Lock Pick Laws By State 2021

What is a Lock Pick?

Lock picking is unlocking a lock by manipulating the components of the lock without using its key. Lock picks are commonly long, thin pieces of metal with different tips. These are designed to pick the pins in cylinder locks.

Lock picking is often associated with criminal activity, such as breaking into homes during robberies or vehicle theft. However, lock picking is also an essential skill for those in the locksmith profession, and can help people locked out of their own vehicles. Law-abiding citizens also learn the skill for their own legal use or locksport, the sport of defeating lock systems.

Is Lock Picking Legal?

Lock picking and lock picking tools are illegal in some countries, such as Japan. However, in many other countries, lock picking tools are legal and available for purchase by everyday citizens as long as they have no intent to use them for criminal purposes.

Lock picking tools and lock picking are available and legal in the United States. In the majority of U.S. states, lock picking is legal by statute. In these states, the person lock picking must show intent.Â

In other states, there are no specific laws regarding lock picking; therefore, lock picking is legal by lack of statute. These states are:

In four states, lock picking is legal by further caution is merited. Those four states are Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia. For the list below, “prima facie” means based on the first impression or accepted as correct until otherwise proven.

  • Mississippi: Possessor may have to counter prima facie evidence of intent, but only if the lock picks are “concealed” (Mississippi Code § 97-17-35)
  • Nevada: Possessor may have to counter prima facie evidence of intent (Nevada Revised Statutes - § 205.080)
  • Ohio: Possessor may have to counter prima facie evidence of intent (Ohio Code - 2923.24)
  • Virginia: Possessor may have to counter prima facie evidence of intent (Code of Virginia - § 18.2-94)

In Tennessee, lock pick laws are ambiguous, and context should be considered. Tennessee laws targeting rogue and scammer lockpicking are broad and criminalize possession of lock picks by unlicensed individuals. If individuals are not lock picking for profit, the use and demonstration of lock picks appear to be legal.

Below is a table of each state’s lock pick legality. For more information on each state’s specific laws, please follow the source listed.

Lock Pick Laws By State 2021