400 A.2d 1284 (Pa. 1979), Commonwealth v. Fisher

Citation:400 A.2d 1284, 485 Pa. 8
Opinion Judge:Author: Eagen
Party Name:COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Charles FISHER, Appellant.
Case Date:May 01, 1979
Court:Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Page 1284

400 A.2d 1284 (Pa. 1979)

485 Pa. 8

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee,


Charles FISHER, Appellant.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

May 1, 1979

Argued Jan. 11, 1979.

Page 1285

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1286

[485 Pa. 10] David R. Eshelman, Asst. Public Defender, Reading, for appellant.

Charles M. Guthrie, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Reading, for appellee.



EAGEN, Chief Justice.

Appellant, Charles Fisher (Fisher), was convicted by a jury in Berks County for possession of a prohibited offensive [485 Pa. 11] weapon. 1 Post trial motions were denied, and the court imposed a prison sentence of one to three years to run consecutively with sentences he had received for other unrelated offenses. Fisher then, with new counsel, appealed to the Superior Court which affirmed the judgment of sentence. 2 We granted Fisher's petition for allowance of appeal.

The trial record establishes the following:

Two police officers patrolling downtown Reading in separate vehicles observed Fisher and two companions walking down the street at about 3:30 a. m. Officer Paul Brown approached the three men and asked for their identification. When the three replied they had none, the officer asked their names and addresses. During this questioning, Fisher walked to the far side of Officer Brown's vehicle and bent down. The second police officer, Sergeant Arndt, who arrived during the questioning of the men, observed Fisher take an object from his pocket and bend over next to Officer Brown's car, and he heard a click as Fisher appeared to throw some object under the car. The men were put into a police wagon to be taken to police headquarters for further identification. The object Sergeant Arndt retrieved from beneath his vehicle consisted of a metal handle, with two finger holes, which incorporates two cutting blades, one facing outward, 3 the other inward.

Fisher maintains the object which he allegedly possessed, a "Wyoming Knife," is not a prohibited offensive weapon according to the terms of Section 908 of the Crimes Code. 4 [485 Pa. 12] At trial, he introduced into evidence an advertisement from a sporting goods magazine which depicts an implement called a "Wyoming Knife" and describes it as an "all purpose cutting tool for skinning wild game ideal for cleaning all game and fish." The knife is displayed as part of an array of hunting knives. The object allegedly possessed by Fisher bears the marking "WK" and is apparently identical to the advertised implement. Thus, Fisher reasons, because a Wyoming Knife is not enumerated in the definition of an offensive weapon and because he established the knife has a common lawful purpose, it cannot be considered an offensive weapon prohibited by Section 908.

Fisher is correct in his assertion that a Wyoming Knife is not among the items specially enumerated in Section 908(c). While cutting instruments are specially listed, along with daggers, knives and razors, the portion of Section 908(c) which enumerates these objects with blades is limited by the phrase "the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise."

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See Commonwealth v. Cartagena, --- Pa. ---, 393 A.2d 350, 361 (1978) (plurality opinion). Any other reading of this phrase of the statute would render possession of almost any instrument with a blade a punishable offense, no matter how commonplace the object. Our purpose in interpreting statutes is to...

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