Possession of Burglary Tools in Colorado (C.R.S. 18-4-205)

C.R.S. § 18-4-205 is the Colorado code section that defines the crime of possession of burglary tools. Possession of burglary tools is a criminal offense that occurs when a person intends to use a tool commonly used to break into a business, home, or other place in order to commit a theft.

Elements of the Offense

In order to prove that a person committed the offense of possession of burglary tools, a Colorado prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:

  • the defendant possessed
  • any explosive, tool, instrument, or article
  • that was adapted, designed, or commonly used for
  • committing or facilitating the commission of
  • an offense involving forcible entry into premises or theft by physical taking
  • with the intent to use the thing possessed or with knowledge that some person intends to use the thing possessed in the commission of the offense.

Common "Criminal" Tools

Nearly any item can be labeled a "criminal" tool under certain circumstances, but some common items include:

  • crowbar
  • pliers
  • blowtorch
  • wrenches
  • screwdrivers
  • glass breaking tools
  • magnets (certain kinds used to strip security tags for shoplifting), and
  • "spare" key-making kits.

Having these tools in a person's possession is not enough for a conviction of this crime. Typically the offense is charged when a person is where he or she does not belong, which would indicate an intent to commit a theft.

Penalties

If convicted of the offense of possession of burglary tools, it can be punished by:

  • one to three years in prison;
  • two years mandatory parole; and/or
  • a fine of a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum of $100,000.

A person also faces the stigma of being labeled a "felon" and all of the collateral consequences that come with it.

Defenses

To defend against the charge, a defendant can prove:

  • that the tools were not used to commit a crime;
  • the "tool" is not the type commonly used to commit a theft offense; and/or
  • no intent to commit a theft existed.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about the crime of possession of burglary tools:

Img burglary tool optimized
C.R.S. § 18-4-205 is the Colorado code section that defines the crime of possession of burglary tools.

1. What is the offense of possession of burglary tools?

According to C.R.S. § 18-4-205: 1

A person commits possession of burglary tools if he possesses any explosive, tool, instrument, or other article adapted, designed, or commonly used for committing or facilitating the commission of an offense involving forcible entry into premises or theft by a physical taking, and intends to use the thing possessed, or knows that some person intends to use the thing possessed, in the commission of such an offense.

1.1 What must the prosecutor prove to be convicted of possession of burglary tools?

In order to prove that a person committed the offense of possession of burglary tools, a Colorado prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:

  • the defendant possessed
  • any explosive, tool, instrument, or article
  • that was adapted, designed, or commonly used for
  • committing or facilitating the commission of
  • an offense involving forcible entry into premises or theft by physical taking
  • with the intent to use the thing possessed or with knowledge that some person intends to use the thing possessed in the commission of the offense. 2

If the prosecutor fails to prove any of the essential elements of the charge, the defendant is not guilty.

2. What are common "criminal" tools used to charge the offense?

Nearly any item can be labeled a "criminal" tool under certain circumstances, but some more common items that lead to the offense include:

  • crowbar
  • pliers
  • blowtorch
  • wrenches
  • screwdrivers
  • glass breaking tools
  • magnets (certain kinds used to strip security tags for shoplifting)
  • "spare" key-making kits.

3. Is possessing the "criminal" tool by itself enough to be convicted?

No. Just because a person is in possession of a tool commonly used to commit a theft offense does not mean that a person is guilty of the crime.

The prosecutor must prove not only that a person possessed the tool, but also:

  • that the individual intended to use the thing possessed to commit an offense, or
  • had knowledge that another person intended to use the thing possessed to commit an offense. 3

4. What are the penalties for possessing burglary tools?

Possession of burglary tools is a Class 5 felony in the State of Colorado. It can be punished by:

  • one to three years in prison;
  • two years mandatory parole; and/or
  • a fine of a minimum of $1,000 and up to a maximum of $100,000. 4

Not only does a person face these penalties, but also the stigma attached to the label of being a "felon." As a "felon" in Colorado, you may have difficulty:

  • finding or maintaining employment,
  • applying for special licenses (such as a teaching license, real estate license, pilot's license, nursing or medical professional license);
  • working in a position that requires a criminal background check.

5. What defenses can I raise against a charge of possessing burglary tools?

To defend against the charge, a defendant can prove:

  • that the tools were not used to commit a crime;
  • the "tool" is not the type commonly used to commit a theft offense; and
  • no intent to commit a theft existed.

Lack of criminal intent is the primary defense used to fight this charge. Simple possession is not enough. The Colorado prosecutor must prove that a person intended to use the tools to commit an offense.

6. Related Offenses

Possession of burglary tools is an offense that is often related to other offenses, like criminal trespass, theft, burglary, and breaking and entering.

6.1 Criminal Trespass 18-4-502 C.R.S., 18-4-503 C.R.S., 18-4-504 C.R.S.

Criminal trespass is an Colorado offense that occurs when a person unlawfully enters or remains on someone else's property. Penalties for criminal trespass in Colorado range from probation to incarceration in a prison for up to three (3) years and a fine up to $100,000.

In Colorado, penalties are determined by the degree of the charge. Trespass can be in the first (18-4-502 C.R.S.)5, second (18-4-503 C.R.S.)6,or third degree (18-4-504 C.R.S.)7, depending on the seriousness of the offense, which is determined by:

  • the type of property involved; and
  • the person's reason for entering and/or remaining on the property.

6.2 Theft (18-4-401 C.R.S)

Theft in Colorado is defined under section 18-4-401 C.R.S. A person commits theft when he or she takes -- without consent of the owner -- anything of value not belonging to the person. Depending on the value of the thing stolen, theft can be charged as:

If convicted on any of these charges, the person's penalties will be consistent with the type of theft he or she was convicted of.

6.3 Burglary (18-4-201 C.R.S.)

Burglary -- as defined by 18-4-201 C.R.S. -- is committed when a person in Colorado wrongfully enters or stays on someone else's property and intends to commit a crime -- any crime other than trespass.9 Burglary in Colorado can be in the:

  • third degree (18-4-204 C.R.S.), whereby a person breaks into a vault, safe, or other locked container with the intent to commit a crime like theft10;
  • second degree (18-4-203), whereby a person knowingly breaks into or remains unlawfully in a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime like theft11; or
  • first degree (18-4-202 C.R.S.), whereby a person commits second degree burglary but also does so and assaults (or his or her accomplice assaults) another person inside the structure.12

Burglary is a felony and can result in punishment that includes prison from one to 48 years and a fine between $1,000 and $1,000,000.

6.4 Robbery (18-4-301 C.R.S)

Robbery is theft accomplished by the use of force, threats, or intimidation.13 In Colorado, it materializes as either:

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For questions about possession of burglary tool charges or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. C.R.S. § 18-4-205. Possession of Burglary Tools.
  2. People v. Ridgeway, 307 P.3d 126 (2013) (stating the jury instructions required for possession of burglary tools).
  3. People v. Chastain, 733 P.2d 1206 (1987) (proof of requisite mens rea required for offense).
  4. C.R.S. § 18-1.3-401. Felonies classified--presumptive penalties.
  5. C.R.S. § 18-4-502. First degree criminal trespass.
  6. C.R.S. § 18-4-503. Second degree criminal trespass.
  7. C.R.S. § 18-4-504. Third degree criminal trespass.
  8. C.R.S. § 18-4-401. Theft.
  9. C.R.S. § 18-4-201. Burglary.
  10. C.R.S. § 18-4-204. Third degree burglary.
  11. C.R.S. § 18-4-203. Second degree burglary.
  12. C.R.S. § 18-4-202. First degree burglary.
  13. C.R.S. § 18-4-301. Robbery.

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