Ohio Supreme Court Says Nonworking Pistol Is Not a Deadly Weapon

2000px-Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Ohio.svgLaw Shield thought it interesting that a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling said an inoperable gun that cannot fire bullets is not a deadly weapon under the state law that prohibits carrying a concealed handgun without a license.

In re J.T., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-3654, dealt with a criminal matter from March, 2013. A police officer saw a bulge in a youth’s waistband and patted him down. In the process, the officer discovered a loaded 9-millimeter handgun. However, subsequent testing found the weapon was inoperable.

Justice William M. O’Neill wrote the majority opinion, which reversed the findings of a juvenile court and an appeals court, both of which found and affirmed the teenager was guilty of a delinquency count of carrying a concealed deadly weapon.

O’Neill wrote, “The juvenile in this matter was carrying a broken pistol in his waistband that was no longer capable of firing a round. That fact notwithstanding, he was charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon and was found delinquent. Today, we apply a common-sense reality check to that fact pattern. When a person has an inoperable handgun tucked into his or her waistband and does not use it as a bludgeoning implement, it is not a deadly weapon. In effect, since it was inoperable, it was no different from a stone or a brick.”

Interesting decision. The juvenile was very lucky in two respects: The obvious outcome that the decision was overturned, but also that the youth didn’t point the firearm at police. Had the youth done that, police wouldn’t have known the pistol didn’t work, and they likely would have been justified in using deadly force.