Charged With Burglary In California?
The charge of burglary is designed to punish the act of entering into a structure for the purpose of committing a crime. If the person follows through with the additional crime after entry into the building or vehicle, they can face a separate criminal charge for that offense.
Elements Of The Crime Of Burglary
Under California law, the crime of burglary is committed when:
- Any person enters
- A residential or business structure or locked vehicle,
- With the intent to commit one of the following crimes:
- Grand theft
- Petty theft
- Any felony
Because of this, the burglary is complete when a person goes into that structure or vehicle with the criminal intent that the law requires. Whether or not the additional crime is carried out as intended is not relevant to the law of burglary.
Levels Of Burglary
In California law, burglary has two possible degrees.
First-degree burglary involves the entry into a residential structure. The owners of the home do not need to be there at the time of the crime. However, the home must be an active residence for the crime of first-degree burglary. A residence that has been abandoned or left empty by its owners may not qualify for first-degree burglary charges.
Second-degree burglary relates to the entry into any other type of structure, including vehicles, businesses, and stores. While vehicles must be locked for it to constitute a burglary, commercial buildings do not have to be. For example, a person could commit burglary by entering a bank during business hours with the intent to commit check fraud inside the bank.
Possession Of Burglarious Instruments
A related crime involves the possession of burglary tools with the intent to use them to commit a burglary. Tools associated with burglary can include lock-picking tools, crowbars, “Slim Jims” used to open car doors, or ordinary tools, such as screwdrivers or pliers, that could be used to gain access to a property illegally. You can face additional charges if such tools are found in your possession when you are caught in a burglary. Possession of burglary tools is a misdemeanor, and a conviction can result in a term of up to six months in the county jail.
Burglary Vs. Shoplifting
California law treats shoplifting as a crime separate from burglary. Shoplifting is defined as entering a business that is open with the intention to steal at least $950 in merchandise from the store.
Potential Defenses To The Charges
The crime of burglary often is difficult for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court. One of the main reasons for this challenge is that the crime depends on proof of a state of mind: that the defendant entered into the building with the intent to commit a crime inside. You may be able to cast doubt upon whether you had this state of mind. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can present your case in a way that best considers the facts in light of the law.
Penalties And Punishments
First-degree burglary is prosecuted as a felony under California law. A conviction can result in a sentence of two to six years in state prison.
Second-degree burglary is on the edge of two potential punishment levels, which California law calls a “wobbler.” It can be either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances and factors involved in the crime. The felony conviction may involve prison time of 16 months to three years, whereas the misdemeanor can carry a sentence of up to one year in county jail.
California Burglary Lawyers
My Rights Law, an experienced criminal defense firm, knows how to effectively defend Californians against criminal charges including burglary. We will carefully review your situation and work tirelessly to defend you from any burglary charges you face. Don’t gamble on your future with such a serious offense. Get a well-respected criminal defense team in your corner without delay. To learn more, call My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or contact us online today.