Are Lockpicks Illegal in Washington?

Picture this: A skill that can both protect and open doors, a craft that’s steeped in history, yet relevant in our modern lives. You got it right… It’s Lock Picking. Lock picking and its tools have different statuses in different states.

We’re about to uncover the legality of lockpicks in the lovely state of Washington, exploring the fascinating world where security and access meet. Are Lockpicks Illegal in Washington? We’ll walk you through the rules for having lock picks in Washington.

are lockpicks illegal in washington? featured image by emma marshal

Whether you’re a curious learner, a homeowner concerned about safety, or someone who just wants to know the ins and outs of the law, this article is here for you.

Let’s journey together in the legal story of lock picks in the great state of Washington.

Understanding Lock Picks: Are Lockpicks Illegal in Washington?

Before we dive into answering “Are lockpicks illegal in Washington?” our first task should be to figure out what lock picks are and how lock picking is counted as a skill.

What Are Lock Picks?

some lock picks

Lock picks are key to unlocking a world of intrigue, expertise, and security. These humble instruments can open locks granting access, to the mechanisms that safeguard our possessions and spaces.

Understanding Lock Picks and Their Purpose

Lock picks are crafted devices created to manipulate the components within locks circumventing the need for an original key. Contrary to their portrayal in movies and fiction, lock picking serves a purpose beyond activities.

Locksmiths and security professionals employ these tools to assist individuals in regaining entry to their properties when keys are lost, malfunctioning, or inaccessible. The art of lock picking requires a balance, between comprehending how locks work and utilizing that knowledge responsibly.

Various Kinds of Lock Pick Tools

The practice of lock picking requires tools specifically designed for interacting with types of locks. Such common tools are as follows:

  • Tension Wrench: The tension wrench serves as a substitute, for the turning action of a key applying force to the cylinder of the lock.
  • Hooks: These picks are available in shapes each specifically crafted to manipulate the lock pins one, by one mimicking the serrated edge of a key.
  • Rake Picks: These tools are used to rapidly move pins within the lock, simulating the key’s insertion and withdrawal.
  • Diamond Picks: With a diamond-shaped tip, these picks are versatile, allowing for precise manipulation of pins.
  • Bump Keys: While not traditional picks, bump keys can be inserted and “bumped” to jostle the pins into alignment momentarily, allowing for quick unlocking.

Lock Picking as a Skill

Lock picking isn’t just movie magic – it’s a genuine skill with practical applications. We will now have a look at the real-world significance of lock picking and its ethical use.

different hands busy in lock picking showing lock picking as a skill

Lock picking As a Legitimate Skill

While the media often sensationalizes lock picking, it’s essential to recognize its practical and professional significance. Locksmiths, for instance, are well-versed in the art of lock manipulation, using their skills to assist individuals who are locked out of their homes, cars, or businesses due to misplaced keys or faulty locks.

Similarly, security professionals rely on lock picking to assess vulnerabilities in locks and security systems, helping to fortify defenses against potential threats. The precise understanding of lock mechanics empowers these experts to enhance security measures effectively.

Ethical Uses of Lock picking Knowledge

While the skill can be misused for unlawful purposes, its ethical applications far outweigh the negative connotations. Professionals who engage in lock picking adhere to a code of ethics that emphasizes responsible use of their knowledge. Locksmiths and security experts operate under legal guidelines and are driven by the intention to provide assistance and enhance security, not compromise it. The ethical application of lock picking knowledge underscores its potential as a force for good.

As we continue our exploration, we’ll shift our focus to the legality of lock picks in the state of Washington, shedding light on their status and implications within the bounds of the law.

Are Lockpicks Illegal in Washington?

Washington map

Lock picks raise questions about their legality in the state of Washington. Let’s shed light on the status of lock picks and uncover key points about their legality within the legal framework.

Legal Status of Lock Picks in the State of Washington

Washington’s laws navigate the fine line between appreciating lock picking as a skill and preventing its misuse. Are lockpicks illegal in Washington? The answer is NO. Possessing lock picks is not inherently illegal but their possession is subject to specific regulations. The focus is on distinguishing between legitimate uses by professionals and potential unlawful intent.

Legality and Relevant Laws of Lock Picks in Washington

Washington law mandates that lock pick possession and use must be aligned with lawful purposes. Licensed locksmiths, security personnel, and those with legitimate reasons for possessing lock picks are typically exempt from legal repercussions.

However, the possession of lock picks with the intent to commit crimes like burglary or theft is prohibited and carries severe penalties.

explaining lock picks with intent to commit crime is illegal by showing two hands with lock pick tools and trying to open door or enter home.

Washington Revised Code § 9A.56.360 addresses the possession of burglary tools, which include lock picks, with the intent to commit a crime. Possessing these tools with criminal intent is considered a gross misdemeanor, with potential penalties including fines and imprisonment.

Exceptions and Permits

The law also makes provisions for licensed locksmiths, security personnel, and those with legitimate reasons for possessing lock picks. These individuals are typically exempt from legal repercussions. The state’s legal stance emphasizes the responsible use and ethical application of lock picking knowledge.

Washington may also issue permits to individuals or organizations that have a genuine need for lock picking tools. These exceptions exist to ensure that those with legitimate reasons can access these tools while maintaining ethical standards and responsible practices.

Penalties and Consequences

While lock picking can be a valuable skill when used ethically, the misuse of this skill carries significant legal consequences within the state of Washington.

Consequences of Illegal Possession

Possessing lock picks with the intent to commit a crime is treated as a serious offense under Washington law. Individuals found with lock picking tools and criminal intent may face severe penalties.

consequences of lock picks with criminal intent shown with a person behind bars and one doing illegal lock picking

These consequences may include substantial fines, legal penalties, and even criminal charges. By imposing strict repercussions, the legal system aims to discourage the illicit use of lock picking tools and uphold public safety.

Responsible Lock Pick Use

Promoting responsible lock picking practices is paramount. Enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professionals alike are encouraged to apply their skills ethically and responsibly.

This involves respecting property rights, refraining from unlawful activities, and using lock picking knowledge constructively. By adhering to these principles, individuals can ensure that their interest in lock picking aligns with legal and ethical norms.

Staying Informed and Making Informed Choices

Staying up-to-date with the ever-evolving legal landscape is essential for individuals engaging in lock picking. Various resources, including official state websites and legal guides, provide the latest information on lock picking laws in Washington.

Remaining informed empowers individuals to navigate the intricacies of the legal framework, make informed decisions, and contribute positively to their communities.

What states are lockpicks illegal?

what states are lock picks illegal shown with their maps

Below is a table that lists some states in the US where lock picking is generally illegal and the reasons behind their regulations:

State Lock Picking Legality Reasons for Prohibition
Mississippi Illegal Prevents potential misuse for criminal activities
Nevada Illegal Aims to uphold security standards and deter unlawful actions
Ohio Generally Illegal Protects against unauthorized access and property violations
Virginia Generally Illegal Promotes responsible use of lock picking knowledge
Tennessee Generally Illegal Preserves security and ensures ethical practices

In these states, lock picking is generally prohibited to prevent potential misuse, maintain security standards, protect against unauthorized access, encourage responsible use, and ensure ethical practices within the realm of lock picking. MIT Guide to Lock Picking Page 48 gives more details of legality/illegality of lockpicking in different states.

You can find out more about legality of lock picks here in different states like Colorado, Virginia, Oregon, and Florida.

Is it illegal to carry around lockpicks?

The legality of carrying lock picks depends on the jurisdiction and the intent behind carrying them. In some places, it may be legal to possess lock picks for legitimate purposes, such as being a licensed locksmith or a security professional.

However, in many places, carrying lock picks with the intent to commit a crime or without a valid reason can be illegal and subject to penalties.


The question, “Are Lockpicks Illegal in Washington?” presents a nuanced answer. While lock picks themselves are not inherently illegal, their possession and use come with responsibilities and legal considerations. By comprehending the state’s laws, adhering to ethical practices, and staying informed, individuals can engage with lock picking in a manner that respects the law, enhances security, and fosters responsible use. Embracing these principles ensures that the craft of lock picking remains a force for good in the state of Washington.


Is lock picking a legal hobby?

Lock picking can be a legal hobby if pursued responsibly and within the bounds of the law. Engaging in lock picking for educational purposes, as a licensed locksmith, or to improve security is generally lawful. However, using lock picking tools for illegal activities or without proper authorization can lead to legal consequences.

Is it a crime to pick a lock?

Picking a lock without proper authorization can be considered a crime in many jurisdictions. Intent and context matter—using lock picking tools to commit theft, trespass, or other unlawful activities can lead to criminal charges.

However, licensed locksmiths or those with legitimate reasons for lock manipulation may be exempt from such charges. It’s essential to understand local laws and use lock picking skills responsibly and legally.


  1. MIT Guide to Lock Picking Page 48
  2. Improvised Lock Picks Formerly Titled : POLICE GUIDE TO LOCK PICKING
  3. BEGINNERS GUIDE TO LOCK PICKING March 11, 2019 by Ashley Adamant

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