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Are nunchucks illegal in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Dec 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

Nunchucks are not illegal weapons on their own under 18-12-106 C.R.S. But it is a crime in Colorado to do either of the following with nunchucks:

  • knowingly aiming, swinging, or throwing a nunchuck; or
  • knowingly possessing a nunchuck in a public place

The only time it is legal to possess a nunchuck in public is for the purpose of an authorized public demonstration or a class. And even then, the person needs to transport the nunchuck in a closed, non-accessible container.  

Nunchuck definition

Nunchucks are an instrument comprised of two sticks, clubs, bars, or rods that are used as handles. These handles are connected by a rope, cord, wire, or chain. Nunchucks are designed as a weapon for self-defense.

Nunchucks also go by the names:

  • nunchaku
  • chain sticks
  • chuka sticks
  • karate sticks

Nunchucks are typically used in such martial arts as Okinawan kobudō and karate. They have been popularized by Bruce Lee movies and the Michelangelo character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 

Nunchuck penalties

Wrongfully using or possessing a nunchuck is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado, carrying:

  • 3 months to 12 months in jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines

It may be possible to get probation in lieu of jail. It may also be possible to get the charge reduced or dismissed as part of a plea bargain.

Note that wrongfully possessing or using a nunchuck becomes a Colorado class 5 felony if the defendant has a prior conviction within the previous five years for either:

Class 5 felony penalties include:

  • 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Nunchuck defenses

There are various strategies for fighting Colorado charges of unlawful use of a nunchuck. They may include:

  • The defendant did not act knowingly;
  • The defendant had no physical control of the nunchuck;
  • The defendant had official permission to possess the nunchuck in public as part of a demonstration or class;
  • The defendant was falsely accused;
  • The defendant was wrongly identified;
  • The police discovered the nunchuck during an illegal search and seizure

Note that it is not a defense to 18-12-106 C.R.S. charges that the defendant was careful, that the nunchucks were legally bought, or that no one was physically injured.

Throwing stars

The same Colorado laws that apply to nunchucks also apply to throwing stars. Throwing stars comprise disks having sharp radiating points or any disk-shaped bladed object which is hand-held and thrown. They are also called ninja stars and shuriken.


Legal References

18-12-106 C.R.S. Prohibited use of weapons

(1)  A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if:
(a)  He knowingly and unlawfully aims a firearm at another person; or
(b)  Recklessly or with criminal negligence he discharges a firearm or shoots a bow and arrow; or
(c)  He knowingly sets a loaded gun, trap, or device designed to cause an explosion upon being tripped or approached, and leaves it unattended by a competent person immediately present; or
(d)  The person has in his or her possession a firearm while the person is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-102 (5). Possession of a permit issued under section 18-12-105.1, as it existed prior to its repeal, or possession of a permit or a temporary emergency permit issued pursuant to part 2 of this article is no defense to a violation of this subsection (1).
(e)  He knowingly aims, swings, or throws a throwing star or nunchaku as defined in this paragraph (e) at another person, or he knowingly possesses a throwing star or nunchaku in a public place except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition or pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class. When transporting throwing stars or nunchaku for a public demonstration or exhibition or for a school or class, they shall be transported in a closed, nonaccessible container. For purposes of this paragraph (e), "nunchaku" means an instrument consisting of two sticks, clubs, bars, or rods to be used as handles, connected by a rope, cord, wire, or chain, which is in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense, and "throwing star" means a disk having sharp radiating points or any disk-shaped bladed object which is hand-held and thrown and which is in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense.

18-12-107 C.R.S. Penalty for second offense

Any person who has within five years previously been convicted of a violation under section 18-12-103, 18-12-105, or 18-12-106 shall, upon conviction for a second or subsequent offense under the same section, be guilty of a class 5 felony.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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