Possession of Burglary Tools
Often, when we first meet with our clients charged with new criminal cases, we find that those clients have difficulty understanding the criminal statutes under which they are charged. As criminal defense lawyers, we find ourselves explaining to those clients that criminal laws are purposefully written in a way that is designed to be confusing and difficult to understand, and that it is part of the overarching strategy to make charging and proving criminal offenses easier for police and prosecutors.
There are a multitude of reasons why laws are confusing and vague. The process of a bill becoming a law is a long and arduous one. Bills that start out clear and easy to understand change hands through the legislature, get edited and added to, and often end up much different and much messier than the original author intended. Sometimes, the authors of criminal justice bills purposefully make the wording of the law vague or confusing so that it is easier to charge people with the crime and easier to secure convictions. Sometimes that is done with good intentions, but when laws are finally given to police and prosecutors to enforce, they often do so overzealously and to the detriment of criminal defendants. If you have been charged with what you think is a vague criminal offense, don’t hesitate to contact a diligent St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney right away.
One of these vague and confusing laws is Possession of burglary tools. The law, in its entirety, states that “whoever has in his or her possession any tool, machine, or implement with the intent to use the same, or allow the same to be used, to commit any burglary or trespass shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree” punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. By simply reading the statute, it might be difficult to appreciate what exactly is prohibited by the law. This is exactly the type of vague law that law enforcement and prosecutors throughout the state try to exploit. Because the law itself gives no indication as to what a “burglary tool” actually is, those police are allowed to exercised their discretion to charge people with this crime. And when police are allowed too much discretion, problems usually arise.
There are some protections for criminal defendants, however. Prosecutors tasked with proving this crime cannot just claim that any screwdriver, wire cutter, or mask is a burglary tool. The law has requirements in place that forces the prosecution to present evidence distinguishing, normal everyday objects from burglary tools. In order to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the state attorney may present evidence of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, if you are found with a screwdriver unscrewing a door in order to enter somebody else’s house in the middle of the night, the prosecution might have a strong case for possession of burglary tools. However, if you are stopped and searched by police simply walking down the street or driving in your car and they find bolt cutters, there will likely be insufficient evidence to prove you committed a crime. No matter the circumstances of your arrest, you should not hesitate to speak to an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to build your defense.
One of the most common, and most avoidable ways that law enforcement can prove you guilty of possession of burglary tools is to use your own words against you. If you are being investigated for this crime or any other and police interrogate you about your possession of suspicious items, it is in your best interest to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Police may try to pressure you and convince you that being honest with them will help you out, but most likely it will just result in an easier conviction for the state.Call Hanlon Law Today
The lawyers at Hanlon Law have years of experience in criminal defense and will fight for your freedom. Call today for a consultation at (727) 897-5413.