Updated February 10, 2020
Penal Code 466 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to possess burglary tools with criminal intent. The offense is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to six months in county jail.
466 PC states that “every person having upon him or her in his or her possession [burglary tools]… with intent feloniously to break or enter into any [structure]…is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
“Burglary tools” under this law include items such as:
- crowbars, and
- having a screwdriver in a pocket while intending to break into a home.
- driving a car with burglary tools inside while the driver is planning to burglarize a home.
- walking in a neighborhood with criminal intent while carrying a slim jim in a backpack.
An accused can challenge a charge under this statute with a legal defense. Common defenses include:
- no intent to commit a crime,
- no burglary tools, and/or
- unlawful search and seizure.
The offense is punishable by:
- custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
A judge can award misdemeanor (or summary) probation in lieu of jail time.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. When is possessing burglary tools a crime?
- 2. Are there legal defenses?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
- 6. Does a conviction affect gun rights?
- 7. Are there related offenses?
1. When is possessing burglary tools a crime?
A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a person under this statute:
- the accused possessed a burglary tool, and
- he did so with the intent to commit burglary (per Penal Code 459 PC).1
The statute lists over 15 types of objects that are considered “burglary tools.” Some include:
- vise grip pliers,
- tension bars,
- master keys, and
- spark plug chips.2
In addition to the above, the law says that burglary tools can be “other tools or instruments.”
Questions often arise under this statute on the meaning of:
- “intent,” and
- “other tools or instruments.”
Penal Code 466 says that a person must have “felonious intent” to be guilty of this crime.3 This means an intent to commit burglary.
A person commits burglary if:
- he enters a structure or car, and
- the person does so with the intent to commit a felony or petty theft once inside.4
“Circumstantial evidence” is often used to prove intent under this statute. This means facts from the case that can reasonably infer guilt.
Example: Police pulled Jim over for speeding. They asked if they could search his car and he said, “yes.” A search discovered a crowbar and a picklock.
Here, Jim cannot be charged for possession of burglary tools. While he may have had “burglary tools” in his car, there is no evidence that he had the intent to commit burglary.
The case would be different, though, if a search also discovered black sweatshirts, ski masks, walkie-talkie radios, binoculars, and a headlight. All this is circumstantial evidence that suggests Jim planned on committing a burglary.
1.2. Other tools or instruments
While PC 466 lists many objects that can be considered “burglary tools,” the law also states that these tools can be “other tools or instruments.”
Some “other tool” can be a burglary tool if it is similar to those mentioned in the statute.5
Example: Marcos is charged under this statute. Cops found him suspiciously walking near the door to a closed restaurant, and he possessed a box cutter knife and a slingshot. At trial, a police officer testifies that these items are similar to objects listed in PC 466. He also states that the objects can be used to commit a burglary.
Here, a jury can find Marcos guilty of possessing burglary tools. Although the objects he had were not listed in Penal Code 466, evidence shows that they are similar to them.
2. Are there legal defenses?
An accused may contest a possession charge with a legal defense.
Three common defenses are to show that:
- the defendant did not have the intent to commit burglary,
- the accused did not have “burglary tools,” and
- the police found burglary tools after an unlawful search or seizure.
2.1. No intent to commit a crime
Recall that a defendant is only guilty under this statute if he acts with a specific intent. This intent is the intent to commit burglary. It is a defense, therefore, for the accused to say that he did not act with this purpose.
2.2. No burglary tools
Also recall that a defendant is only guilty if he possessed a “burglary tool.” This means a tool mentioned in the law, or an object similar to one. Thus, it is a defense for an accused to say that he did not have a tool. Or, he did not have a similar tool or object.
2.3. Unlawful search and seizure
Authorities often charge this crime after conducting a search of a person or seizing evidence.
But, police can only search a person, or seize property, via a lawful warrant. Or, if no warrant, they must have a lawful reason for not having one.
If cops obtained burglary tools from an unlawful search or seizure, the tools can be excluded from the case. This may lead to a charge being reduced or dismissed.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of these laws is a misdemeanor.
The offense is punishable by:
- custody for up to six months in county jail (as opposed to state prison), and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.6
4. Are there immigration consequences?
A conviction under this statute does not harm a person’s immigration status.
Some California crimes result in a non-citizen being:
An example involves a conviction for an aggravated felony.
Possession of burglary tools, though, is not one of these crimes.
5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
A person can get an expungement if convicted under these laws.
This is true provided that the defendant successfully completed:
- probation, or
- his jail term (whichever was imposed).
An expungement is favorable since it removes many of the hardships associated with a conviction.
6. Does a conviction affect gun rights?
A possession conviction does not harm a defendant’s gun rights.
In some instances, a conviction in California causes a defendant to lose his right to:
- own a gun, or
- possess a gun.
An example is any crime that is charged as a felony.
Possessing a burglary tool, though, will not produce either of these results.
7. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to the possession of burglary tools. These are:
- trespass -PC 602,
- possession of prohibited weapons – PC 16590, and
- unlawful acts with keys and ignitions.
7.1. Trespass – PC 602
Penal Code 602 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of criminal trespass. A person commits this offense if he:
- enters, or remains on, someone else’s property, and
- does so without permission or a right to do so.
Note that if a person trespasses with the intent to commit burglary, and he has burglary tools, then he can be charged under:
- PC 602, and
- PC 466.
7.2. Possession of prohibited weapons – PC 16590
Penal Code 16590 PC is the California statute that prohibits:
- selling, and/or
certain dangerous weapons.
These “generally prohibited weapons” include items like:
- nunchakus (commonly referred to as nunchucks),
- brass knuckles, and
- short-barreled shotguns.
7.3. Unlawful acts with keys and ignitions
Several California laws make it illegal to do certain things or acts with keys and ignitions. Some of these include:
- Penal Code 466.5 PC – Possessing/manufacturing motor vehicle master keys,
- Penal Code 466.6 PC – Making car keys,
- Penal Code 466.65 PC – Possession of tools to bypass motorcycle ignition,
- Penal Code 466.7 PC – Unlawful possession of car keys,
- Penal Code 466.8 PC – Unlawful manufacture of residential or commercial keys, and
- Penal Code 469 PC – Unauthorized key to a state building.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
For information on similar laws in Nevada or Colorado, please see our articles on:
- “NRS 205.080 -- Possession of Burglary Tools in Nevada,” and
- “Possession of Burglary Tools in Colorado (C.R.S. 18-4-205).”
- California Penal Code 466 PC. For a discussion on “possession,” see People v. Bay (2019) 249 Cal.Rptr.3d 506.
- California Penal Code 466 PC.
- See same. See also People v. Southard (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 1079.
- California Penal Code 459 PC.
- People v. Gordon (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1409.
- California Penal Code 466 PC. See also Penal Code 19 PC.