Possession of burglary tools is a felony under Mississippi criminal law. In order to convict someone of possession of burglary tools, the State must prove:
(a) that the defendant possessed;
(b) implements, tools or instruments designed to aid in the commission of burglary, larceny or robbery.
See Mississippi Code Section 97-17-35.
The possession of burglary tools statute is very vague. Based upon the language of the statute, it’s difficult to imagine how a person arrested for possession of burglary tools in Mississippi would know exactly what he did wrong. The biggest problem with this statute is that it does not define what constitutes a “burglary tool.” Furthermore, some tools that could arguably be used to break into a house, also have legitimate uses. The crowbar is a good example of this. While I am sure a crowbar could be quite useful to a fellow trying to break into a house, it has a number of legitimate mechanical uses. In fact, I suspect the overwhelming majority of people who own crowbars likely have never had the desire or inclination to commit burglary.
For this reason, Mississippi courts have held that mere possession of tools that could be used for burglary is not enough to convict a person of this crime. In addition to proving possession of these tools, the State must also prove that the person intended to use the tools to commit burglary. The prosecution must present enough evidence to convince the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this was the defendant’s intent. Following this rationale, the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that where the only evidence presented at trial was that a person was arrested in Mississippi while in possession of a crowbar, brace and bit, keyhole saw, large screwdriver, long-handled hatchet, and pliers, the defendant could not be found guilty of possession of burglary tools. There simply was no proof he intended to use the tools to commit burglary.
Unless the defendant is caught in the act of using the burglary tools to attempt to commit burglary, proving the defendant’s intent is very difficult. In the absence of some other circumstantial evidence, it is impossible for the State to show the defendant’s intent. Under such circumstances, only the defendant knows his true intent for the use of the tools. And so long as he exercises his right to remain silent, the State will never know, and never be able to prove, whether the defendant intended to use the tools to commit burglary.
Given the difficulty the State has in proving these cases, most of these charges are easily defended. If you’ve been arrested for possession of burglary tools in Mississippi, we’re ready to help you. Please call me at 601.944.1984, or visit our Mississippi Criminal Defense website for more information.