A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph
Lock picking is a perishable skill, and any time spent away from it can be a major set back to your abilities. It is because of this that many pickers desire to have their picks on their person at all times. It is important to commit time to practicing so that your skills stay as pristine as ever. This will give you the opportunity to stay sharp on your picking, and it will allow you to be prepared for an emergency. So how does one take on the daunting task of traveling with your lock pick set? Traveling with your lock picks and locksmith tools can create a multitude of problems.Whether you are buying new lock picking tools at your destination or starting the journey with them, you should always know the laws of the land. Perhaps your destination has different laws concerning lock picks. The way you travel might ban the possession of your tools. This is by no means a law blog.
This information is public knowledge and any advice is purely confined to hypotheticals in which no one wishes to use these tools to commit an illegal act. If you are getting arrested or have been arrested, this article is not meant to exonerate anyone, or make any legal claims. This is meant to get people to think about their travel situation and reflect on what they think is the responsible thing to do. All specific policies cited are accurate at the time this article was written. Generalized policies may have specific exceptions not noted.
While you are on your journey you have the option of taking your lock picks with you or having them shipped separately. The best option will vary depending on your destination, as well as your means of travel. Below you will find details on both. If you reach the point that you would rather not travel with your picks, or find that it will not be possible due to illegality, don’t get too distraught. There is also the option of mailing the picks to your destination. With a little bit of planning, you can have your packaged picks arrive right along with you. Mailing them to your destination will require them to be legal in the area they are arriving.
The United States Department of Transportation and Security (TSA) does not have any available indexed information on their site detailing their stance on lock picks. However, bobby pins and paper clips are expressly allowed, and you can make your practice picks from those materials. Along with your makeshift picks, you are also allowed to bring padlocks onto the plane. The TSA database on prohibited items does stress pretty plainly that all items, no matter what, “Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.” So in this case it is up to the discretion of the agent. For this reason, proper lock picks are definitely not allowed just by the default of not being indexed as a prohibited item.
Further consideration is needed to determine if you need the picks with you on the plane. If you are not planning on picking anything on the plane then you should just consider packing your picks in your checked luggage. If you are concerned about preparedness in case of an emergency on the plane, have some bobby pins and paper clips. If a situation arises that demands the use of your lock picking ability, albeit highly unlikely, those tools can become what you need them to be. If you do want to pick during your flight I would suggest considering how this may look. But if you are only concerned about possible theft from airport personnel, there are always better ways to secure your luggage while flying.
Some picks appear as though they might be makeshift knives. Even if TSA knows what they are or missed them in their check, using the tools openly might alarm the flight attendants or unnerve other flyers. If anyone finds what you are doing unsettling, the best case scenario is that you are going to be asked to put everything away. The worst case scenario, I will let your imagination go wild. In the interest of protecting those that lack an imagination, you will be arrested and it will get worse from there.
There are no outright restrictions on lock picks that I could find on any train company’s website. A common trend in most public transportation restricted items lists is that sharp items are not allowed. Much like the airline security it will most likely be a judgment call on the part of the employee that finds the picks. This is another point where keeping the picks out of site is not going to overtly violate any policy. Use discretion and there should be no issue with a violation of the train’s policy.
The train will be passing on land and may enter areas that lock picks are restricted. Keep picks away at this point to avoid any confusion or potential risk. While traveling, you may wish to have lock picks on your person in the case of an emergency. If you are uncomfortable with having them travel with you, there is always the option of keeping bobby pins or paper clips on your person. In the rare event that a lock will need to be picked during an emergency, lock picks can be made quite quickly out of these materials.
The beauty of driving your own car is that you are not subject to a company policy. The downside to traveling this way is that you will be subject to the different laws of each region you pass through while you are there. That means that you must be aware of the laws of every place you pass through. Because ignorance of the law is not an excuse you should look at your planned route and check the laws of each area you will be going through. This might be quite labor intensive if you are going on a long trip. If the research task is too much for you to do, for whatever reason, the best option would be to not travel with the lock picks. Flying blind in that way would put you at the mercy of fate and circumstance, and there is no need for the threat of imprisonment when you are traveling.
There is no clear indication that lock picks are forbidden from the ships, however, some sites do list a ban on sharp metal objects. We all know that these tools are not intended for physical harm, but public perception is important if you are using any of these things in the public sphere. You can check out the restricted items list of your particular cruise, but similar to airline restrictions, chances are the staff and other passengers might have an issue with you working with your tools in the public. If you are thinking about just picking in your cabin or room, consider first contacting the cruise line. Explain your situation and make sure to get the names of the employees that you talk to. Record the phone calls if necessary. If the fear is that you will not have the proper tools in the event of an emergency consider bringing aboard bobby pins and or paper clips, that can remain innocuous until they are needed as lock picks (highly unlikely).
The most important thing to know about your destination are the laws. If you are looking to bring your picks then take the time and research your destination. Regardless of how you are traveling, where you end up will have laws concerning lock pick tools. The most straightforward laws concerning the illegality of lock picks are in Japan, Poland, and Hungary. In Japan if you are found with lock picks you will be subject to a fine of 500,000 yen and a year in prison. In Poland, it is illegal to possess and picks without being able to show that your profession requires it, which may be difficult if you are on holiday or doing business that does not require locksmithing.
Delivery is also treated the same in the eyes of the law. That means if you are delivering or having someone else deliver lock picks, the deliverer can also be subject to penalties. If you are going to be locksmithing during your stay, know that it is illegal to have someone else that is not a locksmith, deliver your tools. In Hungary ownership of lock picks is completely illegal. The only people in Hungary that are allowed to have these tools are the military, and as a result lock picks are classified as military equipment. For travel within the United States or even traveling to the US, you should consult the lock pick laws in the state you are visiting.
The trouble with researching the laws of foreign countries is that it will be almost impossible to find primary sources through Google. The best thing is to look up your destination and ask the question “Are lock picks legal in [Your destination here]?” This will often take you to forums where people have answered this question. When that does not return a favorable result, type in, “[Your destination here] law”. If the sites are too difficult to navigate then try to contact your travel agent or a representative of whatever companies you are going to use in that country. You can contact the hotel, airline, cruise, etc. Contacting your travel company should also help if you have any further questions about their policy on having the lock picks in your luggage, or on your person, during your journey.
Do you still want to bring your lock picks with you on your trip? There are a lot of things to consider. Quite a bit of legwork and research is necessary, and no one blog would possibly be able to answer every question for every particular trip and situation. This post should serve as an informative outline of the things to consider before making the decision to travel with your lock picks. I must stress again that this is general information and not legal advice. Please do the necessary research for your particular trip.
Though being informed about the laws of the area might not save you from the ride to the police station, it may save you from a foreign prison. Always inform yourself and act in accordance with the law. At no time should you attempt to circumvent the law, even if you feel that you have the right to. Be safe while traveling. And remember that security does not end with the home. At every minute, everywhere you go, safety should always be a chief concern. Have fun on that much-needed vacation, or try not to lose your mind on that business trip. If you follow the law, that is a protection no one can take away.