Com. v. Karlson

Decision Date19 March 1996
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellant v. Erik Rune KARLSON.
CourtPennsylvania Superior Court

Page 249

674 A.2d 249
449 Pa.Super. 378
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellant
Erik Rune KARLSON.
Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Argued Feb. 6, 1996.
Filed March 19, 1996.

Page 250

Curtis J. Rogers, Assistant District Attorney, Stroudsburg, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Chad A. Martinez, Stroudsburg, for appellee.

Before: CIRILLO, President Judge Emeritus, BECK, J., and CERCONE, President Judge Emeritus.

CIRILLO, President Judge Emeritus:

The Commonwealth appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas granting defendant's petition for writ of habeas corpus. We affirm.

On separate occasions, from March through November of 1994, Eric Karlson sold four "Cobra" knives at a Pocono flea market to an undercover police officer. 1 Karlson was subsequently arrested and charged with four counts of selling prohibited offensive weapons in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908. After a preliminary hearing was held, the trial court arraigned Karlson, where he entered pleas of not guilty to all four counts. Karlson filed an omnibus pretrial motion that included a Writ of Habeas Corpus. The writ alleged that the four weapons Karlson sold did not constitute prohibited offensive weapons as defined by the statute, and, in the alternative, the knives fell under the "curio" defense to section 908. 2

After hearing arguments, the trial court determined that the knives sold by Karlson were not the type of weapons that were intended to be prohibited under section 908. The court granted Karlson's writ and dismissed all criminal charges. The Commonwealth now presents us with the following issue

Did the trial court commit reversible error in granting habeas corpus relief?

The Commonwealth properly appeals from the trial court order granting a writ of habeas corpus. 3 The decision to

Page 251

grant or deny a petition for writ of habeas corpus will be reversed on appeal only for a manifest abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Lundberg, 422 Pa.Super. 495, 619 A.2d 1066 (1993). "It is settled that a petition for writ of habeas corpus is the proper means for testing a pre-trial finding that the Commonwealth has sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case." Commonwealth v. Scott, 396 Pa.Super. 339, 578 A.2d 933 (1990) (citations omitted). Although a habeas corpus hearing is similar to a preliminary hearing, in a habeas corpus proceeding the Commonwealth has the opportunity to present additional evidence to establish that the defendant has committed the elements of the offense charged. Id.

The Pennsylvania Criminal Code defines the offense of prohibited offensive weapons, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908, as follows:

(a) Offense defined.--A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes, repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon.

Additionally, the term "offensive weapons" is defined as:

Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908(c).

Section 908 of the Criminal Code imposes strict liability upon defendants who conduct activity with instruments proscribed by the above statutory language. The legislature intended section 908 to be penal in nature, and, thus, strictly construed. "This section reflects a strong public policy to prevent persons from carrying weapons or any "objects" which have the appearance or characteristics of an offensive weapon." Commonwealth v. Stewart, 343 Pa.Super. 514, 532, 495 A.2d 584, 593 (1985). "The class of weapons dealt with in Section 908 [has] no peaceful purpose, and the only conceivable use is for purposes which our society has found to be criminal." Commonwealth v. Ashford, 263 Pa.Super. 100, 106, 397 A.2d 420, 423 (1979). For these reasons, in order to hold a defendant criminally liable under section 908, intent to actually use the offensive weapon need not be proven. Commonwealth v. Gatto, 236 Pa.Super. 92, 344 A.2d 566 (1975).

The Commonwealth asserts that the knives sold by Karlson were not the type of objects that have a common lawful purpose. Specifically, the Commonwealth argues that the sharp metal spikes emanating from the knives' handles could have "no conceivable common lawful purpose" and, as such, are prohibited weapons under section 908. The Commonwealth claims that the trial...

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13 cases
  • Com. v. Carbo
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • April 11, 2003
    ...A.2d 1043, 1047 (1980); Commonwealth v. Henlen, 522 Pa. 514, 564 A.2d 905 (1989); Waller, 682 A.2d at 1294; Commonwealth v. Karlson, 449 Pa.Super. 378, 674 A.2d 249, 250 n. 3 (1996); Fountain, 811 A.2d at 25 n. ¶ 28 In addition to this well settled right to appeal, our Court has also held t......
  • Commonwealth v. Predmore, 238 EDA 2017
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • November 27, 2018
    ...method for a defendant to test whether the Commonwealth has, before trial, established a prima facie case. Commonwealth v. Karlson , 449 Pa. Super. 378, 674 A.2d 249, 251 (1996). To demonstrate that a prima facie case exists, the Commonwealth must produce evidence of every material element ......
  • Commonwealth v. Dantzler, 681 EDA 2014
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • March 9, 2016
    ...767 A.2d 1068, 1070 (Pa.Super.2001) ; Commonwealth v. Saunders, 456 Pa.Super. 741, 691 A.2d 946, 948 (1997) ; Commonwealth v. Karlson, 449 Pa.Super. 378, 674 A.2d 249, 251 (1996) ; Commonwealth v. Schwer, 442 Pa.Super. 604, 660 A.2d 621, 622 (1995) ; Commonwealth v. Lundberg, 422 Pa.Super. ......
  • Commonwealth v. Huggins
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 10, 2002
    ...deny a petition for writ of habeas corpus will be reversed on appeal only for a manifest abuse of discretion." Commonwealth v. Karlson, 449 Pa.Super. 378, 674 A.2d 249, 250-51 ¶ 9 At the preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth need not prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Co......
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