Possessing Criminal Tools  

Ohio law says that just about any object can be a criminal tool if an offender intends to use it in a criminal act. This statute is a slippery one, and prosecutors can use its broad nature to their advantage—and an alleged offender’s disadvantage.

If you are being investigated or have been arrested for possessing criminal tools in Cincinnati, an attorney with our highly rated criminal defense law firm can fight for the best outcome for your case. We have handled more than 20,000 criminal cases throughout Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and other areas in the state. 

Our principal attorney, Brian Joslyn, is passionate about protecting the rights of people accused of crimes in Cincinnati. This passion shows not only in the results he and his firm get for clients, but also in the recognition and multiple awards he has received from numerous esteemed organizations. Joslyn is a nationally ranked “Top 10 Attorney” by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. SuperLawyers also recognized him as a “Rising Star.” 

Joslyn is included in Martindale-Hubbell’s Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers and has earned the AV Preeminent rating—a recognition reserved for an exclusive set of attorneys who have achieved the highest ranking of professional excellence for their ethical standards, communication skills, and legal prowess. 

Cincinnati Attorneys for Possessing Criminal Tools Charges

Prosecutors often use the offense of possessing criminal tools as a means to an end. For example, they might present this charge to beef up an indictment or because they know they cannot make other charges against you stick.

Our lawyers can help determine if the prosecution’s tactics violate your constitutional rights. When we represent you, we will look for any indication of this being the case and raise it as your defense. We can draw from multiple other defense strategies, too, and we will use our knowledge of Ohio’s criminal code to argue the best defense for your case. You can count on the reputation we have gained in our many years of serving Ohioans. 

Joslyn Law Firm’s reputation even extends to the media. It is not uncommon for news sources like FOX 28, NBC 4, ABC 6, WBNS 10 – CBS, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Plain Dealer to contact our team when reporters need insight into criminal law. 

Whether your charge involves a lead pipe or a pistol, the prosecution must establish your mens rea in order to get a conviction. This means if prosecutors cannot prove criminal intent, they do not have a case. Therefore, defeating the mens rea could be a key focus for us in our defense strategy, depending on the circumstances of the case.

The sooner you call and share the details of your case with us, the sooner our team can begin building a sound defense on your behalf. Call Joslyn Law Firm today at (513) 399-6289. 

Information Center for Possessing Criminal Tools Cases in Cincinnati, OH


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Overview of Possessing Criminal Tools Charges in Ohio

Ohio’s laws regarding the offense of possessing criminal tools appear in the Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.24. The statute specifies that it is against the law to possess any device, article, instrument, or substance that you plan to use for a criminal purpose.


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Evidence in a Case of Possessing Criminal Tools

The state’s laws are clear on the types of evidence that could establish criminal purpose, as this is the main element of an alleged possessing criminal tools offense.

According to the statute above, prosecutors can present several types of prima facie evidence of your criminal intent. Prima facie evidence is that which is “sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.”

Examples of prima facie evidence in a case of possessing criminal tools include:

  • Possession or control of a device, article, substance, or instrument that was made or adapted for criminal use
  • Possession or control of a device, article, substance, or instrument that commonly serves a criminal purpose when circumstances suggest the alleged offender intended to use the item as such
  • Possession or control of any materials that could create dangerous ordnance without proof of legitimate use

Examples of Dangerous Ordnance

Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.11 defines dangerous ordnance as:

  • Automatic or sawed-off firearms, ballistic knives, or zip-guns
  • Explosives and incendiary devices
  • High explosives or compositions of high explosives
  • Plastic explosives
  • Blasting agents
  • Explosive substances used for mining, military, excavation, quarrying, or demotion
  • Ammunition and weapons designed and made for military use
  • Firearm/muffler suppressors
  • Parts used for converting firearms into dangerous ordnance

A bill introduced into the House in the 2017-2018 session seeks to update some of Ohio’s ordnance laws. As of mid-2020, H.B. 585 has not made any progress since its introduction to the Ohio Legislature. 


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Penalties for Possessing Criminal Tools in Hamilton County

In Ohio, the offense of possessing criminal tools is typically charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalty for conviction is a maximum jail sentence of 180 days and a fine of up to $1,000.

However, if the alleged offender intended to use the “criminal tool” to commit a felony, the charge is elevated to a fifth-degree felony. The penalties for this charge include a prison sentence of between six to 12 months and a maximum fine of $2,500.


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Defenses Against Charges of Possessing Criminal Tools


Our legal team will investigate the circumstances of your case to determine which defense could generate the best outcome for you. Here we shall review some weapon and firearm defenses we might consider in your case:

Constitutional Challenges 

Constitutional challenges often serve as strong defenses against possessing criminal tools charges in Ohio. For example, state laws prohibit disproportionate over-sentencing. This rule means that the prosecution cannot try to stack a possessing criminal tools charge with another charge when the former was a necessary element for the latter.

To illustrate, Ohio law will not allow prosecutors to convict you with both possession of a criminal tool—such as a knife—and also convict you for murder in the same case. Instead, the state can merge the charges and sentence you for only the more serious offense—in this case, the murder charge.

Similarly, if your Fourth Amendment right was violated—which offers protection against unreasonable searches and seizures—we could raise a constitutional challenge. Any evidence unlawfully obtained could be thrown out if we succeed, thereby weakening the prosecution’s case.

Furthermore, we could argue that the tendency to interpret Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.24 in an overly broad manner is unconstitutional. This rings especially true when the “criminal tool” is an everyday object, like a baseball bat. In this type of case, the prosecution must provide compelling evidence that the intent was to use the everyday object in some sort of criminal activity.

Defeating the Mens Rea 

If the item in question does not appear in the above list of prima facie evidence, the prosecutor must establish criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt. Our defense team need only show some other use for the object to dismantle a case where mens rea has not been proven.

Challenging Essential Elements of the Alleged Crime

Earlier, we outlined the elements of a possession of criminal tools offense, as defined by Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.24. When a prosecutor tries your case in court, they must prove every element of the crime to get a conviction. One aspect we could challenge in your case is that of possession or control.

Police might have found a “criminal tool”—a gun, for example—in your house. However, if you did not know the gun was there, or you did not have access to it, then it was not in your control. Furthermore, possession can be difficult to prove if the object in question was found in a common area—one that you shared with other people.

The prosecutor will need to provide additional evidence to cement the essential element of possession or control in either of these cases.


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Resources for Cases of Possessing Criminal Tools in Ohio 

The following are resources that could be helpful in cases involving a charge of possessing criminal tools.

State v. Harris – Court of Appeals of Ohio

In this case, the defendant, Charles Harris, appealed his conviction for possession of criminal tools related to a heroin sale. His appeal noted two assignments of error, including the trial court’s failure to grant a motion for a judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court’s decision noted that “buy money” has consistently been held as sufficient to support conviction for possession of criminal tools. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court’s conviction. 

State v. Houston Leagle.com

In this case, the defendant-appellant, Edward Houston, Sr., appealed a conviction for two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of possession of criminal tools, and one count of unlawful possession of dangerous ordnance. Houston’s attorney argued that pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 2941.25, the criminal tools were allied to the aggravated robbery offense. 

The defendant’s shotgun was the “criminal tool,” and was used to commit the aggravated robbery. The appellate court agreed that the offenses should have been merged, and the court reversed the possession of criminal tools conviction.

Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.24 – Possessing Criminal Tools

The Ohio Revised Code is the codified law of the state. This section of the code pertains to the criminal offense of possessing criminal tools. By reading about this statute, you can link to other pages of Ohio law that connect with this offense. It is a useful tool for understanding the elements of the crime with which you have been charged, penalties for conviction, and terms that correspond to the offense.

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts

Visit the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts website to search for your criminal records and find information vital to your case. When you find your record, the site enables you to pay your fines online. You can search the County Clerk’s database by case number, name, judge, court, lawyer, and other search criteria.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Information

If you need to find information about an inmate housed in a Hamilton County facility, you can visit the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office website. There, you can use the site’s search tool to locate an inmate and view pertinent information related to the inmate, including court dates, bond type and amount, fines, and disposition, among other things.

News About Possessing Criminal Tools in Ohio

July 12, 2021

“Drive-Thru Worker Accused of Taking Photos of Credit Cards, Stealing Identities”

The Sentinel-Tribune reports that Samantha Rae Fitzgerald, of Westlake, was indicted with petty theft, theft of drugs, identity fraud, and possessing criminal tools. The last offense was charged as a fifth-degree felony. Allegedly, Fitzgerald took photos of customers’ credit cards as she worked in a restaurant drive-thru window. She was subsequently fired. It was later noted that credit cards, cash, and a bottle of Metadate pills were missing.

June 30, 2021

“Man Indicted on 14 Charges of Pandering”

According to Sidney Daily News, Cincinnati’s Jeremy Ballard was indicted on charges of drug trafficking and possessing criminal tools. He allegedly prepared marijuana for transportation and distribution and possessed bags for storing, transporting, and using the drugs.

The grand jury decided that a truck was used to facilitate the felony drug trafficking act and that the cash amount of over $13,000 was derived from the commission of the felony drug abuse offense.

May 28, 2021

“Coshocton Man Convicted of Murdering Miamisburg Teen”

The Coshocton Tribune reports that Chaz Gillilan was convicted in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on charges connected to the 2018 murder of Noah M. Kinser. Allegedly, the murder took place during a home invasion when Kinser was shot with a 9 mm gun.

Phone records and DNA from 9 mm casings served as evidence in the trial. Gillilan was convicted of possession of criminal tools, murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, and having weapons under disability

January 15, 2021

“Man Broke into Great American Tower to Take Pictures: Court Docs”

FOX 19 reports that a Hamilton County grand jury indicted a man on four felony charges, including counts of burglary, inducing panic, and possessing criminal tools. The man, Isaac Wright, of Colerain Township, stands accused of breaking into Cincinnati’s Great American Tower to take photos to sell on his Instagram account. 

Police found a lockpick set and pry bar on Wright’s person. Wright was arrested in Coconino, Arizona, and is awaiting extradition. Meanwhile, friends launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Wright’s legal costs.


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FAQs About Possessing Criminal Tools Charges in Ohio 

Q. Is Possession of Criminal Tools a Felony in Ohio?

  • Possession of criminal tools can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically, the offense counts as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if the criminal tools in question were intended for use in committing a felony, the offense will be charged as a fifth-degree felony, and the convicted offender punished accordingly. 

Q. What Are Considered Criminal Tools in Cincinnati?

  • Anything can be labeled a criminal tool if the item or substance was intended for use in committing a crime. From everyday objects, like screwdrivers and cell phones, to firearms and explosives, if an alleged offender intended to use the item to commit a crime, they can be charged with possessing criminal tools.

Q. Does a Prosecutor Have to Prove Intent for a Possessing Criminal Tools Conviction?

  • In cases where the item of issue is an everyday object, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had some other purpose for having it, other than to commit a crime. There are some criminal tools, however, that are considered prima facie evidence, meaning the defendant’s mere possession of the tools is sufficient proof of the offense. Dangerous ordnance falls into this category of criminal tools.

Q. How Can I Beat a Possessing Criminal Tools Charge?

  • Common defenses in possessing criminal tools cases involve constitutional challenges; defeating the mens rea (criminal intent); and challenging the elements of the crime, such as whether the alleged offender was truly in possession of the item of issue.

Q. Could I Go to Jail if Convicted of a Possessing Criminal Tools Charge?

  • You could go to jail—or even prison—if you are convicted of possessing criminal tools in Cincinnati. If you are charged and convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor offense, you could face up to 180 days in jail. If the charge is a fifth-degree felony, you could face six to 12 months in prison.

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Defense Lawyer for Possessing Criminal Tools in Cincinnati, OH

The legal team at Joslyn Law Firm knows how easy it is for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to violate your criminal rights. If they succeed, you could spend months behind bars and suffer a lifetime of negative consequences. We are passionate about protecting the rights of Ohioans who have been accused of crimes—and our passion shows in the results we achieve for our clients. 

Do not take a charge of possessing criminal tools lightly. Call our firm today so we can talk to you about your case and start you on the path to a positive outcome.

Call Joslyn Law Firm today at (513) 399-6289 for a free consultation.


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