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Possessing an Instrument of Crime

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What is an Instrument of Crime?

An instrument of crime is anything specially made or specially adapted for criminal use, or an object that is commonly used for criminal purposes.  Instruments of crime are sometimes referred to as "derivative contraband."  Examples of an instrument of crime include:

When Can Someone be Guilty of Possessing an Instrument of Crime?

Many states make it a crime to possess an instrument of crime in certain circumstances.  Generally, in order to be guilty and later punished for the crime of possessing an instrument of crime, a person must:

  1. Have direct physical control over the instrument of crime,
  2. Have the intent to use the instrument of crime in a criminal activity, and
  3. The instrument of crime cannot serve a lawful purpose under the circumstances.

What Punishment Can I Face for Possessing an Instrument of Crime?

Possessing an instrument of crime is generally a misdemeanor offense.  As such, a person found guilty can face criminal punishment that can include:

  • Jail time, ranging from 3 days to 5 years,
  • Fines, ranging from $500 to $10,000,
  • Community service,
  • Forfeiture of the property,
  • Parole or probation, or
  • Loss of driver's license.

These punishments do not generally take into account a person's previous criminal history.  Because possessing an instrument of crime is generally associated with a repeat criminal offender, their punishment can be greater because of a violation of their parole or probation agreement.

Do I Need an Attorney if I am Charged with Possessing an Instrument of Crime?

If you are charged with possessing an instrument of crime, it is highly recommended that you contact a criminal defense attorney.  Only an attorney will be able to explain the relevant issues and help in your defense.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-19-2018 08:52 PM PDT

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