This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In the Matter of the Welfare of A.J.S.-D.

Filed September 15, 1998


Forsberg, Judge*

Hennepin County District Court

File No. J598052282

William E. McGee, Fourth District Public Defender, Warren R. Sagstuen, Assistant Public Defender, 317 - 2nd Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2700 (for appellant)

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.



Appellant A.J.S.D. challenges his delinquency adjudication based on possession of a dangerous weapon on school property. While attending a Minneapolis high school, appellant carried a folded knife in his back pocket; the knife had a 3-4 inch razor edge and a blunt end and was called a "cane cutter." Appellant moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that the device was a tool for cutting cane and was not designed as a weapon. The district court denied the motion and appellant proceeded to trial on stipulated facts, preserving this issue for appeal. Because the record supports the district court's conclusion that appellant possessed a dangerous weapon on school property, we affirm.


The application of undisputed facts to a criminal statute is a question of law reviewed de novo by this court. See State v. Basting, 572 N.W.2d 281, 285 (Minn. 1997) (whether undisputed facts establish object as dangerous weapon is question of law reviewed de novo). Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d.(a) (1996), prohibits possession of a dangerous weapon on school property. A dangerous weapon is:

[A]ny firearm * * * or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm * * * or other device * * * that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 6 (1996); see Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d.(c)(2) (dangerous weapon has meaning given in section 609.02, subdivision 6). In addition to firearms, there are two other categories of dangerous weapons: (1) devices designed as weapons and capable of producing death or great bodily harm and (2) 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. State v. Moss, 269 N.W.2d 732, 735 (Minn. 1978).

The district court found that the knife was a dangerous weapon, noting "[k]nives have a variety of uses * * * [and] one of those uses is as a weapon." Appellant disputes the court's finding that the knife is a dangerous weapon, arguing that it is a tool, a "cane cutter," and therefore not "designed as a weapon." Appellant goes on to argue that, because he merely possessed the knife, it was not used in such a manner to make it a dangerous weapon.

Courts give a reasonable and sensible construction to criminal statutes. State v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 916 (Minn. 1996); accord Minn. Stat. § 645.08(1) (1996) (words in statutes are given plain and ordinary meaning). The statute does not require that an object be designed only as a weapon. The knife in evidence supports the district court's finding that it was designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm.

That the legislature intended to prohibit the possession on school property of this type of knife as a dangerous weapon is also supported by an exception to the statute. The legislature intends the entire statute to be effective. Minn. Stat. § 645.17(2) (1996). Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d.(d)(6) excludes from criminal possession "a gun or knife show held on school property." (Emphasis added.) The exception for knife shows would be superfluous unless the legislature intended some knives to be included within the definition of prohibited dangerous weapons.

Finally, "[t]he legislature does not intend a result that is absurd, impossible of execution, or unreasonable." Minn. Stat. § 645.17(1). To allow possession of this dangerous knife at school simply because it might have some use in addition to that of a weapon would be an absurd result. Further, the statute recognizes exceptions for those fact circumstances that could justify the possession of some dangerous items on school property. See Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d.(d)(7) (may possess dangerous weapon with written permission from principal).

Even applying the "use or intent to use" prong of the dangerous weapon statute, the district court's finding stands.

When determining whether * * * an inherently dangerous object is a dangerous weapon, * * * court[s] must examine not only the nature of the object itself, but also the manner in which it was used.

Basting, 572 N.W.2d at 285 (reversing finding that professional boxer's fists were used as dangerous weapon). Courts look not only to use but intent to use. Moss, 269 N.W.2d at 736. The circumstances of possession can support an inference of intent to use a device as a weapon. Id. (affirming armed robbery conviction based on possession of a pair of scissors during a robbery). "[T]here was sufficient evidence * * * [to] infer that although defendant did not use the scissors during the robbery he had them on his person and intended to use them if their use became necessary." Id. Likewise here, appellant's possession of the knife at school, where the circumstances do not support any other reasonable use, can support an inference that he intended to use it as a weapon.


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