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Name: People v. Baugh
Case #: A145675
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 02/09/2018
Summary

When a defendant is charged with possessing a billy club, the prosecution is not required to prove the defendant intended to use the object as a weapon. During a vehicle stop, Baugh was found with a small wooden club, which Baugh said was a “tire thumper” he used in driving commercial trucks, and other items. At trial, a jury convicted Baugh of possessing a billy club (Pen. Code, § 22210). On appeal he challenged part of a jury instruction that stated the People did not have to prove he intended to use the club as a weapon. Held: Affirmed. Intent to use an object as a weapon is not an element of the crime of weapon possession; the possession alone is sufficient. However, if the object is not a weapon per se, but has ordinary innocent uses, the prosecution must prove that the object was possessed as a weapon. The circumstances of possession, like time, place, destination of the possessor, alteration of the object from its standard form, and other facts, may provide circumstantial evidence the possessor would use the object for a dangerous, not harmless, purpose. (People v. Grubb (1965) 63 Cal.2d 614.) Here, the jury was instructed with CALCRIM No. 2500, which states that if the object has innocent uses, the prosecution must prove the defendant possessed the object as a weapon, and sets forth the “circumstances of possession” test of Grubb. The trial court included the portion of the instruction that states the People need not prove the defendant intended to use the object as a weapon, even though the use notes state this part of the instruction should only be given with respect to objects designed for use as weapons. However, this was not error, as cases consistently hold that if the object has a lawful use, the prosecution need only prove it was possessed as a weapon. The evidence showed Baugh kept the wooden bat at his side, under circumstances in which an inference could reasonably be drawn that he possessed it as a weapon.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A145675.PDF