A baton is a short, heavy stick or an expandable implement. Batons are sometimes used by law enforcement officials. If you wave around a baton on the streets of Baltimore you are likely to be arrested. The question of whether it is legal to carry a baton in Maryland is a more complicated one. While Maryland code lists dangerous weapons, batons are not mentioned at all. It’s not illegal to openly carry a baton. Although batons are not illegal weapons, the law is ambiguous.
It’s not necessarily illegal to carry a dangerous weapon in Maryland but you cannot carry a concealed dangerous weapon. Nor can you carry a dangerous weapon with the intention of harming another person in an unlawful manner. Baltimore weapons defense attorney Randolph Rice explains further.
What is a Baton?
Batons are also known as billy clubs and nightsticks. They are cylindrical weapons that are typically used by law enforcement officers, prison guards, and security guards to control disorderly situations. They are not intended to be weapons of deadly force like firearms. There are three main types of batons, namely:
- Straight stick batons which are up to three feet long. These batons are often tapered. They have a grip at one end and the weight is concentrated on the other to inflict a blow.
- Side-handled batons that have second handles off of the main shaft located above the grip.
- Expandable batons, also know as telescopic batons, are the non-lethal weapon of choice for many police divisions. Expandable batons are also known as telescopic batons, retractable batons, tactical batons, steel batons, or security batons. They comprise two of three shafts that fit into one another and can be quickly activated by automatic mechanisms. Expandable batons can reach 26 inches and are considered to be the most effective batons on the market.
Police say the use of more advanced batons protects officers but they are linked to serious injuries and deaths. The replacement of the traditional truncheons used by British police with American-style batons in the 1990s was linked to an upsurge in brain injuries and deaths.
Maryland does not list batons as dangerous weapons that you cannot wear or carry. Most states allow the open carry of batons but this is banned in a handful of states including New York, Connecticut, California, Rode Island, and Oklahoma.
Dangerous Weapons You Cannot Wear or Carry in Maryland
Maryland Criminal Law 4-101 lists specific weapons. You cannot wear or carry the following dangerous weapons concealed on or about your person.
- Dirk knives
- Bowie knives
- Switchblade knives
- Star knives
- Metal knuckles
- Throwing stars
You may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon, pepper mace, chemical mace, or tear gas openly with the “intent or purpose of injuring an individual in an unlawful manner.”
The definition under state law does not include batons or stun guns or tasers. This does not mean it’s legal to carry a baton in Maryland. The legality or otherwise of the baton depends on how it was used.
This was illustrated in 1999 when the Court of Special Appeals in Maryland heard the case of Handy v. State. A jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City sentenced Mark Handy to 20 years for robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, and of wearing and carrying a dangerous and deadly weapon. Handy carried chemical mace.
The appeals court considered whether the evidence supported a robbery conviction with a dangerous and deadly weapon.
Lawyers for Handy argued the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of robbery with a deadly weapon. They argued pepper spray does not qualify as a dangerous or deadly weapon under Maryland law.
The justices said “anything used or designed to be used in destroying, defeating, or injuring an enemy, or as an instrument of offensive or defensive combat” could be a dangerous or a deadly weapon in Maryland.
They said anything “immediately useable to inflict serious or deadly harm,” could be dangerous or deadly. The justices cited the use of a starter’s pistol or an unloaded gun to bludgeon a victim and a microphone cord that is used to strangle a victim. Handy’s arguments were dismissed. The judges said pepper spray can be a dangerous weapon when it’s used to hurt and overcome a victim.
As in the case of whether it’s legal to carry mace or pepper spray, the legality of carrying a baton in Maryland depends on its use and whether a potential victim sees it as a threatening weapon.
Is it Unlawful to Carry a Baton in Self-Defense?
Maryland law allows the carrying of weapons such as pepper sprays and Mace as a “reasonable precaution” against an anticipated threat to the carrier’s safety. A self-defense argument could also be used for a baton. However, the final call on whether the baton was being legitimately used for self-defense is down to the judge or the jury.
What is the Penalty Carrying a Baton or Dangerous Weapon in Maryland?
Wearing or carrying a dangerous weapon in Maryland is a misdemeanor. It carries a potential prison term of up to 3 years, a fine up to $1,000 or both. Batons are not listed as dangerous weapons. The way the baton is used is important. If the defendant brandishes it in a menacing or threatening way, he or she is likely to be dealt with harshly in the courts. Concealed carry of a baton is open to interpretation.
Call a Baltimore Baton or Weapons Defense Lawyer Today
Given the gray areas that exist in Maryland law over the carrying of batons, it’s important to hire experienced legal counsel. Weapons offenses carry potentially dire consequences in Maryland. However, the law also makes exceptions that can be taken up by an experienced Maryland weapons defense attorney. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we can address the complicated question ‘is it legal to carry a baton in Maryland’ in the courts. Please contact us for a consultation if a police officer arrested you for a weapons violation.