Is an Old School Biker Whip Illegal in the State of California? What weapons are banned in California?

motorcycle accident attorney Norman Gregory Fernandez discusses what weapons are legal in California *** 10/24/2008 Update

I have heard of a case out of Hollister, California where a prosecutor is trying to convict someone of sales and possession of an illegal weapon, i.e. a Biker Getback Whip. The Prosecutor is claiming that the Getback Whip is a Slungshot and therefore illegal under California Penal Code §12020. A slung shot has been defined as a weight, as a stone or a piece of metal, fastened to a short strap, chain, or the like, and used as a weapon. Most Getback Whips have metal fastener on the end that is used to fasten the whip to the clutch or brake lever on motorcycles. My personal opinion on this matter is that the prosecutor is reaching big time here, to try to set a precedent that the Getback whip with a metal fastener on the end is in fact a slung shot. We will have to wait to see the outcome of the case. In the meantime, if you have a Getback whip attached to your motorcycle as decoration, you may want to reconsider having one for now!

After a recent incident here in Los Banos, California, I received an inquiry as to whether an Old School Biker Whip is Illegal in the State of California. I was also asked if the use of the Old School Biker Whip is a crime.

Well first off many of you are probably wondering what an Old School Biker Whip or “Getback” whip is.

There is a history behind the old school biker or “getback” whips.

In the past and in the present, you may have seen bikers and motorcyclist with biker whips attached to their motorcycles. The Biker Whips are attached to the motorcycle by way of the clutch or brake levers.

The whips usually made from leather, can be a decorative display, or display a bikers motorcycle club colors.

A biker whip can be quickly released and used “in case of emergency” as well.

Presently many bikers still hang whips from their controls including a few of my brothers.

Many mainstream bikers and motorcyclist hang whips from their controls for decoration. Here is a website that sells all types of Biker Whips.

The issue is whether they are legal in the State of California.

The short answer is yes and no. A Biker Whip is not banned by California Penal Code §12020 so they are most likely legal. However, if the whip is used in the commission of a crime, than it is most likely illegal in that circumstance.

Hell even your finger can be construed as an illegal weapon when used during the commission of a crime in the State of California, under certain circumstances.

Therefore, no one should be getting arrested or busted in California for hanging a biker whip on the controls of their motorcycle; at least that is my opinion based upon the present law as it stands now.

California Penal Code §12020 articulates what weapons are banned in the State of California. It states in Part that:
(a) 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:
(1) Manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any cane gun or wallet gun, any undetectable firearm, any firearm which is not immediately recognizable as a
firearm, any camouflaging firearm container, any ammunition which contains or consists of any flechette dart, any bullet containing or carrying an explosive agent, any ballistic knife, any multiburst trigger activator, any nunchaku, any short-barreled shotgun, any
short-barreled rifle, any metal knuckles, any belt buckle knife, any leaded cane, any zip gun, any shuriken, any unconventional pistol, any lipstick case knife, any cane sword, any shobi-zue, any air gauge knife, any writing pen knife, any metal military practice
handgrenade or metal replica handgrenade, or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy, sandclub, sap, or sandbag

Since there is no mention of a whip being illegal in the code, it should therefore not be illegal. However, if you use it in the commission of a crime all bets are off.

** Please see the above update. A prosecutor out of Hollister, California is trying to prosecute someone for sales and possession of Getback whips, by saying that they are actually Slungshots. So far there is no outcome. You may want to reconsider having one attached to your motorcycle until a verdict is reached in the case!

By California Biker Rights Attorney Norman Gregory Fernandez, © 2008

51 Responses to Is an Old School Biker Whip Illegal in the State of California? What weapons are banned in California?

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  2. norman,
    the whipstrap attached to my bike is actually somewhat locked on by a zip tie. not quickly removed. you would have to cut the zip tie off with a knife first. not an easy task the way the zip tie is wedged into the release mechanism. purely adornment! wonder how that would fit in with the law?

  3. Your comment on the quick release can be used in case of emergency certainly can be misconstrued. After talking to the manufacture of the whips, the quick release is if they get caught in your wheel, as some of them are 36″ or longer.
    It is not meant to be used as a weapon of any kind. It is purely decoration, which they are providing me a letter to that effect.
    There has no law been passed that states these are illegal in any state in the union.

  4. are they illegal in California is the question, the answer is not yes and no, the answer is no they are not.
    Nobody is talking about using them as a weapon.
    So the answer is no they are not.
    Any object can be used as a weapon, is an iron illegal in Ca.? The answer is not yes and no, the answer is no. If someone uses and iron to bash someone over the head with, does the iron become illegal. No it does not, it was just what was used to hurt or kill someone.

  5. I talked with the person in charge of their website, they are clarifying what the in case of emergency is.
    There are a bunch of websites that sell them, hopefully they will all follow suit.
    As far as being a test case, I am happy to do it.
    I have refused to take my whip off and have passed at least 20 police in the last 3 days, without incident.
    You can use anything to hurt someone, but the hammer or iron or anything else does not become illegal in the state of california. It may become an illegal weapon in that particular case, but it is not illegal. You can still go buy one, so if someone uses a whip as a weapon why should all whips become illegal. Same thing with a knife. Knives are not illegal per se, but people get stabbed all the time. I should be a lawyer.

    • Ia agree but in your fair state of Cali.????? A gun i snot a weapon until you use it either! And they have made it nearly impossible ot own one there right? SO…..It all comes down to how much money does that knucklehead have to push this through and get it on a ballot somewhere? I hope you kick their ass!!!

      • Hell no we own guns in California. However, there is a 15 day waiting period on all guns here. You cannot be a convicted felon or a mental patient, and there is an assault weapons ban, and a ban on clips bigger than 10 rounds. I stand for the 2nd Amendment and believe that we should have more liberal gun laws here.


        • Yes, Norm, we own guns in Kalifornia. We are not allowed to carry them concealed. We are not allowed to carry them openly. Kind of limits one’s ability to use them.

          • Actually, we are allowed to open carry in California, just not around schools or federal buildings. The catch is that anyone can refuse service to someone who is openly carrying and ask them to leave. Which is why people don’t do it, but you can open carry.

  6. I heard of an arrest last weekend for possession of a “whip” as defined by PC 12020(a) (with “slungshot” specifically referenced) along with an attempt at “gang” enhancement. This is HAPPENING, folks.

    I’d been steadfast in my perceived right to decorate my vehicle however I please, but I do believe I’ll be removing my “whip” for a while.

  7. Here in SoCal, San Diego, I too have been followed and examined by the Highway Patrol rolling down the freeway. My getback is still flying.

    Can I afford to be harrassed? No. A PC is not illigal in the home, but I was charged with a felony for destroying it (claimed it was used as a deadly weapon).

    On probation still . . . . I will take my chances, because if it is not being used as a weapon, it is not a weapon. My cell phone could be a weapon if I bashed someone in the head with it, but I also ride with this and use it for phone calls.

    If I hear of anything happening down here concerning this – will let you know. I welcome them to try to make this one stick.

  8. I got pulled over for my whip. The cop was not so much a dick as to cite me he just told me to get rid of it for the reasons above, weight at the end of a strap. I felt that my belt was the exact same thing but didn’t want to be a dick and then have the whole thing escalate.

    To resolve it, I removed the buckle and zip tied the whip back to the lever. I’ve had no more issues.

  9. I live in Texas and we have no laws on the books that I know of about anything like this. I am also a member of Texas Motorcycle Rights Association. If you guys would start calling the DA in your county and tell them that if they allow thier prosecutors to try these cases, they will not be in office next term. I would be willing to bet alot of this will stop. It is up to us as bikers to say what can pass for laws and what is someone trying to tell everyone eles how to live and what they can and can’t do. WE make the laws, because we put the lawmakers in office.

    We teach women that in the right case a key or a ball point pen can be use as a weapon to defend themselves.Anything can be used as a weapon.

    I just get so sick of these people telling everyone what is right and what is wrong.

  10. Scared little rats! Grey Wolf is Right! legallity of helmets was an issue…now the CHP are not writing them up (Halfshell) because we rose up.. were are the Masters! and until we stand on our own little rat feet THEY will continue to push us around. QUIT WHINNING! get on your feet and call your ELECTED reps. and let them know WE ARE THE MASTERS THEY WORK FOR US!! any Lawyer that abides with the mentality of “just comply” is nothing but part of the problem and not a champion of what is right and wrong..he’s/she’s just another ambulance chaser! how about when you get RUN OVER by a car and all that happens to the driver is a ticket? you would think that would be a little more of an issue to concern your little rat brains about! wouldn’t you? so WAKE UP! call your REPS! they work for us…VOTE THE BUMS OUT!

  11. What if the whip was used as an over-sized key chain? I have thought about putting a ring with a few misc. keys on it in the clip of my whip and calling it a key chain.

  12. I’m hearing more and more about the law making an issue of these get back biker whips, especially in northern California. That area seems to go out of their way to mess with what is perceived to be one-percenters. A motorcycle club has a yearly function in our town that local law enforcement is not happy about. When that club is in town, all motorcyclists happen to get hassled by being pulled over for absolutely no reason at all.

    I hear ABATE is working on the biker whip problem. One thing that needs to be learned, if possible: Are local law enforcement agencies being given authority to pull over riders for no other reason than biker whips? I’d say this is akin to states that enable their police to pull over motorists for seat belt violations so those states can then be eligible for federal funds.

  13. I am owner of “cactus leather,” mfgr/distributer of getbacks. I began crafting getbacks 7 yrs. ago to bring back the original getback which first appeared in the 40’s mainly in Calif.
    I ship everywhere in the U.S. and internationally. Now these have become an issue in Calif. I am working with Abate to resolve one more infringement on bikers’ rights. Cops seem to be keying in mostly on patchholders, not so much on independents from what I have heard.
    San Diego cops I’ve talked with seem okay with getbacks so long as they are not used in the commission of a crime. Additionally, I receive a written invite every year to the local “downed officer” rally to set up.
    Our getbacks are not crafted or designed to “use in case of emergency” as stated on some websites.
    I offer “legal” non-metal, non-detachable decorative getbacks to avoid any further legal complication until this issue is resolved in Calif.

  14. two members were just jailed feb 13 charged w a felony and had to bond out. said the bikes were too loud as to why they pulled em over.any excuse.20,000 bail for a whip. if it detaches easily,,, its illegal, but okay if perm. attached. front wheel up STEW, DIABLOS M/C/ DAGO

  15. Has any of these cases found the holder of the whip guilty just for sporting it. A company called IronBraid actually makes the whip with any type of clasp you prefer on the end or even just a slipknot that can be put over the lever. There website tells you about the original history of the getback whips but clearly states they are not manufactured or sold with those ideas in mind and are purely a novelty item that gos hand in hand with there braided motorcycle levers.

  16. Howard “the in case of emergency” comes straight from the website link in the article from the person selling these things. You are right it can be misconstrued. But it is part of the advertisement for these things. Whether it can be used as a weapon depends on who is using it for what right?

    Your analogy with respect to someone hitting someone else in the iron is a yes or no as well. A hammer is not an illegal weapon. However, if it is used to hit someone on the head, you could and probably would be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. California Penal Code ss 245. If a getback whip were used in a manner which is violative of PC ss 245 you could have the same result.

    If you are willing to test the waters to see if what the prosecutors are doing will fly, go ahead and get busted with a whip to see what the outcome of your case will be. I am recommending that unless you want trouble, don’t ride with the whip.

    I share your opinion that the law does not ban the getback whip outright. However, there are prosecutors treating them as slungshots which are prohibited by California law per my update in the article. Furthermore, if the whip is used in a fight or crime, you may also be charged with PC ss245.

    We are still waiting for a court case to decide the matter one way or the other.

    It is this Biker Lawyer’s opinion that any biker who does not want to be hassled should remove the whips in California, unless you want to be the guinea pig.


  17. Well I am not going to presume what “in case of emergency means,” except to say it is subjective right?

    With respect to being a test case, sometimes laws are broken in good faith just to test them. If you do get busted, let me know how it goes.

    In the present case, there is no law against the Getback whip, but there is a law against attaching a piece of metal or a rock to the end of a strap or chain and using it as a weapon. I would argue that the Getback Whip was not made for the purpose of being a slungshot, and it is not used as a slungshot. However, if you take a look at the picture above, it would tend to meet the criteria of a slungshot pursuant to California Penal Code §12020, thus that is why the prosecutors are now going after guys riding with these things. In the end it will be the test cases that decide the matter.

    Unfortunately, there may be a whole bunch of cases, with guys coping pleas or going to jail, before one reaches the Court of appeals and becomes precedent.

    I agree with you that Getback Whips are just ornaments. I agree that it is ridiculous that people are being busted for attaching these things.

    I am not going to go into a dissertation on knives in this discussion.


  18. Thanks for the info Paladin in Pink. I have also heard of a couple of more instances of busts for the Getback whip here in SoCal too.

    It is not worth the risk as far as I am concerned. Now if you took off the quick attach/detach click and tied it somehow onto your motorcycle it could not be perceived as a Getback Whip. It does look like a concerted effort by law enforcement all over the State to get rid of these things.


  19. Rick I agree with you that everyone should call their elected representatives to get this changed, and to try to vote them out as well.

    However, as a Biker Lawyer I would not counsel anyone to fly a getback whip and to catch a felony to be a martyr or to prove a point because you do not agree with the law. As a matter of fact any lawyer worth two bits would counsel you not to do something which could result in a felony charge.

    If I were to tell my clients to do something which could result in a felony charge, I could be sued for malpractice! It is like your doctor going ahead and telling you to smoke cigarettes because he does not think they are bad for you.

    I think you are mistaken as to what the role of an attorney is. My role is to fight BS like this for my clients, and to counsel clients on how to avoid trouble, not to counsel my clients to get into trouble.

    If you knew who I represent you would not be calling me just another ambulance chaser.


  20. I know about what is going on throughout California Wigglesworth. The first report I received was a vendor getting busted in Hollister selling the whips. It has gone downhill since then.

    The law on traffic stops in California was modified under Reagan conservative rule. It used to be the that law enforcement needed probable cause that you committed a crime or an infraction. The law was changed under Reagan so that law enforcement simply needs reasonable suspicion based upon articulatable faces that you have either committed a crime or an infraction.

    In practice, under the reasonable suspicion rule, you can basically be stopped for anything.


    • In the case of the vendor getting popped in Hollister a few yaers ago selling the getbacks they fined them for an infraction for selling a weapon with out a lic. it cost them about $4000.00 there was not enough profit in the product for him to continue the fight .He just dosen’t anything to do with them . There were other vendors selling them as well but they picked him, and no one in the industry came to help in his defense. I sell them at rallies all over the US I have disclaimer on what they are intended for and advise bikers of there enhancement on making your bike safer and more visable, and also suggest they zip tie ,wire or any other means to make it permanent on your break or clucth lever. You can also purchase whips with out thew panic snap.

  21. That’s why I’m glad I live in the great state of Georgia! To hell with worring about a “slungshot”, we carry concealed weapons 24/7/365 in this state. The 2nd Amendment is alive and well in the Land Of Dixie! 🙂

  22. It is amazing how the state of California attempts to be “ground breaking” in some areas and yet, we take steps back every year.

    This is an awesome blog, glad to have found it.

  23. Well, if biker’s whip really illegal and then it must also be strictly prohibited to bring guns and other sharp objects that could harm anyone. This gonna be a strict implementation.

  24. Can someone remind me again why we make state legislature a manditory full time position? I understand that laws need to be written, but maybe we should limit that to pressing issues. We are paying people to limit more and more of our rights. I just hope they don’t get bored enough to outlaw belts or something of that nature, in fear that it will be used as a weapon. Come on man!

  25. Any recent update to this issue? Sounds like a stretch and I think some of these lawmakers need to focus on real issues that pertain to crime in general… like how bout we have more control over our southern border? Just a thought. Ridiculous!

  26. Well this past friday I was pulled over by a Los Angeles police in the city of Van Nuyz, I was arrested, I asked the officer why, he replied cause I had a whip on my bike, and he said it was a FELONY to have one… He charged me with a felony. I had never used it as a weapon or would even try to use it as a weapon, to me it was an accessory on my bike… is there anyway that I could fight this when I go to court?

  27. Hi All,

    My name is Cody and I am the operations manager of Chilhowee Motorcycle Leather (the hyperlink in Norms article, thank you Norm 🙂 ). I noticed that you recommend taking the Whips off the bike, JUST IN CASE. No one wants to be accused or like Robert Cruz above, to be arrested for a simple decoration. I agree with Norm, please be VERY careful depending on where you live, it’s not worth it. However, if you want to stick it to them….we make the whips without the quick release clasp, it’s attached with a simple extension of the leather and a button snap. 🙂 Let me know if any of you guys have questions. 1-877-223-1602 or

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