What Penalties Do I Face If Caught With Brass Knuckles in NYC?

The Consequences of Carrying Brass Knuckles in New York City

What are brass knuckles?

Brass knuckles are a metal weapon worn on the fingers used to increase the force of punches during hand-to-hand combat. They date back thousands of years but became popular in the American Old West in the 1800s.

Modern brass knuckles in NYC typically consist of four metal finger holes attached to a grip and come in materials like brass, steel, aluminum, or plastic. Some varieties incorporate spikes, blades, or studs to amplify tissue and bone damage on impact.

Why are brass knuckles illegal in New York?

Under New York Penal Law 265.01, it is illegal to manufacture, transport, dispose of, or possess “metal knuckles” without a valid license or permit. Metal knuckles are defined as any instrument worn on the fingers designed to amplify striking force, including brass knuckles, regardless of what material they are made from.

Brass knuckles fall under the definition of dangerous weapons banned in NYC. Like switchblades, gravity knives, and blackjacks, brass knuckles enable and encourage violence according to lawmakers. Their concealability and injury potential raise public safety concerns.

What are the penalties?

No Prior Convictions

If caught carrying brass knuckles for the first time, with no previous criminal record, you face a class A misdemeanor charge. The penalties for a class A misdemeanor brass knuckle possession conviction are:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Probation up to 3 years

Prior Weapon Convictions

If you have previous weapon possession convictions, like a gun charge, facing new brass knuckle charges can trigger more severe penalties. With a prior weapon conviction within 10 years, brass knuckle possession elevates to a class D felony.

Class D felony penalties include:

  • 1 to 2.5 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • Probation up to 5 years

Brandishing Brass Knuckles

Simply having brass knuckles in your pocket can lead to a misdemeanor. But if you use them in a fight or altercation, you may face felony assault charges.

Under New York Penal Law 120.05, assault with a dangerous weapon like brass knuckles becomes a class D felony. Even if you don’t cause injury, brandishing brass knuckles during a confrontation shows intent to cause harm.

Class D felony assault carries up to 2.5 years in prison. If your victim suffers physical injury, you may face the more severe class C or class B assault felonies.

Defenses Against Brass Knuckle Possession

Fighting brass knuckle possession charges requires contesting one or more elements of the crime:

  • You did not possess the brass knuckles
  • The items were not actually brass knuckles
  • You had no intent or knowledge of possessing brass knuckles

By raising doubt around one of these factors, an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer can get brass knuckle charges reduced or dismissed. Common defense strategies include:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are plastic or 3D-printed brass knuckles legal in NYC?

No. Under New York law, brass knuckles made from any material, including plastic, nylon, or 3D-printed substances are illegal. Metal composition makes no difference – if an item fits the definition of metal knuckles designed to enhance striking blows, it is prohibited in NYC.

Can I order brass knuckles online and carry them legally?

No. It is illegal to purchase brass knuckles online and possess them in public places in NYC. Under city and state law, buying, selling, manufacturing, or transporting brass knuckles requires proper licensing. Without a permit, you cannot lawfully obtain or carry brass knuckles – even those bought online and shipped from another state.

If I use brass knuckles in self-defense, will I avoid charges?

Claiming self-defense provides no protection against brass knuckle possession charges. Under New York law, these metal weapons remain categorically prohibited. The fact they enhanced your punching power during an altercation can actually lead to more severe felony assault charges.Rather than risk this, carrying pepper spray is a safer and legal alternative for self-protection in NYC. Unlawful possession of brass knuckles outweighs any self-defense justification.

What about spiked brass knuckles or blade brass knuckles?

Spiked, bladed, and studded brass knuckles face even more stringent restrictions in New York. These dangerous variants escalate simple brass knuckle possession from a misdemeanor to a felony.Merely carrying tricked-out brass knuckles designed to cause severe laceration or stabbing injuries will likely result in felony weapon and assault charges. They hold almost no value for lawful purposes compared to their potential for harm.


For more information on brass knuckles laws in NYC, check out the following additional resources:

Are Brass Knuckles Legal in New York? – Overview of NYC brass knuckle regulations from criminal defense law firm
New York Knife Laws – Summary of various New York knife, dagger and blade regulations
What New Yorkers Need to Know about Self-Defense Laws – Nolo guide to permissible use of force for protection in New York


Brass knuckles may seem like an interesting novelty or self-defense choice. But ultimately, metal knuckles serve no productive purpose for regular New Yorkers compared to their potential for harm. Carrying these dangerous and easily concealed weapons can lead to fines, probation, and jail time if caught. For anyone charged with brass knuckle possession or use in NYC, immediately consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney provides the best chance at avoiding penalties.