Thousands of small replica wooden bats are given out every year at major league baseball parks. I got one at the Angels game I attended a few years ago. If I’m driving in my car with that small wooden bat under the driver’s seat of my car is that illegal? How could it be, unless the Angels are mass producing illegal weapons and giving them away to an unsuspecting public?
In the recent case of People v Baugh, decided on February 9, 2018, the First District Court of Appeal in California found that exactly such a bat constitutes a weapon and is illegal to possess under Penal Code Section 22210. The California Supreme Court years ago in the Grubb case (63 Cal 2d 614) made it clear that if an item that had an innocent purpose and an illegal purpose and the prosecution could show that the defendant intended it to be used as a weapon it became illegal to possess it. Mr. Baugh was caught with the small wooden bat where it was kept close at hand, within easy reach if needed as a weapon, and that it could be used as a weapon if he felt the need to use it. Baugh testified that he didn’t intend to use the small wooden bat as a weapon but he wasn’t believed. Often times modifications to the bat can be evidence of an intent to use it as a weapon. Practically speaking, there wasn’t any good reason to have the bat at the ready in the car if it wasn’t for use as a weapon when called upon.
The lesson to be learned is that even innocent items can be found to be weapons and possession of them to be a violation of the law. If you are going to possess something like a wooden bat you will need to be able to articulate a plausible and credible reason for it being in your car within easy reach.