This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000)








In the Matter of the Welfare of: S.M.F., Child.



Filed January 30, 2001


Mulally, Judge*



Stearns County District Court

File No. J29951937



John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Elizabeth Winking, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)



Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and



Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, Michael Jevon Lieberg, Assistant County Attorney, 725 Courthouse Square, Box 1168, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Appellant S.M.F. challenges the juvenile court’s determination that the buck knife he brought to school was a dangerous weapon.  The trial court found that it was a dangerous weapon because of its size and locking mechanism.  We agree and affirm.



            The facts in this case are undisputed.  On September 3, 1999, appellant S.M.F. brought a buck knife to school; his father used the knife for hunting.  It was a folding knife with a locking mechanism and a blade approximately 3 7/8 inches long.  S.M.F. showed the knife to the students on the school bus.  He testified that he brought the knife to school “just for the heck of it,” and to “show some kids on the bus what I can do.”  At trial he further testified that after he showed it to other students on the bus, he wanted to return home to put it away.  S.M.F. further testified that when he was unable to return home, he waited until he reached the school and placed the buck knife in his puzzle box.  Another student told a teacher that S.M.F. had a buck knife and it was confiscated.

            S.M.F. was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon on school property in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a) (2000).  On April 14, 1999, the juvenile court denied S.M.F.’s motion to dismiss the charges and found that because of its length and locking mechanism, it was a “dangerous weapon” under the statute.  A trial was held on April 24, 2000.  The juvenile court stayed adjudication of the matter for two 90-day periods and agreed to dismiss the charge thereafter provided that S.M.F. (1) commit no further offenses, (2) continue with his treatment program, and (3) complete 20 hours of community service. 

            S.M.F. challenges the juvenile court’s determination that the knife was a “dangerous weapon.”



            The interpretation of a statute is a question of law subject to de novo review.  State v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 914 (Minn. 1996).  When interpreting a statute, this court should be guided by the natural and obvious meaning of the questioned statutory language.  State v. Newman, 538 N.W.2d 476, 477 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Nov. 30, 1995).  “In choosing between possible definitions of a statutory term, courts must accept the interpretation which is more logical and practical.”  Murphy, 545 N.W.2d at 916 (citation omitted).  Doubt as to the legislative intent of a penal statute must be resolved in favor of a defendant.  State v. Serstock, 402 N.W.2d 514, 516 (Minn. 1987).  However, strict construction does not require the narrowest possible interpretation of a statute or require a construction that would render the statute meaningless.  State v. Zacher, 504 N.W.2d 468, 473 (Minn. 1993).  Courts may also presume that the legislature did not intend an absurd result.  Minn. Stat. § 645.17(1) (2000). 

Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a) (2000), declares it a felony offense if one "possesses * * * a dangerous weapon * * * on school property."  Dangerous weapons are divided into three categories: (1) loaded and unloaded firearms, (2) any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, and (3) combustible flammable liquid or other device used or intended to be used to produce death or great bodily harm.  Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6 (2000).

The trial court concluded that the buck knife was a dangerous weapon because of its length and locking mechanism.  We agree.  When open, the blade of the buck knife locks into place and cannot be folded down without the purposeful depression of a mechanism on the handle.  In the locked position, the buck knife is no different from a switchblade.  See In re C.R.M., 611 N.W.2d 802, 805 (Minn. 2000) (stating that the intent of the legislature in enacting Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a) (2000), was to prevent possession of weapons, such as switchblades, in schools); State v. Henderson, 289 Minn. 490, 492, 185 N.W.2d 892, 894 (1971) (defendant found guilty of assaulting the victim with a dangerous weapon where he attacked the victim with a switchblade).  In this position, the buck knife does not bend.  It is capable of being used for offensive or defensive infliction of bodily harm, and becomes a dangerous weapon.  The 3 7/8-inch length of the knife further contributes to its dangerous nature.[1]  For these reasons, we conclude that the trial court did not err in concluding that the buck knife S.M.F. possessed was a dangerous weapon prohibited on school property.



*  Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Appellant notes that the Minnesota Supreme Court recently stated that a four-inch blade was “not so inherently dangerous that appellant should be on notice that mere possession would be a crime.” C.R.M., 611 N.W.2d at 810.  Therefore, appellant argues that a 3 7/8 inch blade is even less dangerous.  But in C.R.M. the Supreme Court did not address whether the knife was dangerous.  Rather, it reversed and remanded to the trial court to determine whether appellant knew he possessed the knife.