The California Court of Appeals recently determined that a butter knife, even when used to try to cut someone’s throat, is not a deadly weapon.

This fascinating case began at a Los Angeles high school when three students attacked another student, simply identified as Deon, on the school’s campus. As two students held Deon down, the main attacker, Brandon, pulled out a knife and tried to cut Deon’s throat. But, when the knife’s handle fell off, the students fled the scene.

The attack was described in more detail in the court documents:

According to Deon, Brandon took the knife and tried to cut Deon’s cheek and throat. Brandon moved his arm up and down, applying a slashing motion on Deon’s cheek. Deon testified that, despite Brandon’s efforts, the knife would not cut: “He [Brandon] was trying to cut, but it wouldn’t cut. So it was just making, like, welts.”

Because the knife did not cause significant damage, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the butter knife was not a deadly weapon. This downgraded the attack to a misdemeanor, overturning a previous ruling that charged the defendant with a felony.

The appeals court ruled that a deadly weapon must be an object that can cause death or great bodily injury. Since the defendant applied full pressure with the knife and tried to inflict significant harm but still could not, the knife was not capable of causing great bodily injury and was therefore not a deadly weapon.

The actual knife used was a little more than three inches long, had a rounded edge and slight serrations.


Jonny Bear

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