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California’s Law on Possession of Burglary Tools – Penal Code 466

Posted by Philip Israels | Jun 18, 2019

California's law on possession of burglary is defined in Penal Code Section 466. This statute makes it a crime to be in possession of specific tools closely connected to burglary, when your possession of these tools is with the intent to break into any building, vehicle, or other structures.

The type of tools that are prohibited include a slim jim, crowbar, vice grip plies, along with many other similar items. Burglary is a very common crime and police officers and prosecutors will typically consider possession of these types of tools a serious matter. If you have been accused of a theft crime under Penal Code 466, you can expect aggressive prosecution in order to obtain a conviction.

It's important to note that in some cases, prosecuting a case for possession of burglary tool can be difficult because some people use these type of tools for their employment. In other words, possession of these tools can often be work related and there was no criminal intent. Just possession of these tools is not a crime by itself. Under PC 466, you must have possession of these tools for an unlawful purpose.

In most cases, after police detain someone on suspicion of possessing burglary tools, they will ask the suspect certain common questions in an attempt to get them to make incriminating statements.  A very common example of this involves a situation where someone is pulled over on a routine traffic stop. After police run a background check, they discover the driver has an outstanding warrant for their arrest.

Police will arrest the driver and begin a search of their vehicle, where they find a bolt cutter, ski mask, and some flashlights. Again, possessing of any one of these items is not a crime, but possession of all of them together at once appears suspicious because they are all common items that can be used to commit burglary.

A prosecutor will try to show your possession of these items as with intent to commit a burglary through circumstantial evidence, meaning they will rely on closely surrounding events to form a belief a crime was committed. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will outline Penal Code 466 below, which is California's law on possession of burglary tools.

Legal Definition of Penal Code 466 Burglary Tools

California Penal Code 466 describes the crime of possession of burglary tools as follows:

Anyone with possession of a picklock, keybit, crowbar, screwdriver, vise grip pliers, slide hammer, slim jim, lock pick gun, bump key, master key, spark plug chips, or other instrument with intent to break or enter into any building, or vehicle, or who knowingly makes or alters a key or instrument to open the lock of a building, or vehicle, or who makes an instrument with reason to believe it's intended to be used to commit a misdemeanor or felony crime, is guilty of a misdemeanor offense.

As stated, criminal intent is the key factor. Possession of any of the tools described above is not a crime. It has to be proven you had intent to use them in an unlawful manner. It should be noted that while the legal description provides a list of items that would qualify as a burglary tool, it also states “or other instrument” could also qualify if they are used unlawfully to break into a building or vehicle, or to be used once inside.

If convicted of possession of burglary tools under California Penal Code Section 466, it's a misdemeanor crime. You will be facing up to one year in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and three years of summary probation. In some case, the court might impose a stay-away order to prevent you from coming near the location.

Related Offenses 

California Penal Code Section 466.1 – Selling Lock Picks or Tension Bars
California Penal Code Section 466.3 – Possessing Tools to Tamper with Coin-Operated Machines
California Penal Code Section 466.5 – Possessing Motor Vehicle Master Keys
California Penal Code Section 466.6 – Making Car Keys Capable of Operating Car Ignition
California Penal Code Section 466.65 – Possessing Tools to Bypass Motorcycle Ignition
California Penal Code Section 466.8 – Unlawfully Manufacturing Residential or Commercial Keys

Legal Defenses for PC 466 Burglary Tools

Our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm can use a variety of legal defense strategies in order to obtain the best possible outcome on your case. Of course, we need to first closely examine the facts and details of your case in order to start planning a strategy. Some common legal defenses against charges of possession of burglary tools in violation of California Penal Code Section 466 include the following:

Lack of Intent: As stated above, the prosecutor must be able to prove there was criminal intent. Without intent, there is no crime. Perhaps our lawyers could show the tools were used regularly for your work. There are a wide range of reasons you might have had possession of these tools. Our goal is to cast reasonable doubt on the main factor of criminal intent. If successful, you have a good chance of avoiding a conviction.

Lack of Knowledge: In some cases, we might be able to show you simply didn't know you were in possession of burglary tools. Perhaps you borrowed a friend's vehicle and were pulled over on a traffic stop. While pulled over, police observed what they believed could be tools to commit burglary in the floor of the back seat. We might be able to prove you had no knowledge of the existence of the tools since you did not own the vehicle.

Unlawful Search and Seizure: In some cases, we might be able to prove police officers discovered and seized the tools during an illegal search. For example, we could argue police violated California's search and seizure laws by exceeding the scope of their search, unlawfully detaining you, or searching without a warrant. If we are successful, the case will be dismissed.

If you are facing allegations of possession of burglary tools described under California Penal Code 466, you should contact our criminal defense attorneys to review the details and legal options. In some cases, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the filing of formal charges or file a reduced charge. We offer a free consultation to review your case.

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About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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