Court Determines Plastic Pitcher Is A Dangerous Weapon In United State v. Tolbert, Jr.

In a recent weapons possession case, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals considered what type of objects may be considered “dangerous weapons” pursuant to federal law. In United States v. Tolbert, Jr., John Tolbert Jr. had just finished his trial for intentional possession of a firearm. When he was told to place his hands behind his back so that law enforcement could cuff them, he grabbed and plastic water pitcher and hit a deputy in the head with it. Although the officer wasn’t seriously hurt and didn’t need medical attention, the district court determined that the pitcher constituted a “dangerous weapon.” Based on the court’s characterization of this as a dangerous weapon, the court then increased Tolbert’s sentence, applying a “4-level enhancement” stating that any object used “with the intent to commit bodily injury” may be considered a dangerous weapon.

Michigan weapons charges are serious. If you are found to have used a dangerous weapon in connection with committing a crime, the penalties for the underlying charge may increase. It is important to consult with an aggressive Michigan weapons charge attorney immediately to begin preparing your defense. As this case illustrates, courts may find nearly any object is a “dangerous object” depending on how it is used and the person’s intent in using it.

Here the both the lower court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Michigan, determined that even a plastic water pitcher placed on the courtroom table can be a “dangerous weapon” under certain circumstances. The pitcher was a standard water pitcher, about 10 inches tall, with a 6-inch handle and a 12-inch circumference. It weighed a mere ½ pound to 1 pound when empty. The appellate court stated, “It is reasonable to infer…that such a water pitcher swung with sufficient force and proper aim, was capable of inflicting serious harm.” The court cited additional dangerous weapons case law that supports the notion that “Almost any object can be a dangerous weapon depending on how it is wielded in the circumstances.” Other items found to be dangerous include “walking sticks, leather straps, rakes, tennis shoes, rubber boots, dogs, rings, concrete curbs, clothes irons, and stink bombs.”


As a result, even though the pitcher did not cause serious bodily harm, because it was “capable of causing serious harm,” and the court believed that Tolbert used it with the intent of causing serious harm, the appellate court upheld the sentence enhancement. Tolbert now faces a thirty-seven month term of imprisonment.

This case demonstrates the need for an aggressive Michigan weapons charge attorney. Because almost any object may fall within the “dangerous weapon” category and increase your sentence, it is important to fight back by pointing out flaws in the prosecution’s case and presenting an effective defense.

For more information or if you have been charged with any Michigan violent crime, contact an aggressive criminal defense lawyer in Michigan at Grabel & Associates for an immediate, free and confidential case consultation.