Posted on March 11, 2017

Burglary Tools | California Penal Code 466 PC

In California, possession of burglary tools is charged under Penal Code 466 which makes it makes it unlawful for anyone having possession of specified tools, devices, or instruments, and harbors the intent to feloniously break and/or enter a structure.  A burglary tool can be a specific instrument purchased from a hardware store or it can be specifically manufactured to gain entry into a structure.  Moreover, the statute lists several examples including a crowbar, picklock, lock pick, slim jim, etc.  The term structure can include homes, apartments, commercial warehouses, vessels, and trailers.  In most instances, this charge occurs after being pulled over by a police officer who discovers the instruments after searching your vehicle.  When that occurs, the officer will attempt to question you regarding your possession of these devices in an effort to determine whether you legitimate are using instruments for instance, work purposes, or use them for the purposes of committing a burglary.  If you’ve been arrested or cited for possession of burglary tools, contact a Burglary Defense Attorney.

Elements to Prove Possession of Burglary Tools

  1. You were in possession of a device or instrument;
  1. The device or instrument was possessed with the intent break or enter a structure without consent.

Legal Defenses to Burglary Tools – Penal Code 466

  1. Defense: Lack of Possession

The government has two ways to prove you “possessed” burglary tools by either arguing actual possession or constructive possession.  Actual possession means the tools were discovered on your person or inside your vehicle.  Constructive possession means you had a right to access or accessed dominion and control over the tools.  For instance, if you’re keeps a set of burglary tools in your garage, then that arguably means you exercised constructive possession over the tools even if you never touched the tools or were planning on actually touching the tools.  But constructive possession is not precisely defined leaving room for your defense attorney to create doubt in the government’s case.

  1. Defense: Lack of Knowledge

Knowledge can be proven by your direct admission to law enforcement or circumstantially, for instance, if the tools were kept in your bad or a container that belonged to you.  Nonetheless, knowing that you were in possession of burglary tools is a pre-requisite element that the government must prove.  Therefore, if you did not know that you were in possession of burglary tools, then you cannot be convicted of this offense.  For example, a colleague of yours left a bag or contain in your truck bed containing burglary tools that you were not aware of.  Another example may be that you were transporting people in your work truck and someone placed a box containing burglary tools in the truck bed without you knowing of the boxes contents.

  1. Defense: Lack of Intent

The government must prove “felonious intent” as a required element for this offense.  It’s very difficult to prove you’re state of mind if you did not give a statement to law enforcement since how is anyone to know what you’re real intentions were.  If you never gave a statement to police, then government holds a more difficult burden to circumstantially prove you had felonious intent – i.e., you collectively possessed the tools to help facilitate a burglary.  Additionally, you may be in possession of these devices for the purposes of helping a friend with a construction project or perhaps you’re a contractor and in possession of certain tools for the purposes of remodeling or building.  Both examples serve to negate the fact that you harbored the felonious intent as the government will allege.

  1. Defense: Sufficiency of the Evidence

Just because you’ve been arrested for possession of burglary tools does not mean the government can prove their case against you.  Indeed, the case against you can be rather weak and the government is unreasonably construing the evidence.  For example, if you were pulled over and a police officer discovers a pair of rubber gloves in your car, you could be charged with possession of burglary tools.  However, simply based on that fact may not be enough for a conviction.  Since there are multiple reasons for using rubber gloves, it would be an impermissible inference to argue you feloniously intended to use them to break or enter a structure illegally.  In other words, a large bag and latex gloves were are not “burglary tools” within the meaning of the statute prohibiting possession of burglary tools, absent evidence that the bag and gloves could be used or were intended to score a breach in a victim’s home defenses or otherwise gain entry or access a victim’s property.  See People v. Diaz (2012) 207 Cap.App.4th 396.  To be clear, “the test is not whether a device can accomplish the same general purpose as the tools enumerated in section 466; rather the device itself must be similar to those specially mentioned within the statute.”  See People v. Gordon (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1413.

  1. Defense: Consent

There may be a viable defense if the owner of the structure – e.g., building, home, or other structures named within the statute, granted you consent.  It’s important to gather as much evidence as possible to prove consent – whether implied or expressed by the owner.  This may be from text message exchanges, emails, or other correspondence.  If you’re able to show consent, then the next hurdle will be the scope of consent.  Perhaps you were hired to conduct some repairing on someone’s property and you possessed the items for the purposes of repair and not for the purposes of illegal entry or you’re merely helping a friend with a construction project.  This approach also applies to lack of intent as explained above.

  1. Defense: Unlawful Search or Seizure

As noted above, most instances resulting in an arrest for this charge stem from a traffic stop.  Anytime there’s a detention, such as a traffic stop, and subsequent search of a vehicle, then the police officer’s conduct will then be assessed to determine if they acted reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.  Law enforcement must have either reasonable suspicion or probable cause to seize and/or search you for contraband.  If the burglary tools were discovered after an unlawful search, then the judge will order the burglary tools to be suppressed – i.e., inadmissible against you.  In that event, the government will then not be able to proceed with their case, and the case will be dismissed.

  1. Defense: Miranda Violation

As mentioned above, it’s difficult for the government to prove your state of mind if you do give a statement to police.  However, in the event you do make an incriminating statement to police, the admissibility of your statements may be at issue. A popular misconception is that law enforcement must always admonish you of your Miranda rights and failure to do so will result in a dismissal of the case.  Police are only required to read you your Miranda rights if you’re in custody (where a reasonable person would not feel free to leave) and you were subject to interrogation.  Normally an evidentiary hearing is held where the court will examine the circumstantial under both Miranda prongs and decide whether your statement will be admitted against you.  The government could be relying upon your incriminating statement in an effort to prove you harbored the intention of feloniously entering a structure utilizing the devices / tools to gain entry.  However, if the judge deems your statements a violation of Miranda, then the court will suppress your statements and the government will be unable to use you statements against you.  In that event, the case may be dismissed.

Punishment for Possessing Burglary Tools PC 466

PC 466 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.  The court will normally place you on a period of probation for three years and order you to complete community service or theft counseling classes.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you’re facing criminal charges for burglary tools under PC 466, then contact Orange County Burglary Defense Lawyer John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation.

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