The legal definition for burglary in California can be found in Penal Code 459. There are two things that a prosecutor must prove; first, they must prove that you entered a building, room or some sort of other structure that was once locked or closed and that when you entered that structure you did so with the intent to steal. The structure in question could be a house, a mobile home, a building, a car or a boat. Interestingly, when you enter the structure, you can do so in the obvious sense of breaking in and walking, but it would also be considered entering if your arm or another body part enters the area or if an object you are holding crosses into the area.
The difference between first and second degree burglary as defined in Penal Code 460 is that first degree is the more serious of the two. First degree burglary is more commonly referred to as residential burglary. If you steal from a structure that is inhabited or that could be inhabited, you can be convicted of residential burglary. Commercial burglary or second degree burglary is the less serious of the two. This type of burglary covers every structure other than the places where people can or do live. Second degree burglary is a wobbler offense meaning that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
You commit auto burglary when you break into a locked vehicle with the intent to steal either the vehicle, steal property inside the it or commit another felony inside the vehicle. Auto burglary is considered a form of second degree burglary and is prosecuted under Penal Code 459.
First degree, or residential burglary, is always considered a felony. If you are convicted of this, you face either probation with the possibility of up to one year in county jail or 6 years in California’s prison system and a possible fine of up to $1,000. Additionally, a conviction for first degree burglary counts as a strike under the Three Strikes Law in California. Second degree burglary is a wobbler so it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the case and your criminal history. If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor second degree burglary then you can face up to a year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. You may be sentenced to informal probation by the judge rather than a jail term. If you are convicted of a felony second degree burglary then you may face probation with up to one year in county jail or 16 months, two or three years in jail as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
Some defenses include asserting that there was no intent. Due to the fact that intent is crucial to a conviction in a burglary case, successfully arguing that there was no intent means that you cannot be convicted of the offense. An attorney could also argue that there was a mistake of fact or that you entered another person’s property to retrieve something that was yours to begin with or that you believed you had permission to take that item or items in the first place. Factual innocence is another potential defense, this essentially means that the attorney would argue that this was a case of mistaken identity, that the accuser was lying or that the evidence in the case was misleading.
If you or a loved one is facing a burglary charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.