Nevada Laws for "Possession of Burglary Tools" (NRS 205.080)
(Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney)

People may get arrested in Nevada not just for stealing but also for possessing tools used to steal. Penalties include fines and possibly jail. But an experienced Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charge reduced or totally dismissed.

This article explains the Nevada crime of possessing tools with burglarious intent. Continue reading to learn the law, defenses, and penalties.


The legal definition of the Nevada crime of possession of burglary tools has two elements that must be met before a person is liable for this offense:

  1. The defendant makes, repairs, or possesses an instrument used for the commission of a crime, and
  2. The circumstances show the defendant's intent to use the instrument to commit a crime

In short, it is a crime to have tools that you intend to commit a crime with. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:

Henry is driving to Bob's Henderson house to steal a TV. Henry's car is filled with tools to help him break the lock to the front door, unhinge the TV from the wall, and cut the cable wires. Before Henry arrives at Bob's property, a police officer pulls Henry over for speeding. The police officer sees through the windows all the tools and surmises that Henry was intended to commit a crime with them. Henry is then booked at the Henderson Detention Center for possessing burglary tools with criminal intent.

The fact that Henry in the above example has not yet burgled Bob's house is irrelevant. NRS 205.080 is specifically meant to punish people who are clearly planning to break the law in Nevada but are caught before they can.

Charges for violating NRS 205.080 usually occur in cases where the defendant is allegedly planning to commit one of the following crimes:

Furthermore, these charges typically involve defendants found with any of the following instruments:

  • false key
  • picklock
  • bit
  • nipper
  • any other engine, machine, or tool adapted, designed, or commonly used for the commission of a crime

Note that courts presume that a person who possesses such tools intends to use them to commit a crime. Therefore if the case goes to trial, the defendant has the burden to prove he/she lacked criminal intent. The only exception is if the defendant is a mechanic, artificer, or tradesman who possesses the tools open to public view at his/her established shop or place of business.

Also, note that these cases typically arise in the context of Nevada probation violations. North Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer Neil Shouse gives explains:

Brandt is on probation in Reno for the Nevada crime of battery domestic violence. His friend asks him to help him fix up his house in Carson City. Brandt packs his tools and motorcycles towards his friend's house. On the way, he is stopped at a Nevada DUI checkpoint, where a police officer sees the tools and assumes he is going to use them to commit burglary. Brandt is then booked at the Washoe County Detention Facility not only for violating NRS 205.080 but also for violating his probation.

If Brandt in the above example can show that his only intent was to help his friend fix up his house, the charges should be dismissed, and his parole should be reinstated. But people on probation should be very careful not to exhibit any behavior that a police officer may construe as suspicious.


The specific facts of a criminal case dictate which defenses could be most effective in fighting the allegations. The following are the most common strategies to contest charges of the Nevada crime of possession of burglary tools:

  • Lack of circumstances suggesting an intent to commit a crime: Possessing tools that could be used to commit theft or another crime is not illegal in itself -- it is only if the circumstances surrounding the possession are suspicious that the defendant may be liable. As long as the defense attorney can show that the defendant had no intent to use the tools to commit a crime, the charges should be dropped.
  • Police misconduct: If police may have committed an illegal search to find burglary tools, the defense attorney may request that the court disregard the tools as evidence. The defense attorney would do this by filing with the court a motion to suppress evidence in Nevada. If the judge grants the motion, then the prosecution's case may be left too weak to sustain a conviction.
  • Insufficient evidence: Court should not convict a defendant unless the prosecution succeeded in proving his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defense attorney can show the court that the prosecution's evidence is not reliable, adequate, or credible enough to support a guilty verdict, the defendant should be acquitted of possession of burglary tools.


The Nevada crime of possession of burglary tools is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment includes:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Note that these penalties are considerably lower than the sentence for burglary, larceny, and other theft crimes which may carry several years in Nevada State Prison. This is because the defendant was caught before he could commit another more serious crime.

Arrested for a crime? Call a lawyer for help...

If you have been charged with "possession of burglary tools" in Nevada, phone our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to discuss your case for free. We may be able to get the charges lessened or dismissed so your record stays clean.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight, and Tonopah.

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The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

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