Many states – including Missouri – have provisions that provide greater punishment for some felonies that are committed with, or by the use of, a “deadly weapon” or “dangerous instrument.” The definition of “deadly weapon” tends to be pretty straightforward, usually a list that includes several specific items that just are deadly weapons, such as guns and knives. “Dangerous instrument” is deliberately left as a broader, more capacious term – defined not in terms of a list of instruments but in terms of those things that could be easily or “readily” used to cause serious physical injury or death. But precisely because of the broad sweep of what counts as a dangerous instrument, and the role circumstances can play in making something dangerous, courts in Missouri have taken widely divergent stances on the definition of “dangerous instruments,” both in general and in particular cases.

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