California Penal Code Section 466
Penal Code Section 466 makes possession of burglary tools a misdemeanor. It provides:
"Every person having upon him or her in his or her possession a picklock, crow, keybit, crowbar, screwdriver, vise grip pliers, water-pump pliers, slidehammer, slim jim, tension bar, lock pick gun, tubular lock pick, floor-safe door puller, master key, ceramic or porcelain spark plug chips or pieces, or other instrument or tool with intent feloniously to break or enter into any ... vehicle ... is guilty of a misdemeanor."
In People v. Gordon (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1409, the defendant possessed porcelain chips from a spark plug and was convicted of violating Penal Code section 466. A police detective testified that thieves use pieces of ceramic spark plugs to throw at car windows and shatter them because they make very little sound. (Gordon, supra, at p. 1411.)
So, the defendant was convicted of violating section 466 because, although not specified in the statute, spark plug chips were determined to be other instruments or tools of burglary.
The Court of Appeal reversed.
It employed the doctrine of ejusdem generis to hold that spark plug chips do not come within the meaning of "other instrument or tool? as used in section 466. The court stated: "In making this determination we are guided by the rule of construction known as ejusdem generis--which applies when general terms follow a list of specific items or categories, or vice versa. Under this rule, application of the general term is ' "restricted to those things that are similar to those which are enumerated specifically." ' Moreover, 'in construing criminal statutes, the ejusdem generis rule of construction is applied with stringency. ' Thus, the meaning of the words 'or other instrument or tool' in section 466 is restricted to a form of device similar to those expressly set forth in the statute. The items specifically listed as burglar's tools in section 466 are keys or key replacements, or tools that can be used to pry open doors, pick locks, or pull locks up or out. None of the devices enumerated are those whose function would be to break or cut glass--e.g., rocks, bricks, hammers or glass cutters, and none of the devices listed resembles ceramic spark plug pieces that can be thrown at a car window to break it. ... Here, a ceramic piece of a spark plug that can be thrown at a car window is not similar to the burglar's tools listed in the statute." (Gordon, supra, 90 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1412-1413.)