Penal Code 466 PC | Possession of Burglary Tools

Penal Code 466 PC | Possession of Burglary Tools

Section 466 of California’s Penal Code makes it a crime to possess tools commonly used for burglary, theft, or trespass. This law is aimed at preventing burglaries and other property crimes by restricting access to lockpicking tools and other devices. But what exactly constitutes “burglary tools?” And what are the penalties if your caught with them? Let’s take a closer look at this unique California statute.

What is Penal Code 466 PC?

Penal Code 466 PC states that “Every person having upon him or her in his or her possession a 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 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 is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

In plain English, its illegal in California to possess tools like lockpicks, prybars, or other devices if you intend to use them to break into property and steal stuff. Its a unique law that basically criminalizes owning certain objects, regardless of how you actually use them.

Unlike other states, California doesn’t require you to actually use the tools to commit a crime. Simply having them in your possession is enough. So you could be arrested for burglary tools even if you never break into anything.

What Constitutes “Burglary Tools?”

The statute contains a long list of specific devices considered burglary tools, including:

  • Lock picks
  • Lock pick guns
  • Crowbars
  • Pry bars
  • Master keys
  • Spark plug ceramic pieces (for breaking glass)

But the law also includes a catch-all provision covering “other instrument[s] or tool[s]” used to break into property. This gives police leeway to arrest for just about any object that could be used in a burglary or theft.

Things like wire cutters, screwdrivers, bolt cutters, chisels, and hammers have all been treated as burglary tools under 466 PC. Even common household objects like a butter knife could land you in trouble if possessed alongside evidence of criminal intent.

What Does “Intent to Break or Enter” Mean?

To be convicted under this statute, prosecutors must also prove you intended to use the tools to break into property and steal something. This means they need evidence beyond simply possessing the tools themselves.

Factors showing intent include:

  • You were caught trespassing on private property or trying to break into a building.
  • The tools were found alongside other stolen items.
  • You made incriminating statements about planned burglaries.
  • You have a criminal record for theft and burglary offenses.

Without evidence of criminal intent, possession of lockpicks or other questionable tools may not be enough to convict under 466 PC. For example, if you’re a professional locksmith, owning lockpicks alone wouldn’t automatically make you guilty. Prosecutors would need proof you planned to use them illegally.

Penalties for Possessing Burglary Tools

Possession of burglary tools is a misdemeanor in California. Potential penalties include:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A fine up to $1,000.
  • Informal probation.

If you have a previous conviction under 466 PC, possession of burglary tools becomes a felony punishable by 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison. The offense also counts as a “strike” under California’s three strikes law if you have a past serious or violent felony.

Legal Defenses

If your facing charges under this statute, possible legal defenses include:

  • You didn’t intend to commit a crime – As discussed above, prosecutors must prove intent beyond just possessing tools. If the tools were part of your profession or you had no plans to use them illegally, you weren’t guilty of violating 466 PC.
  • The tools weren’t actually for burglary – To get a conviction, the prosecution typically needs to show the tools you possessed are commonly used for break-ins and theft. If an object has legitimate purposes beyond burglary, charges may be dismissed.
  • You didn’t knowingly possess the tools – If a burglary device ended up among your belongings without your knowledge, you can’t be convicted of intentionally possessing them.
  • Illegal search – If the tools were discovered through an unconstitutional search, the evidence may be excluded and the charges dropped.

Related Offenses

Other California laws related to burglary tools include:

  • Penal Code 464 – Making or altering burglary tools.
  • Penal Code 602.5 PC – Possessing a master key.
  • Penal Code 594 PC – Vandalism with tools like etching cream or paint.

Unlike 466 PC, these laws require you to actually use the tools to commit a crime, not just possess them. But they can still lead to fines and jail time if your caught in the act.

Speak with an Attorney

Any charge related to burglary tools warrants talking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A conviction under 466 PC can hurt your criminal record and future job prospects if not properly defended. And if you have a record of theft offenses, a burglary tool charge could lead to felony penalties. Don’t wait to get legal help.

At California Legal Defense, we’ve been successfully defending 466 PC cases for over 20 years. We know the holes in these types of charges and how to get charges reduced or dismissed. With an office in Los Angeles and strong relationships with prosecutors throughout the state, we have the resources to protect your rights and future. Don’t go it alone against the power of the state. Call us today for a free case evaluation.


California Penal Code Section 466 PC