The law and carrying a machete at night

| 03/01/2019

When is a machete considered a restricted weapon and when is it just a tool? Would you detail for us this legislation “possessing a restricted weapon at night”? I don’t recall it from the Penal Code.

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian statusAuntie’s answer: The question came up in the comments last week under this article: Machete in car lands WB man in jail. It can be disconcerting when someone is arrested for something that you can see yourself doing with no ill intent. Machetes, of course, are common tools in the Cayman Islands and lots of people probably carry them in their car for a range of reasons and don’t want to worry about being arrested for it.

I have covered a related topic before on knives, which you may find useful (see What size knives are allowed in Cayman?). Section 78(1)(a) of the Penal Code (2017 Revision) defines a restricted weapon as a machete or knife.

But the relevant part of the code in answer to the question is Section 81(1), which concerns having a restricted weapon at night: “a person who without any lawful excuse (the proof of which excuse shall be on such person) has or carries any restricted weapon, not being a prohibited weapon, by night”, which includes in a vehicle, commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $5,000 and four years imprisonment.

That section goes on to list the places where a person should not be carrying a machete, including a cinema, club, restaurant, car park or “in or upon the car park, parking lot of precincts of” the areas mentioned.

In addition, Section 81(2) basically says that anyone in possession of a machete will not be committing an offence under this part of the code if he or she were “carrying such machete or knife for some lawful purpose for which such machete or knife was necessary”.

However, there is a very important caveat and that has to do with the time of day anyone has a machete in their possession. For confirmation, I reached out to the RCIPS and a spokesperson pointed out that nighttime is defined under the law as between 7pm and 6am and during those hours, you are not allowed to carry a restricted weapon such as a machete.

If you legitimately use a machete as part of your job and that work occurs during the day, then you should not have the machete with you at night.

The RCIPS spokesperson explained anyone holding the machete “would have to prove that the reason for carrying the machete or knife is work-related in some way and also that they were working at the time of night that they were stopped” since most likely such employment would usually involve daytime work.

“This is why it is restricted at night,” the spokesperson said, adding, “In most cases this is a defence that will have to be provided in an interview to the police after arrest, at which time the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) will make a decision as to whether their defence is plausible”.

If the ODPP decides the person should be charged then a judge will listen to the defence argument and rule on the “plausibility of the defendant’s explanation”.

I realise this will prove inconvenient and annoying for those who always keep a machete in their car as a matter of course without any nefarious intent, but if you are found in possession of one at night, you can open yourself up to legal trouble.

So, the bottom line is anyone who uses a machete for their day job or for some other valid reason, needs to remove it at night unless they can prove it is work-related between the hours of 7pm and 6am.

The law mentioned above can be found on the CNS Library

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve ridden in several taxis over the years that had machetes visibly stashed under the seat, in milk cartons in back, or wedged in the front bench seats. Not a very calming sight for tourists. Wish all taxis had a driver ID, vehicle tag, and public transport number to call to report visible from the rear seats and/or matching sticker on rear entry windows. That wouldn’t be too hard would it?