California's Weapon Laws on Batons

By Teo Spengler - Updated January 29, 2018
Police officers carrying batons

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California police officers are permitted to carry expandable sticks made of hard material used for both defense and offense. Whether you call them batons, leaded canes, clubs, billies, blackjacks, sandbags, sandclubs, saps or slungshots, for private citizens, their manufacture, sale and use are severely restricted under the weapon laws set out in the California Penal Code.

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Citizens do not have the right to possess, carry or sell extendable batons in California. Penalties for carrying include fines and jail time.

No Citizen Should Carry Batons in California

While citizens have the constitutional right to bear arms, they do not have 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 you possess, import into California, make or sell any restricted weapon.

Selling and Dealing Batons is Also Prohibited

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.

Limited Exceptions to Weapons Prohibition

Most citizens cannot possess batons 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 weapons into the police, martial arts schools, antiques dealers and historical societies. These people are permitted to possess batons only in the course of their business. 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 Include Fines and Jail Time

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.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. 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 M.A. and an M.F.A in creative 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.

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