Burglary is a criminal offense which occurs when an individual breaks and enters into a house or a building for the purpose of committing a crime therein. Burglary is often committed when an individual intends to carry out the crime of theft once they have illegally entered the premises.
The unlawful entry onto a property with the intent of committing any crime, including assault or arson may also constitute burglary. Burglary is often referred to by other names, including breaking and entering or housebreaking.
There, however, may be slight differences between the terms, depending upon the criminal laws and statutes of the state. In addition, depending upon the details of the crimes committed and the laws of the state, burglary may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
Is a Burglary a Felony or a Misdemeanor?
In many states, such as New York, burglary is punishable as a felony and can often be further separated into categories called degrees. The degrees may range, for example, from first-degree to third-degree burglary. Typically, first-degree burglary is the most serious category of burglary.
In other jurisdictions, burglary may be classified as a misdemeanor crime, which is less serious than a felony crime. Factors that may be examined to determine how serious a burglary crime is may include:
- How the individual gained entry into the property, for example, destroying a door versus sneaking in through an open window;
- Whether any property was damaged during the crime;
- Whether there were any people present;
- Whether violence or the threat of violence was used to commit the burglary;
- Whether any weapons were used in the commission of the burglary; and
- Various other factors which depend on the circumstances of each unique case.
Typically, if violence or a weapon were used in the case, it will result in more serious felony charges.
What are Burglary Tools?
Burglary tools are tools or devices which are used to assist an individual in committing a burglary. They are also referred to as burglar’s tools or burglar tools.
Burglary tools are illegal to possess with the intent to commit a burglary. Burglary may be defined as the unauthorized entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime therein.
In some cases, unauthorized entry is defined in a similar manner as breaking and entering, though not in all jurisdictions. Therefore, burglary tools are those which allow an individual to forcibly break their way into a home or building.
What Are Some Examples of Burglary Tools?
Each jurisdiction has different definitions of what constitutes burglary tools. However, they typically include:
- Crowbars, slim jims, and other prying devices;
- Lock picks and devices used for opening or decoding locks;
- Screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, and other common hand tools;
- Ropes for climbing;
- Gloves, masks, and other clothing which is used to hide the individual’s identity or fingerprints;
- Heavy-duty tools capable of burning through concrete, steel, and other solid materials, such as torches and thermal lances; and
- Explosives like dynamite or gunpowder.
It is important to note that some of the items listed above are common items that most individuals own and use on a daily basis. These items become burglary tools based on the individual’s intent who possesses them.
If it is clear that the individual intends to use the tools to commit a burglary, they may be charged with possession of burglary tools.
How is Intent to Commit a Burglary Determined?
The intent to commit burglary is required in order for an individual to be charged with the possession of burglary tools. Courts typically consider the totality of the circumstances when determining if an individual intended to commit robbery.
If an individual took all necessary steps for the crime to be committed and wanted the crime to be completed, the element of intent may be established. It may be helpful to review some examples.
Suppose that an individual is using a crowbar in their neighbor’s yard to assist them with dismantling wooden crates. That individual would likely not be charged with possession of a burglary tool because they did not intend to burglarize their neighbor’s home, but, instead, are helping them.
In contrast, suppose that an individual is standing in front of a convenience store with a crowbar. Suppose it is 3 in the morning, the store is closed, the individual is dressed in dark clothing as well as a mask and is carrying a small bag.
What are the Legal Penalties for Possession of Burglary Tools?
The possession of burglary tools may be classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction. A misdemeanor may result in criminal fines and/or jail time of less than one year.
A felony conviction will result in higher fines and/or a prison sentence of more than one year. The possession of burglary tools is a separate offense from the burglary itself.
An individual may be charged with both burglary and possession of burglary tools for the same offense. This means that a burglary committed with the use of burglary tools will often result in harsher penalties than a burglary that was committed without them.
As previously noted, the penalties for possession of burglary tools may include:
- Criminal fines; and
The length of incarceration will depend on whether the crime was charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. It will also depend on whether the crime was a state or federal offense.
If an individual served a jail or prison term, they may be placed on probation after their time is served. Committing any additional crimes violates probation.
In some cases, an individual may also be required to pay criminal fines. The amount will depend upon the nature and the degree of the crime as well as the value of the burglary tools which were in the individual’s possession.
An individual who is convicted of possession of burglary tools may be required to pay restitution. Restitution is paid by a defendant to compensate a victim for losses they suffered as a result of the crime.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Possession of Burglary Tools Charges?
It is essential to have the assistance of a criminal lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have regarding a charge of possession of burglary tools. Burglary laws may be complex, and they vary by jurisdiction.
Possession of burglary tools is a serious charge. Your attorney can review your case, determine if any defenses are available, and represent you during court proceedings.