LegalVision receives a number of interesting enquiries from our clients. We were recently asked about the legality of lock picking tools for lawful recreational or personal use. Below, we’ve answered 7 FAQs including what legislation regulates the purchase and use of lock picking tools, when you can carry them and when you can check them in on an aircraft.
1. What Legislation Governs the Purchase and Use of Lock Picking Tools?
The following state legislation regulates the use and possession of lock picking tools:
- Crimes Act 1900 (NSW);
Crimes Act 1958 (VIC);
- Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA);
Criminal Code 2002 (ACT);
Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA);
Criminal Code 1899 (QLD) and the Summary Offences Act 2005 (QLD);
Criminal Code Act 1924 (TAS);
- Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT).
2. Is it Legal to Purchase Lock Picking Tools in Australia?
It is not illegal to purchase lock picking tools in Australia. However, it may be illegal to possess and use lock picking tools in certain situations. There is no federal (Australia wide) law that sets out the situations in which it may be illegal to possess and use lock picking tools. The circumstances vary from state to state.
3. Am I Allowed to Keep Lock Picking Tools at Home For My Personal and Recreational Use?
It is not illegal to keep lock picking tools at home if you will be using the lock picking tools for lawful purposes only such as recreational lock sport meet ups or for private use.
4. Can I Keep Lock Picking Tools On My Person When Out In Public?
New South Wales
Under section 114(1)(b) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person may be found guilty of a strict liability offence if they have in their possession, without a lawful excuse, a tool that can be used to break into a premises, vehicle or a safe. A person does not need to have the intention to break into a premises, vehicle or safe. The fact that he or she possess the tools without a lawful excuse is enough and amounts to infringement.
For example, if you are found to be in possession of lock-picking tools, a lock and an entry ticket to a lock-picking competition, you may be regarded as having a lawful excuse. You are then highly unlikely to contravene the law. However, if you are found in possession of lock picking tools while trespassing on your neighbour’s property, that may be a problem.
Under section 91(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), a person found carrying lock picking tools may be guilty of an offence where it can be inferred that he or she was about to commit burglary, theft or a cheat offence.
For example, if you carry lock picking tools to a friend’s house to play a speed lock picking game, you are unlikely to contravene Victoria’s law. However, you might be if you are found in possession of lock-picking tools and a balaclava.
In South Australia, no law deals directly and exclusively with the possession and use of lock picking tools. Section 270C(1) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) says that a person may be guilty of an offence if they are found in possession of lock picking tools with an intention to use those lock picking tools in suspicious circumstances. The section only applies where a person is otherwise associated with:
- An offence involving theft;
- Serious criminal trespass;
- Certain motor vehicle offences;
- Dishonest dealings with documents;
- Dishonest manipulation of machines; or
- Property offences punishable by 3 or more years imprisonment.
For example, if you carried lock picking tools when in public, you would not be breaking the law in South Australia. But if you were in possession of lock picking tools and attempting to gain access to a third party’s vehicle (with or without using the lock picking tools), this may be an offence.
Australian Capital Territory
Under section 315(1) of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), you may be infringing the law if you are found with lock picking tools in circumstances where it can be inferred that you intend to use the tools for theft.
For example, if you carry lock picking tools to work because you want to practice during lunch, you are unlikely to break the law. However, you should avoid staying back at work after hours to practice.
Under section 707(c) of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA), you can’t carry lock picking tools at night without a lawful excuse. If you are found to have lock picking tools during the day in circumstances where it can be inferred you intended to use the tools to commit a crime, you may be guilty of an offence.
Under section 281 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), you may be guilty of an offence if you are carrying dangerous items, which may include lock picking tools, where it can be interred you have an intention to commit an offence.
For example, carrying lock picking tools in your backpack while grocery shopping won’t amount to an offence. Carrying lock picking tools when attempting to illegally enter a government building (irrespective of whether you use them) may amount to a breach.
Under section 248(a) of the Criminal Code Act 1924 (TAS), if you are found in possession of a dangerous instrument, which may include locking tools in circumstances where it can be inferred you intend to commit a crime, you may be guilty of an offence.
Similarly, any person found carrying any instrument made for entering into a place (i.e. lock picking tools) without a lawful excuse may be guilty of an offence.
For example, if you are found carrying lock picking tools at your local gym without a lawful excuse, you may be guilty of an offence. If the gym manager asks you to come to the gym and help open a faulty lock, it’s unlikely you would have contravened the law.
In Queensland, under section 425(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) if you have lock picking tools at night without a lawful reason, you may be found guilty of an offence.
5. Am I Able to Carry My Lock Picking Tools When Going to and From Lock Sport Meetups?
In general, if you are not engaging in illegal activity and have a lawful excuse for carrying lock picking tools, it is unlikely that you would be committing an offence or contravening a law by carrying them. Carrying lock picking tools to and from lock sport meet ups, in the absence of special circumstances, would not of itself amount to an offence in any Australian jurisdiction.
6. What Does “Intention to Use” Mean?
Many of the offences surrounding the possession and use of lock picking tools state that before a person can be found guilty of an offence, it must be established that the person intended to use the lock picking tools to commit a crime. Offences can be either:
- Strict liability where a person commits an unlawful act an contravenes the law regardless of intention to do so; or
- Require an element of active intention to commit wrongdoing.
Intention is made out by looking at the offender’s conduct before the offence.
7. Am I Likely to Encounter Problems if I Pack Lock Picking Tools In My Checked Baggage While Travelling?
Different countries have different rules and regulations about the types of goods that you can and cannot bring onto the aircraft and into the country. Before you travel, it is sensible to confirm with both your current and destination country whether or not you can pack lock picking tools in your checked baggage and more importantly, whether you can possess and use them while in the country.
If you would like to know more about the rules and obligations surrounding the purchase, possession and use of lock picking tools, get in touch with our lawyers on 1300 544 755.