Possession of Burglary Tools
Burglary, meaning entering a building or vehicle with the intent to commit a crime inside, is, of course, a criminal offense in Florida. But few people are aware that possessing the tools of burglary is also a crime. Florida law prohibits the possession of burglary tools when the possessor attempts to use them in the commission of a burglary. If you have been charged with a burglary offense, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.Elements of the Crime
A person commits the offense of the possession of burglary tools when he or she:
- Intends to commit a burglary or trespass;
- Possesses a tool or implement to be used in the commission of the burglary or trespass; and
- Makes some overt act toward committing the burglary or trespass.
Intent is a key element of this offense, and is required in two ways. The accused must have intended to commit a burglary or trespass and must have intended to use the tool in furtherance of the crime. A defendant also commits the offense if he or she allows the burglary tool to be used by someone else in order to burgle or trespass.Tools
The definition of a burglary tool is not limited to specialized implements such as a lockpick set. Regular household tools with otherwise lawful uses, such as screwdrivers or bolt cutters, may also be burglary tools. The prosecution simply must demonstrate that the tools were going to be used in a burglary.
Personal apparel, meaning clothing, cannot be a burglary tool for purposes of this law. For example, gloves may be used to hide identity, i.e. fingerprints, and help avoid being caught. Even so, they are not tools that assist in the actual entering of the building.Overt Act
In order to be convicted, the accused must commit an overt act in furtherance of the burglary. This must go beyond thinking about the burglary. Instead, the defendant must make some step toward actually committing it.Penalties
The possession of burglary tools is a third degree felony, punishable by any combination of:
There are several defenses available to a person charged with the possession of burglary tools. For example, a defendant may show that he or she had an other intended use for the tools. It is not good enough for the prosecution to show that the accused intended to use the tool to commit another offense once the burglary had already occurred. For example, a defendant breaks into a house to steal valuables, and the police find her in possession of a screwdriver. The prosecution must then show that she used or intended to use the screwdriver to break in. It is not enough to show that she intended to use the screwdriver to, for example, open a locked box inside the house.
Another defense exists when there is no proof of intent. The burden of proof for this crime is twofold. The prosecution must show that the defendant intended both to commit a burglary or trespass, and to use the tools in the commission of the burglary or trespass. If the state cannot meet this high burden of proof, there can be no conviction.
Furthermore, to convict, the tools must be in the defendant’s physical possession. If they are in a car or concealed elsewhere, that is not good enough, and is a defense to the charges.
Possession of burglary tools is a serious offense in Florida. An experienced attorney can help you identify the issues of your case and any possible defenses. If you have been charged with the possession of burglary tools, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.