The California Supreme Court ruled today that a bicycle footrest doesn’t qualify as illegal metal knuckles under state law.
The court’s seven justices issued a unanimous ruling in San Francisco in the case of a Los Angeles County teenager who was found to be carrying a metallic bicycle footrest in his pocket in 2007.
The youth, identified as David V., was 14 and was riding his bicycle on the afternoon of Aug. 21, 2007, when he was stopped by an officer for failing to wear a helmet.
After the teenager agreed to a search, the officer found a hollow metal footrest that was 4.5 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter in his pocket. The devices are intended to be installed on bicycle wheel hubs, but the officer later testified that he couldn’t find a place where the item would attach to David V.’s bicycle.
The officer also testified that gang members sometimes hold footrests in their fists to increase the impact of punching.
David V. was judged in juvenile court to have violated a state law that forbids the wearing of metal knuckles, also known as brass knuckles, “in or on the hand” for purposes of offense or defense. He was declared a ward of the court and placed in a community camp for six months.
In his appeal, the youth argued that he wasn’t wearing the device and that the law applies only to objects that can be affixed to the hand.
The high court agreed, in a ruling written by Justice Carol Corrigan.
Corrigan wrote, “We conclude that a cylindrical object that cannot be worn in or on the hand does not qualify as ‘metal knuckles'” under the law.”
But Corrigan added that the law could encompass a variety of devices in addition to traditional brass knuckles.
“The statute is flexible, and implements that are fitted to the hand, or wrapped around it, may qualify as metal knuckles,” the court said.