Are brass knuckles illegal in Wisconsin?

Possession of brass knuckles in Wisconsin is a crime in certain circumstances.  Contact our criminal defense lawyers at (414) 270-0202 for representation.

The use and possession of brass knuckles in Wisconsin is not automatically illegal.  Instead, possession of this weapon is illegal in two situations: firstly, when possessed by individuals under 18 years old, and secondly, when carried in a concealed fashion.  Adults in Wisconsin can legally possess brass knuckles when done so openly.  Similarly, adult possession of them inside of your home or apartment is not a crime.

We’ll discuss two crimes in this blog post:

  • Firstly, we’ll discuss carrying a concealed weapon.  Carrying a concealed weapon is a Wisconsin Class A misdemeanor.  That means that a conviction for this offense carries a maximum possible sentence of 9 months in jail and $10,000.00 in fines.  A conviction for this crime, on its own, cannot result in a prison sentence.
  • Secondly, we’ll discuss possession of a dangerous weapon by an individual under 18 years old.  There are two versions of this offense, but the most basic one is a Class A misdemeanor.  The same statute is used to criminalize adults providing dangerous weapons to children.  Doing so is a Class I felony, which carries a maximum possible penalty of 3.5 years in prison, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.

The purpose of this blog post is to describe Wisconsin criminal laws regarding brass knuckles.  But we recognize that sometimes you’re looking for more than just information.  Van Severen Law Office, S.C. is a Wisconsin criminal defense law firm that represent individuals facing misdemeanors and felonies throughout the state.  Sometimes those charges include things like carrying a concealed weapon or possession of a dangerous weapon.  We’re specialists and we’re prepared to fight for clients facing serious criminal charges.

Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to schedule a free consultation and to figure out how we can help.

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What are brass knuckles?

Brass knuckles are simply pieces of metal, plastic, or carbon fibers shaped to fit around the knuckles.  The device works by preserving and concentrating a punch’s force by directing it towards a smaller and harder contact area.  This results in an increased potential for tissue disruption, including an increased likelihood of fracturing the victim’s bones upon contact.  A wider, flat portion of the brass knuckles fits into the wearer’s palm, and absorbs the counter-force that would otherwise be absorbed by the attacker’s fingers.  This reduces the likelihood of damage to the attacker’s hands, including broken fingers or superficial damage.  Brass knuckles also allow the user to break glass windows without injuring his hands.  Because of this, individuals frequently use brass knuckles as a way into vehicles they plan on stealing.

Brass knuckles date back to the 12th century and are mentioned in the Manasollasa.  Soldiers used cast iron, brass, lead, and wood knuckles in the United States during the American Civil War (1861-1865).  In times of desperation, soldiers would often carve knuckles from wood, or cast them at camp by melting lead bullets and using a mold made in the dirt.

Some brass knuckles have rounded rings, which increase the impact of blows from moderate to severe damage. Other instruments (not generally considered to be “brass knuckles” or “metal knuckles” per se) may have spikes, sharp points and cutting edges. These devices come in many variations and a variety of names, including “knuckle knives.”

brass knuckles
Brass knuckles carried by Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguards during his train ride through Baltimore.  Today, possessing brass knuckles is criminal in certain situations. Contact our criminal defense attorneys immediately at (414) 270-0202 if you faces charges for any crime.

Carrying a concealed weapon

Section 941.23 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits carrying a concealed weapon.  As criminal defense lawyers, when we typically encounter this charge there is a firearm involved.  But the statute also covers brass knuckles.  The law says:

(2) Any person … who carries a concealed and dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

The definition of “dangerous weapon” is quite different than the one used for the charge involving individuals under 18 (which we’ll discuss in the next paragraph).  Section 939.22(10) of the Wisconsin Statutes defines dangerous weapon:

(10) “Dangerous weapon” means … a device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm; any ligature or other instrumentality used on the throat, neck, nose, or mouth of another person to impede, partially or completely, breathing or circulation of blood; … or any other device or instrumentality which, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

Although this statute does not include a specific mention of brass knuckles, they’re the kind of weapon produced with the purpose of causing “great bodily harm.”  Brass knuckles frequently cause skull fractures upon impact, which certainly qualifies as “great bodily harm.”  Even if this is not the regular experience of the brass knuckle user, the whole purpose of the weapon is to make the fist more dangerous.  They qualify as dangerous weapons using this definition.

Possession of a dangerous weapon by an individual under 18 years old:

Section 948.60 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. The statute itself provides a different definition of dangerous weapon, which includes:  “metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance which could be put to the same use with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles.”  While not exactly calling them “brass” knuckles, if they’re made of any metal or similarly hard substance, they qualify as dangerous weapons under this statute.

There are a few different versions of this crime and they carry different penalties:

  • Firstly, an individual under 18 years old caught in possession of metallic knuckles is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.  A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 9 months in jail, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.
  • Secondly, any person who intentionally sells, loans, or gives a dangerous weapon to a person under 18 years of age is guilty of a Class I felony.  A Class I felony includes a maximum possible penalty of 3.5 years in prison, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.  While the first offense we mentioned applies to the child, this one applies to an adult who gives the child the knuckles.

Importantly, the word possess  means that the defendant knowingly had the object under his control.  Sometimes the meaning of this word becomes important while defending a criminal charge.  Is the 18 year old in “possession” of an old dusty set of brass knuckles found in a heat vent?  No.  But if the government thinks you knew they were there, and that you had the ability to exercise control of over the weapon, we might be in for a fight.

Can felons possess brass knuckles?

No current Wisconsin law prohibits felons from possessing brass knuckles.  They’re prohibited from possessing firearms and electronic weapons, but so far brass knuckles aren’t included.

Possession of brass knuckles is potentially a crime.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202 immediately for help.

The criminal defense lawyers at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. regularly defend individuals facing all kinds of criminal charges.  These frequently include violent and weapons charges, such as possession of brass knuckles.  We recognize the issues frequently involved in these cases.  Whether your case involves filing and pursuing pre-trial motions, arranging for a favorable plea offer, or fighting for you at trial, we can help.

Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to schedule a free consultation.

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