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Is it Legal to Have a Lock Pick?

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Diamond. Ball and Double Ball. Riffle. Hook. They sound like the names of plays on a ballfield, but they’re actually different types of lock picks. Lock picks are devices used to lift the various pins found within the cylinder of a lock in order to open the lock without the use of a key. Why in the world would anyone need to have a lock pick?

Criminal activity is one such reason. But qualified locksmiths also use lock picking devices to open locks in situations where the owner needs access and, for whatever reason, can’t gain it. They will pick locks that need to be replaced without damaging the mechanism, often in the case of an antique lock. Lock picking is also becoming an increasingly popular hobby, especially among people who like to solve puzzles.

Since the possibility of criminal activity does exist, many states have strict laws about who may purchase or carry a lock pick, and the laws vary from state to state. In some states, just owning a lock pick is okay as long as you have proof of intent. But illegally having a lock pick (meaning coupling possession with felonious or malicious intent) is punishable as a felony. In some locales, those individuals not identified in the statute as legally approved to possess this type of device have to obtain a locksmith license before purchasing a lock pick. The states which have the most stringent laws on this matter include California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Washington DC and Canada.

Here’s an example: if a locksmith is traveling to a trade show and has a lock picking device properly housed in a case, they are fine. However, if a person has a lock pick in their possession and later is involved in breaking the law, they are going to have a major legal problem on their hands. In fact, many states make it legal for only locksmiths, repossessors and law enforcement officials to be in possession of a lock pick.

To further protect against the unwarranted use or possession of a lock picking device, purchasing a lock pick will most likely require one or all of the following:

1) A business license showing employment as a locksmith.

2) A driver’s license.

3) Letterhead stationery or an advertisement verifying employment as a locksmith.

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