MIT Guide to Lock Picking – Appendix B

Contrary to widespread myth, it is not a felony to possess lockpicks. Each state has its own laws with respect to such burglarious instruments. Here is the Massacusetts version quoted in entirety from the massachusetts general code:

Chapter 266 (crimes against property)
Section 49. Burglarious instruments; making; possession; use.

Whoever makes or mends, or begins to make or mend, or
knowingly has in his possession, an engine, machine, tool or
implement adapted and designed for cutting through, forcing or
breaking open a building, room, vault, safe or other depository,
IN ORDER TO STEAL THEREFROM money or other property, or to commit
any other crime, knowing the same to be adapted and designed for
the purpose aforesaid, WITH INTENT TO USE OR EMPLOY OR ALLOW the
same to be used or employed for such purpose, or whoever
knowingly has in his possession a master key designed to fit more
than one motor vehicle, WITH INTENT, TO USE OR EMPLOY THE SAME to
steal a motor vehicle or other property therefrom, shall be
punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than
ten years or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars and
imprisonment in jail for not more than two and one half years.

Emphasis added.

In other words, mere possession means nothing. If they stop you for speeding or something, and find a pick set, they can’t do much. On the other hand, if they catch you picking the lock on a Money machine they get to draw and quarter you.

States with similar wording include ME, NH, NY. One place that DOES NOT have similar wording, and does make possession illegal, is Washington, DC. These are the only other places I have checked. I would imagine that most states are similar to Massachusetts, but I would not bet anything substantial (say, more than a slice of pizza) on it.

It may be a good idea to carry around a xeroxed copy of the appropriate page from your state’s criminal code.

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6 thoughts on “MIT Guide to Lock Picking – Appendix B

  1. Pingback: » MIT Guide to Lock Picking - Appendix A: Tools

  2. “One place that DOES NOT have similar wording, and does make possession illegal, is Washington, DC.”

    This is incorrect – § 22-2501 of the DC Code provides:
    No person shall have in his or her possession in the District any instrument, tool, or implement for picking locks or pockets, **with the intent to use such instrument, tool, or implement to commit a crime.** (Emphasis added.)

    Here’s a link to § 22-2501.

  3. Also Washington state has a similar law. Any person who makes or posses (lock picks ect…) “under circumstances evincing an intent to use or employ”

    The meaning is the same, but WA’s law allows the police to arrest you for inferences they may make. Ex: they find you with a ski mask, rope, and some guy’s home address.

    If caught breaking in using these tools it is a gross misdemeanor.
    The law can be found here:

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