Possession of Burglary Tools (Penal Code section 466)

Even if you don’t actually commit a burglary by entering a structure (see this post for more information about burglary), California still outlaws the possession of certain items.  Under Penal Code section 466, it is illegal to possess any of the following items (Definitions: of what these items are below):

  • picklock
  • crow
  • keybit
  • crowbar
  • screwdriver
  • vise grip pliers
  • water-pump pliers
  • slidehammer
  • 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 “any other instrument or tool”

with intent to “feloniously break or enter into” any building or other structure that would fit the definition of a ‘structure’ under the burglary laws.

What does this mean?  Are all tools outlawed?

Absolutely not.  Everybody has a screwdriver.  Lots of people have vise grip pliers or other tools listed in the law.  The difference is the intent.  The prosecution must prove that you had the specific intent to use the tool you possessed to break and enter into a structure of some sort.  Structures can include both homes and businesses as well as locked cars.  If they cannot prove that you had the specific intent to use whatever you had to break into something, they cannot prove the charge against you.

  • A picklock is a slim, flexible metal item used to trip the tumblers of a keyed lock.
  • A keybit is a device used either with a power drill or other handle to turn specifically shaped screw heads.
  • Water-pump pliers are pliers with an adjustable joint.  They are also known as channel lock pliers.
  • A slidehammer (also known as a dent-puller) is a tool with a moveable, weighted grip that slides up a shaft and is used to pull out dents or free stuck parts.
  • A slim jim is a flexible metal strip with notches used to open door locks by inserting it in between a car window and manipulating the lock mechanism inside the door panel.
  • Joe Dane



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