Are brass knuckles illegal in Wisconsin?

Possession of brass knuckles in Wisconsin is a misdemeanor in certain circumstances.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202 for representation

Brass knuckles in Wisconsin are illegal in two circumstances: when carried in a concealed fashion, and when possessed by individuals under 18 years old.  Importantly, simply possessing brass knuckles openly, when the possessor is over 18, is not illegal.  In other words, it is legal for adults to own and openly possess brass knuckles.  Possessing them in your own home is not a crime.

In this blog post we’ll describe two crimes: carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon by an individual under 18 years old.  Those two crimes involve brass knuckles.

If you face any kind of criminal charge, contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. immediately.  Our criminal defense lawyers assist individuals facing criminal investigations and criminal charges.  If the police contact you, it’s time that you contact us: (414) 270-0202.

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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.

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 definition of dangerous weapon, which includes this weapon:  “metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance which could be put to the same use with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles.”

The charge carries a few different penalties that describe specific offenses:

  • Firstly, the child under 18 years old caught in possession of 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.
  • Finally, any person who intentionally sells, loans, or gives a dangerous weapon to a person under 18 years of age, and the child subsequently discharges the firearm and causes death to himself, herself, or another, is guilty of a Class H felony.  This charge focuses on firearms, not a melee device, and therefore is not applicable, but is part of the statute.

Importantly, the word possess  means that the defendant knowingly had the object under his control.  So what about adults found possessing knuckles?

Carrying a concealed weapon

Section 941.23 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits carrying a concealed weapon.  As criminal defense lawyers, we typically encounter this charge in connection with a firearm.  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 similar to the one used for the charge involving individuals under 18.  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.”

A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 9 months in jail, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.

Can felons possess brass knuckles?

Currently, no law prohibits felons from possessing brass knuckles.  Felons are prohibited from possessing firearms and electronic weapons, but so far brass knuckles haven’t been included in felon prohibitions.

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 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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