The mere possession of a crowbar, or even a set of lockpicks, does not make someone a criminal. But if prosecutors can prove the person in possession of these items intended to use them to , then that person could be found guilty of violating California Penal Code Section 466 (PC), aka possession of burglary tools.
What are Considered Burglary Tools Under California Law?
Many common tools are considered “burglary tools” under 466 (PC) that’s why owning these items isn’t inherently against the law, unless they are possessed for the purpose of breaking into a building, railroad car, aircraft, vessel, trailer coach, coin operated machine or vehicle. Examples include:
- lockpicking kits
- slim jims
- vise grip pliers
- lock pick guns
- bump keys
- slide hammers
- master keys
- ceramic or porcelain spark plug chips
It is also against the law to modify any type of tool or key to break into something.
What is the Penalty for Possessing Burglary Tools?
A conviction for most of these offenses is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail, plus time on probation. Under Penal Code section 466.3 (PC), the crime could be a misdemeanor punishable by a full year in jail if the possession of a tool, key, explosive or other instrument was intended for use on a coin operated machine, such as a parking meter, money changer, vending machine or laundry machine.
Defenses Against 466 (PC)
It’s important to recognize that you can only be convicted of this crime if the prosecution can prove that you possessed one of these tools with the intent to commit burglary. This in itself is hard to prove, especially if you have a skilled criminal defense attorney fighting on your behalf who can argue that you had no criminal intent.
Even if there is no doubt as to your intent to commit burglary (say you told the police you had lock pick tools so you could break into your neighbor’s house), your lawyer may still be able to fight the charges if the tools were discovered as a result of illegal search or seizure.
You are more likely to be successfully convicted of this crime if the tools were already used in a burglary, but it is still possible to fight these charges, particularly if you were not involved with the break in. For example, if you were borrowing someone’s car and they had a crowbar that was used to break into a home the week prior, you would not be committing a crime if you didn’t know the tool was used for such purposes.
If you have been accused of any crime related to burglary, remember to never speak with the police or prosecution without a criminal defense attorney at your side. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.