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Burglary Tools

Possession of Burglary Tools - Penal Code 466 PC

California Penal Code 466 PC, a law of significant gravity, criminalizes the possession of burglary tools intending to break into a dwelling, structure, automobile, and more. These tools, including a screwdriver, crowbar, picklock, and slide hammers, should not be taken lightly.

Put simply, in California, it's not just the act of burglary that's a crime under Penal Code 459 PC. Even carrying tools that could be used for burglary, if it can be proven that you intended to use them for such a purpose, is a crime.

PC 466 makes it a crime to possess burglary tools with the intent of breaking into a home.

Under California Penal Code 466 PC, if you're convicted of possessing burglary tools with intent to commit a crime, you could face significant legal consequences. These include up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, even if you didn't carry out your intentions.

PC 466 says, "Every person having upon him or her in his or her possession a picklock, crow, key bit, crowbar, screwdriver, vise grip pliers, water-pump pliers, slide hammer, slim jim, tension bar, lock pick gun, tubular lock pick, bump key, floor-safe door puller, master key, ceramic or porcelain spark plug chips or pieces, or other instrument or tool with intent feloniously to break or enter into any building, railroad car, aircraft, or vessel, trailer coach, or vehicle as defined in the Vehicle Code, or who shall knowingly make or alter, or shall attempt to make or alter, any key or other instrument named above so that the same will fit or open the lock of a building, railroad car, aircraft, vessel, trailer coach, or vehicle as defined in the Vehicle Code, without being requested to do so by some person having the right to open the same, or who shall make, alter, or repair any instrument or thing, knowing or having reason to believe that it is intended to be used in committing a misdemeanor or felony, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Any structures mentioned in Section 459 shall be deemed a building within this section's meaning."

What Does the Law Say? 

PC 466 is a proactive law, making it a misdemeanor offense to possess burglary tools with the intent to commit a burglary of a building or vehicle. This law is designed to curb burglaries by criminalizing the possession of specific tools commonly used to facilitate such crimes, thereby protecting the community.

The law broadly defines burglary tools, and possession of any of the following items with felonious intent can lead to charges under Penal Code 466:

  • Crowbars,
  • Screwdrivers,
  • Slim jims (tools used to unlock car doors without keys),
  • Lock picks,
  • Master keys,
  • Bolt cutters,
  • Pliers,
  • Vice grip pliers
  • Other similar instruments designed for or capable of being used to commit burglary.

It should also be noted that for purposes of this law, "felonious intent" means more than just intent to break into a building. It applies to any "railroad car, aircraft, vessel, trailer coach, or vehicle as defined in the Vehicle Code."

What are the Elements of the Crime?

Prosecutors must prove the following critical elements beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction under Penal Code 466.

Burglary

Possession

Possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means having the tool on your person, such as in your pocket or backpack. Constructive possession refers to having access to the tool, even if it's not directly on you, such as in your car or home, provided you have control over the area where the tool is found.

Tool Specification

The law explicitly lists specific tools but also covers "other instruments or tools" commonly used for burglary. This means that even if a tool is not mentioned explicitly, if it is frequently associated with burglary, it can still lead to charges under Penal Code 466.

Felonious Intent

Intent is often the most challenging element to prove. The prosecution must show that you possessed the tool with the purpose of committing a burglary. This is typically established through circumstantial evidence, such as your behavior, the time and place of the arrest, or prior criminal conduct.

What are Related Crimes?

A few California crimes are related to PC 266 possession of burglary tools, as Illegal acts with keys and ignitions. These laws make it a crime to do the following acts:

  • Penal Code 466.5 PC - Possess or manufacture vehicle master keys,
  • Penal Code 466.6 PC - Make vehicle keys,
  • Penal Code 466.65 PC - Possess tools to bypass motorcycle ignition,
  • Penal Code 466.7 PC - Unlawful possession of vehicle keys,
  • Penal Code 466.8 PC - Manufacture of residential or commercial keys,
  • Penal Code 469 PC - Unauthorized key to a state building.

What are the Penalties for Violating Penal Code 466?

Possession of burglary tools is classified as a misdemeanor in California. The penalties upon conviction can include:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Informal probation may include conditions like community service, counseling, or regular check-ins with a probation officer.

What are the Common Defenses Against PC 466 Charges?

A skilled California criminal defense attorney can employ several defense strategies to counter charges under Penal Code 466. Some of the most common include:

Lack of Felonious Intent

One of the strongest defenses is demonstrating the absence of felonious intent. If the defendant can prove they did not intend to use the tools to commit a burglary, they cannot be convicted under PC 466. For example, this defense might apply if tools were carried out for legitimate purposes, such as locksmithing or performing legal repairs.

Burglary Defenses

Lack of Possession

If the tools were not found on your person or in an area over which you had control, you might argue that you did not possess the tools. This defense can be particularly effective if the tools were discovered in a shared or public space where multiple people had access.

Legitimate Purpose

If you can show that the tools were in your possession for a legitimate reason, such as for your job (e.g., locksmith, mechanic) or a hobby, this can negate the element of criminal intent. Supporting evidence such as employment records, receipts, or personal testimony can strengthen this defense.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful searches and seizures. If law enforcement conducted an illegal search without a warrant or probable cause, any evidence obtained, including burglary tools, could be suppressed. This means it cannot be used against you in court, potentially leading to the dismissal of charges.

Contact our California criminal defense law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP is in Los Angeles, CA.

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