If you are arrested for burglary, the police will most likely go through the possessions you have on hand or in your vehicle to return any items that you stole. During this search, law enforcement may also find reasons to charge you with additional crimes.
Burglary is a class 2 felony in Illinois. But possession of burglary tools is a completely separate charge – a class 4 felony.
In other words, if the police arrest you on burglary charges and find a screwdriver, lockpicking kit, crowbar, or other items defined as “burglary tools” in your possession, you will face a class 4 felony charge in addition to the class 2 felony charge for burglary. Class 4 felonies have penalties including one to three years in prison.
Understanding Possession of Burglary Tools Charges
Under the definition of burglary, Illinois law defines “possession of burglary tools:”
“A person commits possession of burglary tools when he or she possesses any key, tool, instrument, device, or any explosive, suitable for use in breaking into a building, housetrailer, watercraft, aircraft, motor vehicle, railroad car, or any depository designed for the safekeeping of property, or any part thereof, with intent to enter that place and with intent to commit therein a felony or theft.”
Does this mean that if the police pull you over for speeding and find your tool kit in your car, they can arrest you for possession of burglary tools?
What turns hammers, screwdrivers, lockpicking kits, and other items into burglary tools is the intention to use them to commit burglary (or related crimes.) That is allows the rules on what might or might not be a burglary tool to be so expansive. As long as the intention is there, all kinds of things can be considered a burglary tool.
So let’s talk about intention for a second. Most of the time, these items don’t come into question unless a burglary is taking place. Either someone is actually using the tools when they are caught or a situation like the above-mentioned one occurs where they’re caught burglarizing a building and their property is searched.
However, it is not unheard of for people to be charged with possession of burglary tools even if they have not broken into a building. Other types of theft charges have been paired up with possession of burglary tools as well. Remember, there are very slight differences between the definition of crimes like burglary, trespassing, robbery, and theft. If someone is caught for a related type of crime like theft and “burglary tools” are discovered in their possession, it may be enough to show intent.
Unlawful Sale of Burglary Tools
Another additional charge that can be issued is the “unlawful sale of burglary tools.” Rather than merely having tools in your possession with the intention of using them, unlawful sale involves a transaction for the charge to apply.
But this charge doesn’t use “burglary tools” in the same way as the above charge. Selling a screwdriver or hammer is certainly not a crime – you would have no way of knowing the buyer’s intention for that tool!
However, selling a key that is specifically designed for lockpicking, or selling lockpicks that have been manufactured or altered for the purpose of breaking into locks and committing burglaries – those things are crimes.
Unlawful sale of burglary tools is also a class 4 felony.
If you are charged on crimes related to possessing or selling burglary tools, you have options. Talk to a skilled Illinois burglary lawyer to learn more about defending against these charges and protecting your future.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.