I have a friend who is involved in geocaching, which is an internet-based treasure hunt involving GPS coordinates and clues that lead to a treasure box hidden in nature. Most of these involve food-storage boxes that contain a log book and an inexpensive prize. Geocachers are asked to take a prize and leave a prize for the next geocacher. The main idea is to encourage visits to unique places in nature like a peaceful stream, a gnarly tree, or a ridge with a stunning view. Marquette currently has 390 geocaches. You can find information about geocaching at this website: Geocaching.
A friend has asked me about the legality of crafting DIY monkey fists to leave in geocache boxes. I honestly had to research the issue because I’ve never even heard of a monkey fist. I found that a monkey fist is a metal ball that is weaved into a knot at the end of a line. Sailors have used them to sling nets and to throw lines. They’ve also been used as weapons that are often tied around the waist like a belt. As a weapon, a monkey fist functions like a flail. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia webpage about the history of monkey fists: Wikipedia.
Under Michigan Law, a monkey fist is considered a slungshot, and possession of a slungshot in Michigan is a felony that carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison. MCL 750.224. Under the statute, possession of a slungshot is the same crime and carries the same penalty as possession of brass knuckles, a machine gun, or a bomb. Here’s a link to the statute: Michigan Statute.
My friend is mystified because she purchased all the materials for her monkey-fist, crafting project legally from Amazon, Hobby Lobby, and Jo-Ann; including paracord, ball bearings, a crafting device for tying the knots, and free instructions. Here’s a photo of the crafting device purchased at Hobby Lobby:
Here’s a photo of the free instructions for tying the knots acquired from Jo-Ann:
It does seem kind of silly for me to tell my friend that she can’t make these colorful, crafting knots–especially if it’s not possessed as a weapon. It also seems realistic to believe that a prosecutor would decline to charge a crime for possession of a DIY monkey fist. Further, I believe that I could successfully defend a case involving possession of a DIY monkey fist. However, sometimes, the best way to defend a criminal case is to prevent the crime from occurring in the first place. The statute doesn’t have an exception for a monkey fist that is colorful and pretty. It also doesn’t have an exception for a monkey fist that is lighter in weight, perhaps crafted with a wooden ball or a ping-pong ball instead of a lead ball. My advice to my friend is “don’t do this, it’s not worth risking a 5-year felony.” She has reluctantly agreed and claims that I owe her a DIY craft.
Posted on May 13, 2021,
Jeffrey M. Schroder, Esq.
Senior Assistant Public Defender
Marquette County Public Defender’s Office
100 Coles Dr., Ste. 1
Marquette, MI 49855
Office: (906) 226-4370