California police officers carry sticks made of hard material used for both defense and offense. Some of these batons are retractable. Whether you call them batons, leaded cane, club, billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap or slungshot, their manufacture, sale and use are severely restricted under the weapon laws set out in the California Penal Code.
Right to Bear Arms is Limited
Most people are aware that the constitutional amendment giving citizens the right to bear arms does not give them the absolute right to carry any and all weapons. In California, the penal code restricts the types of weapons you can carry, as well as their manufacture, sale and import. The restricted weapons include batons and clubs. You can be found guilty of a criminal offense if the state proves that you possessed, imported into California, made or offered for sale any of these banned weapons.
Generally Prohibited Weapons
In California, it has long been illegal for members of the public to sell, buy, possess or use certain dangerous weapons, including batons. In the 2012 statute revisions, the term "dangerous weapons" became "generally prohibited weapons." Those prohibited are listed under section 16950 of the California Penal Code. They include familiar weapons like short-barreled rifles, as well as a host of concealed weapons that seem to come out of a James Bond movie: belt-buckle guns, cane guns, wallet guns, writing pen knives, lipstick case knives and batons.
Exceptions to Weapons Prohibition
Most citizens cannot possess these weapons legally in California, but exceptions do exist. In addition to the exception for police officers, there are limited exceptions for forensic lab workers, people turning guns into the police, martial arts schools, antiques dealers and historical societies. In addition, you cannot be convicted of this offense if you carry a restricted weapon without knowing it. But this means you do not know the baton is in your possession -- for example, if you picked up a briefcase you thought contained documents when in fact it had a baton in it. The fact that you are unaware that a particular weapon, such as a baton, is illegal, is irrelevant -- in California, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
Penalties for Violations
If you are caught manufacturing, selling, buying or carrying generally prohibited weapons in California, the prosecutor elects whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. She looks at the facts of the case and your specific circumstances, most particularly your criminal past. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, you could spend up to a year in county jail, while a felony conviction can put you in state prison for up to three years. You can also be fined a maximum of $1,000 for a misdemeanor and $10,000 for a felony.