An expandable baton is a collapsible metallic club often used by law enforcement. The fact that it collapses down to a small size makes it easy to carry as a concealed weapon. These batons can be very dangerous, and owning or carrying one is illegal in a number of states. Ohio does not have any laws specific to expandable batons, but the state's laws on both carrying deadly weapons and using weapons for self-defense are relevant.
What Is an Expandable Baton?
Everyone knows what an expandable umbrella looks like: a small package that fits into a pocket or purse when collapsed; a full-size umbrella when expanded. The same is true of an expandable baton. It can easily be concealed and carried when collapsed, but it turns into a full-size baton when the person carrying it flicks out the handle at high velocity.
These weapons are carried regularly by law enforcement and can inflict serious injury on another person. While many state laws specifically regulate or prohibit their use, Ohio does not have any laws addressing collapsible batons. The weapons do seem to come within Ohio's restrictions on the concealed carry of dangerous weapons, however.
Concealed Carry of Handguns
Ohio laws are very liberal when it comes to carrying guns openly. It is an "open carry" state, meaning that most adults have the right to tote a gun openly without having to obtain a license. Ohio does require an individual to obtain a license for carrying concealed handguns.
Only those with concealed-carry licenses are permitted to carry a handgun in the state, although individuals on active duty in the military and law enforcement officers are excepted. Even a person having a concealed-carry license is not permitted to carry any other type of concealed firearm or deadly weapon. Those found doing so in Ohio can be charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon, a first-degree misdemeanor. If the concealed weapon is a loaded gun, the charge increases to a fourth-degree felony.
Concealed Carry of Deadly Weapons
The state restricts concealed carry of all deadly weapons, not just guns. Under Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.12, no person is permitted to carry or have concealed on their person or ready at hand a deadly weapon other than a handgun. The statute defines deadly weapon this way:
"Deadly weapon means any instrument, device or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon."
As mentioned, collapsible batons can be very dangerous weapons. Some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Michigan have laws specifically pertaining to carrying bully sticks, blackjacks or batons. Ohio does not, but the state makes it specifically illegal to possess:
- Automatic and sawed-off firearms.
- Ballistic knives.
- Bombs, rocket launchers, grenades, mines or other military weapons or ammunition.
- Silencers, unless attached to authorized hunting guns.
Ohio statutes do not list which weapons are considered capable of inflicting death. However, there is very little doubt that billy sticks or collapsible batons could kill somebody.
Self-Defense and Lethal Weapons
The issue of whether expandable batons are deadly weapons has rarely come up in the courts. That may be because Ohio law sets out generous affirmative defenses to a charge of carrying a concealed deadly weapon for self-defense purposes. As long as the individual was not prohibited by law from having the weapon in the first place, any of these reasons serve as an affirmative defense:
- The weapon was carried or kept ready at hand by the actor for defensive purposes while the actor was engaged in, or was going to or from, their lawful business or occupation, which business or occupation was of a character, or was necessarily carried on, in a manner or at a time or place as to render the actor particularly susceptible to criminal attack, such as would justify a prudent person in going armed.
- The weapon was carried or kept ready at hand by the actor for defensive purposes while the actor was engaged in a lawful activity and had reasonable cause to fear a criminal attack upon the actor, a member of the actor's family, or the actor's home, such as would justify a prudent person in going armed.
- The weapon was carried or kept ready at hand by the actor for any lawful purpose and while in the actor's own home.
Exactly how this affirmative defense interacts with the deadly weapons prohibition does not appear to have been tested and determined in the Ohio courts. It may mean that if a collapsible baton is used in a self-defense situation, a police officer can arrest the person using the baton on a concealed weapons charge, but the individual can present the self-defense argument to the judge or jury. Note that the self-defense affirmative defense will not work if the person claiming self-defense was otherwise engaged in criminal conduct.
Legality of Other Self-Defense Weapons
Other weapons also fit within the "carried for self-defense" category under Ohio law, including pepper spray and mace. Any individual can legally buy and carry pepper spray or mace in Ohio. There are no restrictions whatsoever on sale and possession of any size or formulation of these products, and they can be carried in the open or concealed. These products are not considered dangerous weapons.
What about stun guns? These are weapons that use electrical current to stun another person and drop them to the ground. In most cases the current in a stun gun will not prove strong enough to kill anyone or even to cause serious, lasting damage. Perhaps for this reason, Ohio law does not impose restrictions on the sale of these weapons, and the size and voltage is not subject to restrictions either.
As long as the person carrying the stun gun is doing so for self-defense reasons, Ohio law enforcement generally takes a relaxed attitude toward these weapons. However, they are prohibited by most schools and work places, as well as on airplanes and in federal or state buildings.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.