Friday, October 7, 2022

Non-Lethal Weapons - State to Sate


The last edition of our online journal discussed carrying intermediate self-defence options in addition to a gun or when not carrying a weapon. State laws can impose restrictions on possession or use of pepper spray, TASER®s, force multipliers like Kubotans and even hand-to-hand defensive tactics, but those laws vary from state to state.

With many Network members already carrying pepper spray and other non-gun defence options, we asked our Affiliated Attorneys to discuss laws affecting private citizens employing alternative defence options in their locales. We asked –

Do the laws in your state restrict carrying non-gun self-defense devices like pepper spray, TASER®s or Kubotans?

What laws affect the private citizen who stops an attacker by using a TASER®, pepper spray or Kubotan?

What violations might a member be charged with if authorities don’t believe the intermediate weapon was used lawfully?

E. Thomas Dunn, Jr.
Attorney at Law
Pacific Office Plaza, Tustin
1432 Edinger Avenue, Suite 240, Tustin, CA 92780-6293

Five weapons that can legally be used for self-defence in California:

  1. Pepper spray,
  2. Stun guns/TASER®s,
  3. Specific knives (pocket knives, non-switchblade folding knives, Swiss army knives, box cutters, and other utility knives);
  4. Personal alarms, and
  5. Certain licensed/approved guns (such as handguns or shotguns).

Some self-defence weapons that are illegal under California law include:

  • Weapons that are prohibited under California Penal Code §16590 (e.g., leaded canes or blackjacks, brass knuckles, and certain martial arts weapons);
  • Concealed dirks and daggers, illegal under Penal Code §21310; and
  • Assault weapons (e.g., short-barreled shotguns, zip guns, and undetectable firearms) are unlawful according to Penal Code §30605.

Regarding California law on the topic of your inquiry, here’s a website (maintained by the Pepper Spray Store) which states California’s requirements for the use of pepper spray correctly.

As regards TASER®s, most California residents have the legal right to buy, own, carry, and use a stun gun for self-defence without obtaining a permit. However, there are state laws that prohibit the following individuals from taking/using a TASER®:

  • Individuals previously convicted of a felony;
  • Those with a prior conviction of assault or misuse of a stun gun;
  • Individuals addicted to narcotics;
  • Minors under 16 or, if over 16, minors who do not have a parent’s written consent.

A violation of the law by any of these restricted individuals constitutes a misdemeanour (local jail time and/or fines).

As regards Kubotans, no law in California makes a Kubotan or yawara illegal. However, as with any other object, if one is used as a dangerous weapon for a reason other than self-defence, the user could be culpable for an assault with a deadly weapon [Pen. Code, §245, sub. (a)].

Finally, here is a website that contains a valuable summary of items that can be carried and used for self-defence in California. I hope this information is helpful to you.


Brian Craig
Law Office of Brian Craig, PLLC
95 West 100 South, Suite 106, Logan, UT 84321

As a general rule, Utah does not restrict a person from carrying a non-lethal weapon or device for self-defence, such as pepper spray, a TASER®, or Kubotan. But in some circumstances, a person may face criminal prosecution for improper use of a “dangerous weapon.” The facts and circumstances of each case vary.

Pepper spray or another non-lethal defence device could be considered a “dangerous weapon” under Utah law. According to Utah Code § 76-10-501(6)(a)(ii), a “dangerous weapon” may be anything that can cause death or “serious bodily injury” when used in the manner for which it is intended. Pepper spray can cause serious bodily injury, such as shortness of breath. Pepper spray can also cause rashes, blisters, or burns on contact with the skin. Therefore, pepper spray or a similar device may qualify as a “dangerous weapon” under various Utah statutes.

Utah Code § 76-10-509 prohibits possessing a “dangerous weapon” by a minor under age 18. Any parent or guardian who knows that a little owns a dangerous weapon is guilty of a class B misdemeanour, subject to a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Under Utah Code § 76-10-506, a person may be convicted of using a “dangerous weapon” in a threatening manner, fight, or quarrel. The maximum penalty for using a “dangerous weapon” under Utah Code § 76-10-506 is a class A misdemeanour, subject to a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. For example, a person who uses Mace® or pepper spray in a fight could face prosecution. A person could assert self-defence if the dangerous weapon was used reasonably under the circumstances.

Under Utah Code § 76-10-528, a person can also be convicted for carrying a “dangerous weapon” while under alcohol or drugs. The maximum penalty under Utah Code § 76-10-528 is a class B misdemeanour, subject to a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. For example, a person arrested for driving while intoxicated with pepper spray on a key chain can also be convicted under Utah Code § 76-10-528 for carrying a “dangerous weapon” while drinking alcohol or drugs.

A “dangerous weapon” in an airport is also prohibited under Utah law. Utah Code § 6-10-529 prohibits a person from carrying a “dangerous weapon” in an airport secure area. If the person knowingly or intentionally possesses any dangerous weapon or firearm in a particular airport area, the person can be convicted of a class A misdemeanour, subject to a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. If the person only possesses the “dangerous weapon” in an airport recklessly or with criminal negligence, then the maximum penalty is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $750.

Furthermore, a restricted person may be prohibited from carrying a “dangerous weapon,” such as pepper spray. A restricted person is a person who has been convicted of certain offences or is on probation or parole. Utah Code § 76–10–503 criminalizes possession of a “dangerous weapon” by a restricted person.

In Salt Lake City v. Miles, 2014 UT 47, ¶ 21, 342 P.3d 212, 219 (Utah 2014), the Utah Supreme Court held that the evidence was insufficient to support finding that the defendant’s folding pocketknife was a “dangerous weapon,” as required to support a conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. The pocket knife, which had a blade approximately three-and-a-half inches long and a thumb stud allowing the user to open the knife with one hand, did not bear the character of a dangerous weapon as evidenced by any inherent and uniquely weapon-like trait; the pocket knife was not used. It did not produce any wounds, and the pocket knives had other lawful uses, such as camping. Id. But a restricted person should take caution in carrying pepper spray or other non-lethal self-defence devices. The terms of probation in each case may vary.

Along with a possible conviction under Utah Code § 76-10-503, carrying a dangerous weapon could lead to a probation revocation hearing. The court could impose the original sentence for a probation violation. For example, a person on probation for assault could have the suspended sentence reinstated upon a finding that the individual violated the terms of probation by carrying a dangerous weapon. A person on probation should always check with the probation officer before taking anything that could be considered a dangerous weapon.

While Utah does not generally prohibit a person from carrying a non-lethal device, some circumstances may lead to arrest, prosecution, and conviction. Individuals who possess any “dangerous weapon,” such as pepper spray or a TASER®, should do so with caution.


Michael T. Burns
Attorney at Law
9850 Von Allmen Ct, Ste. 201, Louisville, KY 40241

Do the laws in your state restrict carrying non-gun self-defence devices like pepper spray, TASER®s or Kubotans?

Kentucky self-defence laws are codified in Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 502. The use of force in self-protection statutes differentiates between when the use of physical strength and when deadly physical force is allowed but does not specify the types of weapons used. Pepper spray, TASER®s and Kubotans are not prohibited by Kentucky law. The only outright prohibition is against weapons of mass destruction.

What laws affect the private citizen who stops an attacker using a TASER®, pepper spray or Kubotan?

KRS 503.050 provides justification for a person’s use of physical force in self-protection, and KRS 502.070 authorizes using power to protect others. These laws apply to any type of weapon used.

What violations might a member be charged with if authorities don’t believe the intermediate weapon was used lawfully?

The most likely violations for the unlawful use of an intermediate weapon would be an assault 4th degree, a class A misdemeanour unless a severe injury resulted from the encounter. If a serious injury resulted, it would likely be an assault 2nd degree, a class C felony.