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Possession of Burglary Tools

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What are Burglary Tools?

Burglary tools are any tools or devices that are used to assist a person in committing burglary.  Also called “burglar’s tools”, or burglar tools, they are illegal to possess with the intent to commit a burglary.

Burglary can be defined as the unauthorized entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime within the structure.  Sometimes, “unauthorized entry” is defined similarly to breaking and entering (though not in all jurisdictions).  Thus, burglary tools are those that allow a person to forcibly break their way into a home or building. 

What Are Some Examples of Burglary Tools?

Every jurisdiction has different definitions of burglary tools, but they usually include:

  • Crowbars, slim jims, and other prying devices
  • Lock picks and devices used for opening/decoding locks
  • Screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, and other common hand tools
  • Ropes for climbing
  • Masks, gloves, and other clothing used to hide identity or fingerprints
  • Heavy duty tools capable of burning through concrete, steel, and other solid materials, such as torches and thermal lances
  • Explosives like dynamite or gunpowder

Note that some of the items listed here are common, everyday items that most persons own and use on a daily basis.  What “transforms” such items into a burglary tool is the person’s intent in possessing them.  If it is clear that the person intends to use such tools for a burglary, then they can be charged with possession of burglary tools.

How is “Intent to Commit a Burglary” Determined?

Intent to commit a burglary is required in order to be charged with possession of burglary tools.  A court usually considers the totality of the circumstances when determining if a person intended to commit a robbery. If the person took all the necessary steps for the crime to be committed and wanted the crime to be completed, then the element of intent is established.

Example 1: Suppose that a person is using a crowbar in their neighbor’s yard to help them dismantle wooden crates.  They probably wouldn’t be charged with possession of a burglary tool, since they have are not intending to burglarize their neighbor’s home, but are helping them.

Example 2: Suppose that the same person is standing in front of a convenience store with the same crowbar.  It is 3 a.m., the store is closed, they are dressed in dark clothing, they are holding a small bag, and are wearing a mask.  In this case, the circumstances might indicate that they are intending to burglarize the store.  As such they might be charged with possession of a burglary tool.

Intent to commit a burglary can be determined by considering:

  • The way the defendant is dressed at the time of possession
  • The time of day and the location of the defendant
  • The nature of the building or structure where the defendant was found
  • Whether the person possessed other tools or items that would suggest a burglary
  • Documents or previous statements by the defendant (i.e., “I’m going to rob that store next week”)
  • Any type of Witness testimony would also be used to prove the crime

What are the Legal Penalties for Possession of Burglary Tools?

Possession of burglary tools is may be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on local laws.  Misdemeanors can result in criminal fines and/or jail time of up to one year.  Felony charges will result in higher fines, and/or a prison sentence of greater than one year.

Possession of burglary tools is a separate crime from burglary itself.  A person can be charged with both burglary and possession of burglary tools for the same “heist”.  This means that burglaries committed with the use of burglary tools will result in stiffer penalties than burglaries committed without them.

Most possession of burglary crime penalties would be:

  • Incarceration: The jail or prison sentence depends on whether the crime was a misdemeanor or a felony charge and also whether if it was a state of federal offense
  • Probation: If the person served a jail or prison term, they would also most likely be on probation for a time after the term served
  • Fines: The amount of fine depends on the nature and degree of the crime and the value of the tools that were in the person's possession
  • Restitution: A person convicted of possession of burglary tools might also be liable since they contributed to the crime and sometime would have to pay back the victim for the amount of loss suffered.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Possession of Burglary Tools Charges?

Burglary laws are quite complex and can vary from region to region.  Possession of burglary tools is a serious offense, but there may be defenses available.  If you have any questions or need advice regarding possession of burglary tools charges, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately.  A qualified criminal defense attorney will be able to provide you with sound representation and counsel during court proceedings. 

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 01-31-2018 10:45 PM PST

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