Legality of lock picks, possessing burglary tools, lock picks by state
This information, the legality of lock picks and burglary tools, was found on Urban Explorers Resource forums,
compiled and posted by Nightskye, from publicly available state codes.
Many thanks to Nightskye for compiling all this information. These laws are public information.
Most US states have specific laws in their criminal codes that define possession of “burglars tools” as a distinct and separate crime.
Although how this crime is defined varies among states, there is one common theme: possession of these tools with the intent to commit a crime. Therefore, the crime of possession of burglars tools is almost always combined with another crime, such as trespass or burglary.
Possession of burglars tools usually carries a separate, additional penalty in conjunction with other crimes. For example, a person could be charged with both trespass and possession of burglars tools at the same time. In addition, possession of burglars tools may bump a misdemeanor trespass charge up to a burglary felony charge.
Degree of severity of penalties for this offense also varies among states. Some classify it as a misdemeanor, while others throw it into the felony category.
The definition of the implements that are considered burglars tools also varies from state to state. Some states are very specific in describing these implements (e.g. explosives, master keys), while others have much more broad and vague definitions. It is common for a state to explicitly state specific tools, but then open up the definition with phrases like, “any other tool designed or commonly used to commit a crime”.
Therefore, this can present a troublesome area even for the casual explorer, since an inflexible law enforcement officer may decide, upon arresting you for trespassing, that the wire cutters, prybar or other tools, red-filtered headlamp, and who knows what else that you happen to have with you is a “burglars tool”, and an unsympathetic judge could agree with the assessment. Just like that you could be in felony territory with a burglary charge.
Here is a summary of the US state laws regarding burglars tools: