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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You're Better Off Bringing Your Teeth to a Knife Fight

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 3:44 PM

The state appellate court published an interesting ruling today, clearing up a question I'm not sure I'd ever thought about: Should your teeth—if you use them to, say, gnaw on someone's ear—be considered a "dangerous weapon" under Oregon law?

Saying yes would open chewers and biters to first-degree assault charges—with a mandatory minimum sentence (thanks, Measure 11!) of 90 months. Saying no would mean only a second-degree assault charge—with the difference being nearly two fewer years behind bars.

The question came before the court after a defendant in Marion County appealed his first-degree ear-snacking sentence last summer. In appealing his circuit court conviction, defendant Scott Russell Kuperus looked to the law's definition of a "dangerous weapon," which relies on terms like "weapon, device, instrument, material or substance."

And a panel of appellate judges, saying only "scraps" of evidence suggest lawmakers ever intended otherwise, agreed.

A "weapon" should be viewed as something with which a person could be armed or fortified. Because a defendant does not arm himself with his own body and parts thereof, including his teeth, his own teeth cannot be considered a dangerous weapon for purposes of first-degree assault.

The lesson for all you brawlers out there? Stow your switchblades and start sharpening those canines.

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