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State v. Brunner

Supreme Court of Vermont

June 20, 2014

State of Vermont
v.
Aidan Brunner

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Orange Unit, Criminal Division. Timothy B. Tomasi, J.

Michael R. Kainen, Orange County Deputy State's Attorney, White River Junction, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Matthew F. Valerio, Defender General, Anna Saxman, Deputy Defender General, and Jeff Fucci, Legal Intern, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellant.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Crawford, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1020

 Robinson, J.

[¶1] Defendant Aidan Brunner appeals his conviction for possession of brass knuckles or a similar weapon with intent to use it, 13 V.S.A. § 4001, arguing that the implement at issue is neither brass knuckles nor a similar weapon under § 4001. We affirm.

[¶2] Following an altercation at the Tunbridge World's Fair that allegedly culminated in defendant slashing the face of another person with the implement in question, defendant was charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, 13 V.S.A. § 1024(a)(5), and one count of possession of brass knuckles or a similar weapon with intent to use it, 13 V.S.A. § 4001. Section 4001 of Title 13 makes it a crime to " possess[] a slung shot,[1] blackjack, brass knuckles, or similar weapon, with intent so to use it." After his arraignment, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charge under § 4001 on the grounds that the weapon he possessed was not a weapon listed in the statute nor similar to the weapons listed. In his motion, defendant argued that because the statute does not define brass knuckles, it is ambiguous and should be interpreted narrowly and in his favor, according to the rule of lenity. He further argued that the statute is void for vagueness. The trial court held a hearing on defendant's motion on March 20 and 21, 2013.

Page 1021

[¶3] At the motion hearing, the trial court observed a photograph of the weapon and inspected it in chambers. On April 24, 2013, the court issued a written decision denying defendant's motion. In its written decision, it described the weapon as follows:

[T]he Weapon is comprised of two curved pieces of flat metal that are riveted together. There is a space of between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch between the two metal sheets. At each end of the riveted metal pieces, a blade is affixed between the two sheets. When opened, the blades follow the curve of the metal sheets. When retracted, the blades fold into the hollow area between the metal sheets.
The center of the Weapon is clearly designed as the area in which the weapon is to be gripped. At that juncture, there is a slot that permits the wielder to insert his or her fingers and hold the Weapon by hand. The concave curve of the metal fits against the palm of the hand. The grip is formed into an opposing convex curve that allows the fingers to grasp the Weapon. At the slotted grip, both flat pieces of metal surround the hand. As a result, when grasped, one section of the Weapon is within the closed grip of the fist, and the remaining portions of the flat metal pieces form a bar that protrudes along in the front of the ...

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