts certain individuals and activities from the regulation of dangerous knives:

A. A licensed hunter or licensed fisherman actively engaged in hunting and fishing activity including education and travel related thereto; or

B. Any person immediately engaged in an activity related to a lawful occupation which commonly requires the use of such knife, provided such knife is carried unconcealed; provided further that a dangerous knife carried openly in a sheath suspended from the waist of the person is not concealed within the meaning of this subsection;

C. Any person carrying such knife in a secure wrapper or in a tool box while traveling from the place of purchase, from or to a place of repair, or from or to such person's home or place of business, or in moving from one (1) place of abode or business to another, or while in such person's place of abode or fixed place of business.

SMC 12A.14.100.

Thus, under Seattle's Municipal Code, a person is banned from carrying, concealed or unconcealed, dangerous knives, although significant exceptions are established for certain recreational, work-related, and personal uses of dangerous knives. Seattle's regulatory scheme, however, does not completely ban the possession of ...


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