It has recently come to the attention of the motorcycle accident lawyers at Riderz Law that a number of bikers — specifically patch holders — have been arrested for carrying decorative motorcycle leashes, sometimes called “getbacks whips” or “getbacks.” The leashes are made of braided leather, often in club colors. At the end of each leash is a metal clip, substantially similar to what one would find on the end of a big dog’s leash. Typically, they are attached to a motorcycle’s handlebars for decorative purposes.
Recently, in various parts of the state of California, including Ventura County, Orange County, Riverside County, Los Angeles County, and throughout Northern California, LEOs (law enforcement officers) have been arresting those people who have them attached to their handlebars, and charging them with violation of California Penal Code section 12020(a). The statute makes it unlawful to (among other things) possess a wide variety of weapons. This list of “weapons” includes a number of items that may be everyday objects modified to be used as weapons.
In relevant part, the statute reads,
“Any person in this state who does any of the following is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison:
- Manufactures or . . . gives, lends, or possesses . . . any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy, sandclub, sap, or sandbag.”
Based upon a review of the relevant case law, it is apparent that this statute, PC 12020(a) is being applied here by categorizing the decorative leashes as “slungshots.” The California Court of Appeals decision of People v. Fannin is on point. In Fannin, the defendant was arrested and charged under PC 12020(a) for carrying a “slungshot” – in that case, a “two-foot length of metal chain, with a heavy padlock attached to one end.” ( People v. Fannin (2001) 91 Cal.App. 4th 1399, 1401.) The defendant challenged the statute as unconstitutionally vague and over broad. The court upheld the constitutionality of the statute, but provided informative definitions, and crucial specificity to its enforcement, which could greatly assist in the defense of such a charge.
More on the defending these charges — and tips on avoiding trouble with LEOs because of these whips — in the coming days.