Attorney for Possession of Burglar’s Tools Charges in Michigan
Unfortunately, innocent people are regularly charged with Possession of Burglar Tools in Michigan. In many cases, police just mistakenly assume normal tools are possessed with malicious intent. There are strong defenses to this felony charge, so do not give up!
Felony Possession of Burglar’s Tools
Under Michigan law, it is a felony to possess a tool for the purpose of facilitating the theft of money or property from a locked room or container. In almost all cases, an item that is alleged to be for a burglary can also be used for a legitimate purpose. The only way the prosecutor can prove a defendant intended to use the item, like a screwdriver, for example, for an illegal purpose is by circumstantial evidence unless the defendant is actually caught in the process of using a tool to break into a building or container. Circumstantial evidence is always open to interpretation and prosecutors and police will routinely just assume the defendant had a wrongful intent. These assumptions are often wrong and an experienced, successful defense lawyer is your best hope of clearing up a misunderstanding with law enforcement.
What defines a “burglar’s tool?”
A burglar’s tools include “nitroglycerine, or other explosive, thermite, engine, machine, tool or implement, device, chemical or substance, adapted and designed for cutting or burning through, forcing or breaking open any building, room, vault, safe or other depository, in order to steal therefrom any money or other property.”
An additional required element that a prosecutor must prove is that the person in possession of such items possessed them “knowing the items were adapted and designed for the purpose” of breaking into a secure area or vault. As can be imagined, a person may possess items that could qualify as burglar’s tools but which the person had no intent to use in an illegal way. Examples of tools that can be misinterpreted as burglar’s tools are screwdrivers, hammers, utility knives, crowbars, and bolt cutters.
The prosecution has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended or knew the tool was intended or designed for breaking into a building or container and that the person did not otherwise have a lawful or good faith reason to possess the tool. A defendant’s best hope of avoiding a conviction is with a superior attorney who has a track record of winning in court and who commands the respect of the prosecutor and judge.
Defending a Burglar’s Tools Felony Charge
Let’s take this example: a welder may possess items such as welding torches and thermite, which are specifically designed to cut through steel, but they are not specifically designed for the purpose of stealing from locked areas. These items are commonly used every day for legitimate reasons in welding businesses, auto repair shops, plumbing businesses, junkyards, and surplus bulk steel businesses, to name but a few. Such items are probably a favorite tool of people wanting to open a safe or locked door; however, the intent of the person charged is what is most important. If the defendant did not possess or intend to use the items breaking into a building, container, or safe, he or she is not guilty of any crime.
An experienced and savvy defense attorney would be able to construct a defense argument that the crime was not committed, and possession of the torch or thermite or any other tool was completely innocent. Possession of crowbars and bolt cutters could be similarly defended. It will be up to an experienced criminal defense attorney to credibly and persuasively show that possession was innocent and there was no criminal intent.
Penalties for Possession of Burglary Tools
The penalty for this felony is up to 10 years in prison or up to 1 year in jail with up to 5 years of probation. This is an old law, which was first enacted in 1846, and the last time it was updated was in 1931, which may play a part in why the penalty is so heavy. When this law was enacted, people, businesses, and cities did not have credit or insurance available to the extent we do today, and cash and precious metals were critical and relied on far more than today, and their theft was punished severely. Absent a confession, a highly qualified criminal defense attorney can make a good argument to attack the charge in many cases.
In cases where the evidence is overwhelming, and there is no defense, prison or jail is not mandatory. The defense attorney’s job in such a case would be to do everything possible to convince the judge not to order incarceration and give the defendant a chance on probation. Under certain circumstances, it may be possible for the defendant to enter a guilty plea under advisement that ultimately results in the dismissal of all charges.
Possession of Burglar’s Tools Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with this crime, you need a top-rated savvy criminal defense attorney on your side to shield you from the heavy penalty it carries. The dedicated, experienced and zealous defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties and throughout Michigan. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive representation, while showing empathy and care for each client. Call us today at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.