The case is Small v. Rice, a summary order decided on November 26. The New York Penal Law makes it illegal to possess "any firearm, ... plastic knuckles, metal knuckles." Do you see the word "any"? The Court of Appeals says the word "any" means there may be more than one type of "metal knuckles" covered under the statute and that possession of "any" of them is illegal. Plaintiff says the statute is vague and therefore void under the Due Process Clause. He says that it is not clear that the "black cat keychain" is clearly proscribed under the Penal Law. But it is clear, the Second Circuit (Raggi, Pooler and Wesley) says.
The Second Circuit ruling includes a picture of the "black cat keychain." You rarely see visual images in Court of Appeals rulings, but a picture of the keychain is essential to understanding what's going on here. This is the picture from the Second Circuit ruling:
If you look at the keychain solely as a keychain, it looks like a kitty cat. What a cute li'l kitty! But if you see how it fits in your hand, you can see why it's illegal. Stick your fingers in the kitty eyes and the ears become a weapon. The "black cat keychain" is marketed as a self-defense device. You can buy one on Amazon.com. But quoting from a decision from the Supreme Court of Rockland County, the Court of Appeals says that the keychain fits comfortably within the definition of prohibited weapons:
the Supreme Court of Rockland County persuasively concluded that the cat keychain was a set of “metal knuckles” and was proscribed by the statute: "The object has two holes for the fingers and two pointed metal spikes which when worn protrude from the back of the hand and which are obviously designed to enable one to inflict a blow from a fist enclosed by metal spikes for the purpose of enhancing the injury to be inflicted on contact."The reviews for this keychain on Amazon.com are interesting and highlight to continuing debate in America about the right self-defense and the Second Amendment. One reviewer says "I like it because it's super cute, it's discreet and it's easy to remember to use it because your fingers naturally fit right in the eye-holes. I haven't had to use it yet but it seems like it might hurt." Another says "My husband had this on his keychain at the airport....he was arrested with a misdemenor and has to go to court... they are deciding if federal charges will be filed... This has now cost us an attorney at $600 an hour and lost work for court in another state. DO NOT attach it to a keychain!!!!" Somebody else wrote, " I think it is extra security, and it is strong, but be prepared to RUN. If you do not get someone in the eye to make them stop and pause, it will just make them angrier."