This opinion will be unpublished and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: C.A.D., Child.
Stearns County District Court
File No. J70050600
Mike Hatch, Minnesota Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Michael J. Lieberg, Assistant Stearns County Attorney, 705 Courthouse Square, Administration Center, Room 448, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for appellant)
Mark D. Nyvold, Attorney at Law, 46 East Fourth Street, Suite 1030, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by G. Barry Anderson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
The state appeals from the district court’s grant of respondent C.A.D.’s motion to dismiss a charge of possession of a dangerous weapon for lack of probable cause, arguing that the buck knife respondent possessed was designed as a “dangerous weapon” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6 (2000). Because the parties stipulated that the knife was not, in this case, used nor intended to be used in a manner calculated to cause death or great bodily harm, and because the knife was not designed as a weapon, we conclude that the buck knife does not fall within the statutory definition of dangerous weapon and, therefore, affirm.
On February 28, 2000 respondent juvenile C.A.D. had a buck knife in his possession at North Junior High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota. On that day, C.A.D. fought with another student, but the fight did not involve the knife, which school authorities ultimately recovered. The knife blade is three and one-quarter inches long, single edged, and locks in the open position. The state charged respondent with possession of a dangerous weapon on school property, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a) (2000), and fifth-degree assault, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1(2) (2000).
Respondent moved to dismiss the possession charge for lack of probable cause. The parties submitted the motion to the court based on the delinquency petition, the police reports, and the knife. Both parties framed the issue as whether the knife in this case was, as a matter of law, designed as a dangerous weapon. The parties stipulated that there was no evidence that C.A.D. used or intended to use the knife in a manner calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm. The district court granted respondent’s motion, concluding that, absent evidence that the buck knife was designed, used, or intended to be used as a weapon, there was no probable cause to support the possession charge. The state appeals.
A state’s appeal from the district court’s pretrial order dismissing a charge contained in a delinquency petition for lack of probable cause presents a legal question that we review de novo. In re Welfare of C.P.W., 601 N.W.2d 204, 207 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Nov. 23, 1999). Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a) (2000) provides that whoever “possesses, stores, or keeps a dangerous weapon” on school property is guilty of a felony. Id. Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(c)(2) (2000) provides that “dangerous weapon” has the meaning given it in Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6 (2000). Whether an instrument is a dangerous weapon within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6 is a legal question that this court reviews de novo. See State v. Basting, 572 N.W.2d 281, 282 (Minn. 1997) (applying de novo standard when reviewing whether a fist constituted a dangerous weapon).
A “dangerous weapon” is defined as
any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.
Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6. In other words, there are four categories of dangerous weapons: (1) firearms; (2) devices designed as weapons and capable of producing death or great bodily harm; (3) flammable liquid or devices not designed as weapons, but in the manner in which they are used or intended to be used are likely to produce death or great bodily harm; and (4) fire. Id.; see also State v. Moss, 269 N.W.2d 732, 735 (Minn. 1978) (explaining the categories of dangerous weapons).
Ordinarily, in determining whether an object, even an inherently dangerous object, is a dangerous weapon, a court must examine not only the nature of the object itself, but also the manner in which it was used. See, e.g., State v. Coauette, 601 N.W.2d 443, 447 (Minn. App. 1999) (observing that ordinary objects can be transformed into dangerous weapons and citing examples), review denied (Minn. Dec. 14, 1999); State v. Patton, 414 N.W.2d 572, 574 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating that defendant brandished a kitchen knife in such a manner that jury could have found it was used as a dangerous weapon). But because the parties stipulated that respondent did not use or intend to use the buck knife in this case in a manner calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, the only question before us is whether, as a matter of law, the buck knife was “designed” as a weapon capable of producing death or great bodily harm within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6.
Courts give a reasonable and sensible construction to criminal statutes. State v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 916 (Minn. 1996); see also Minn. Stat. § 645.08 (2000) (words in statutes given plain and ordinary meaning). Criminal statutes must be strictly construed with all reasonable doubts concerning legislative intent resolved in favor of the defendant. State v. Wagner, 555 N.W.2d 752, 754 (Minn. App. 1996). The Minnesota Supreme Court has stated, however, that it is inclined to give the dangerous weapon statute an expansive interpretation. LaMere v. State, 278 N.W.2d 552, 555 (Minn. 1979); see also State v. Graham, 366 N.W.2d 335, 337 (Minn. App. 1985) (“[T]he definition of dangerous weapon in subdivision 6 must be expressed in flexible terms and be broad and inclusive.”)
The state argues that the buck knife is designed as a dangerous weapon because while the knife could be used for legitimate purposes principally associated with outdoor recreation, it is also capable of producing death or great bodily harm. The underlying assumption to the state’s argument is that an object is “designed” as a dangerous weapon if that is one use to which the object could be put. Were we to accept this analysis, every object or instrument capable of causing death or great bodily harm would meet the statutory definition, making the words “designed as a weapon” meaningless. See Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2000) (legislature intends to give effect to all words of a statute). Although an expansive reading of the statute is favored, we cannot reject words the legislature chose to include. Id.
The knife in this case appears to be of the type commonly sold by persons engaging in outdoor recreation and there is no evidence that it is either marketed or primarily used as a dangerous weapon. While there is no conceivable reason for this knife to be present on school grounds, this fact alone is not sufficient to allow us to conclude that the buck knife was designed as a weapon.
The state asserts that because Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(d)(6) (2000) contains an exception for knife and gun shows on school property, all knives must be included in the definition of dangerous weapons or else the exception would be superfluous. But had the legislature meant all knives to be dangerous weapons per se, it could have included the word “knives” in the statute just as it did “firearms.” In discerning legislative intent, we may look to former law on similar subjects. Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2000). A review of the predecessor statute to Minn. Stat. § 609.66 shows that the legislature abandoned an itemized list of “deadly” weapons, which included a “dirk, dagger, [or] knife,” in favor of the present definition based on design and actual or intended use. Compare Minn. Stat. § 616.41 (1961) with Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6 (2000). The amendment suggests that some knives, but not others, may fall within the ambit of Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6. Because a knife show may involve the display of both types of knives, the statutory exception for a knife show on school grounds is not superfluous.
The state next argues that one legislative purpose behind Minn. Stat. § 609.66 is to “create safer schools and to create consistent felonies for weapons in schools.” The state contends that permitting knives with blades exceeding three inches in schools undermines this purpose. But our conclusion that the buck knife in this case is not designed as a dangerous weapon is not an endorsement of knives in schools. Rather, our holding turns on the lack of probable cause. Significantly, the state did not present any evidence or argument that respondent’s possession of the knife at school is consistent only with intended use as a weapon. Instead, the state stipulated that there was no evidence to support actual or intentional use of the buck knife in a manner calculated to cause death or great bodily harm.
Having determined that the buck knife is not designed as a dangerous weapon, and absent evidence of actual or intended use as a dangerous weapon, we cannot conclude that the buck knife is a dangerous weapon within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6. Nothing in the statutory scheme prevents school districts from enacting their own policies to prohibit objects, including knives, on their premises. However, we decline to extend the statutory definition of dangerous weapon, which in turn supports a felony possession charge under Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a), beyond the scope enunciated by the Minnesota Legislature. Affirmed.
 We have recently held that, when a charge of possessing a dangerous weapon is based on a claim that the device was “designed” as a weapon, the state has the burden to submit evidence establishing that the device in question was designed as a dangerous weapon. In re the Welfare of P.W.F., __ N.W.2d __ (Minn. App. Apr. 17, 2001). The state presented no such evidence, but the absence of that evidence was not an issue in the district court proceedings.