California Penal Code 459 PC prohibits burglary. The statute makes it a crime to enter a premise intending to commit a crime. If found guilty, you risk getting severe punishments, including prison time, tainted reputation, and hefty fines. When the law enforcers apprehend you, do not plead guilty without understanding your legal rights and defense options. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we understand the severity of burglary cases and the complicated justice system in California. We have helped many burglary suspects successfully win their cases thanks to our many years of experience.

Legal Definition Of Burglary

The burglary crime is always associated with theft. Section 459 of the Penal Code explains burglary crime as getting into a place where people dwell in to commit a crime. You do not have to steal to commit this crime. As long as you enter a house without permission, you commit this offense. You risk getting charged with first-degree burglary (residential burglary) when you enter a residential house illegally. If you enter a business premise, you get charged with second-degree burglary (commercial burglary). Residential burglary is a felony offense while commercial burglary is a wobbler depending on a case by case basis. 

The law does not require a "break into" incidence to conclude you are guilty. You can commit the crime by getting into the private or commercial premises via an open window or unlocked door. The only exception to this statute is auto burglary. Although auto burglary is an extension of burglary crime, you can only commit the crime by breaking into a locked vehicle.

Elements Of a Burglary Crime

A burglary happens in various setups like a home, industry, or business premises. One of the significant elements of burglary crime is that the victim was not present when you committed the crime. The charges aggravate if you damage other property inside the premises. Here are more specific elements of burglary crime.

  • Break in and entry. You become a law offender if you enter into the building either by force or through blackmail. The crime must have occurred without the owner's consent.

  • Building or structure. For you to commit a burglary offense, the building or structure must meet specific requirements. For instance, the structure must be a dwelling place for people or animals. The structure, too, must have been out of bounds for the public when the burglary crime happened. Any other building can also be burglarized, for example, a shed, garage, or store. The accused must have forced entry.

  • Intent. You must also have the intent to commit the crime. Timings for burglary crime is very crucial since it determines the degree of the burglary. It is not a must you accomplish the intention. For example, if you enter a home intending to steal electronic gadgets and are chased away by homeowners, leaving behind the devices, you still violate Penal Code 459.

What Is Auto Burglary?

Auto burglary falls under section 459 PC. It is defined as entering any vehicle forcefully with intent to commit petty larceny or felony. You could get charged with burglary for forcing someone else to break into a locked car. The charges include grand theft, petty theft, or felony crime.

The law requires that you enter a locked car but not an open one for you to be guilty of auto burglary. For instance, you enter the car when its doors or trunk compartment are open. The statute makes it difficult for the prosecution to establish a conviction. In many instances, the auto burglary charges are based on tracing the perpetrator using fingerprint analysis. The court may charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor. These charges are determined by your prior criminal history to justify felony charges.

The Arrest Process For Burglary

When you get arrested for burglary, you must comply with the police officers, no matter your personal belief concerning the charges. A document is presented to you, which is an arrest authorization indicating a burglary. You must know the proper protocol associated with the criminal justice system.

After your arrest, you have the right to talk to a criminal defense attorney. Resisting arrest for your burglary crime could result in damage, pain, and additional sanctions. The police officers will provide you with the following to avoid further complications:

  • Due Process. Due process involves implementing your civil rights when you get arrested. The officers must protect the civil rights and fundamental freedom of the defendant, including respect and fair treatment without excessive force.

  • Habeas Corpus. According to the habeas corpus principle, every person should be tried in a criminal court. Additionally, every person has the right to legal counsel. Any pertinent information about charges of burglary should be addressed in the presence of a defense lawyer.

  • Innocence Presumption. If you get arrested for burglary, the law maintains that you are innocent until proven guilty by a court, unless you confess to the police that you committed the burglary.

  • Miranda Rights. After arrest, there is a standard protocol upheld by the police officers. The police must inform you of your right to maintain silence to avoid self-incrimination. They include the right for an attorney review, and any word uttered while under detention would act as evidence during the trial, among others.

Possible Penalties For Burglary

The penalties for burglary depends on whether you were accused of the first-degree burglary or the second-degree one. First-degree burglary is considered a felony, while second-degree burglary is a wobbler. If you are charged with a second-degree felony could be a misdemeanor or felony crime depending on the circumstances surrounding your crime.

First Degree Burglary

The first-degree burglary is also called residential burglary. It involves entering an inhabited place regardless of its occupancy status at the crime time. If you get arrested for residential burglary, you get charged with a felony, and no probation is granted unless it is within the jury's interest, followed by parole. The defendant faces two to six years in state prison or pays a $10,000 fine. Some mitigating circumstances exist to warrant you a lesser sentence whereby you get jailed for a year with formal felony probation.

Note that the first-degree burglary falls under the Three Strike Law of California. Simply put, if you had two prior felony strike charges followed by another one, you would probably get imprisoned for 25 years to life.

Second Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary is also called commercial burglary. The crime carries lesser penalties than first-degree burglary. The charges for this crime are  a wobbler, meaning it can either be a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are convicted with a misdemeanor, you will face one-year imprisonment in county jail, a misdemeanor summary probation, or a $1,000 fine. If you are sentenced with a felony, the penalties are serving jail time for 16 months to three years in county jail, felony probation, and a $10,000 fine.

Sometimes the judge can impose a probation sentence independently of a prison sentence or an addition to the penalty. The probation imposed on burglary must comply with all court conditions. Failure to adhere to the instructions, you risk serving the original jail or prison sentence. For instance, the court instructs the accused on probation to report regularly to a probation officer. Other requirements include submitting to drug tests, home searches, and attending drug classes.

Sentencing Enhancements For Burglary

Under the California Penal Code 459 PC, some circumstances can lead to sentence enhancements. They are also known as aggravating factors whereby the judges increase the defendant's penalties. The punishment extension is determined by the defendant’s criminal history or how the current offense was accomplished. Those factors include:

  • Prior felony convictions - If you had previously been convicted of either a residential or commercial felony and a county jail term was imposed, you will probably receive additional year imprisonment for each prior felony conviction.
  • Violent felonies - A consequent burglary crime turns into a violent felony. This happens when one is convicted of the residential burglary, and there was someone present at the time the crime was committed. If the defendant committed a violent felony and had previous felonies on his or her criminal record, he may receive an additional 3-year prison sentence for a prior conviction.

Common Defenses To Charges Against Burglary

The primary defense strategy to burglary charges is proving your innocence. It could be tough for the defending party. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime commission was intentional. The defendant is entitled to present a defense in various ways. The Orange County Criminal Defence Attorney Law Firm would be the perfect option for your case. We will cast doubts in the prosecutor's case and argue you didn’t commit the offense. Apart from that, there are numerous criminal defenses that our team uses to have the charges lessened or dismissed.

  1. Mistaken Identity

The identity of the crime perpetrator must fit you. If the description fits several people, our defense attorney would argue that you are a mistaken identity. This strategy would be  a strong defense if you were in the company of a witness when someone else you resemble broke into the plaintiff's premises.

  1. Lack of Intent

This is an element of a crime that the prosecutor must prove to establish your conviction. If you did not have the intent to commit the crime when you entered the accuser’s premises, the court could not  find you guilty of burglary. For instance, you might have been intoxicated involuntarily before entering the premises. Your intention was not to commit the crime. Your attorney will use this defense strategy to defeat your charges.

  1. Prove That The Action Was Not Burglary

Your attorney will argue that the items in question were genuinely given to you by the owner. This defense strategy could be used when the defendant is the actual owner of the said items. In another circumstance, is where the owner invited you to his or her home.

  1. Police Misconduct

The police must have a search warrant to search your property if you are accused of burglary. The law protects its citizens from illegal searches and seizures. Any information obtained through police misconduct like illegal searches cannot act as evidence against you in court.

  1. Improper Questioning

During your arrest, the police officer is supposed to read Miranda rights to you. They should not force you to answer their questions. If the law enforcers compel you to respond to their questions, our defense attorney will argue and claim that the answer emerged from improper questioning. The judge could lower your charges or dismiss the allegations.

  1. Alibi

This is among the most persuasive defense strategies in cases where the accused was not arrested at the scene of the crime. Our attorney ensures you avoid conviction by presenting any proof that you were not present at the crime scene on that particular day, the accuser reported burglary crime.

  1. Entrapment

A police officer should not entice you to get into other people's premises. The defense team will use this fact as a strategy to have your freedom back. You will end up without any kind of conviction.

  1. The Crime Does Not Match The Definition of Burglary

This defense tactic involves the defendant admitting to having gotten into the premises, but the action does not fit the meaning of burglary. The defendant might argue that he or she had the full consent of the owner.

Claim of Right

A bona fide claim of ownership is a burglary defense. The accused must show that the offense was committed by claiming the right of possession. However, the defense is not approved if the accused intended to commit arson. The rational under this defense, the act must be believed to be of good faith.

Vehicle Unlocked

With auto burglary, the vehicle must have been locked and broken into for the crime to occur. The defendant can argue that the vehicle was not locked; hence, it did not violate burglary crime.

What The Prosecution Must Prove In A Burglary Case

In burglary cases, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime charged. Failure to prove the elements of the crime can result in a case dismissal or acquittal. Here are different factors that the prosecutor must prove to establish the defendant's conviction.

  1. Criminal Intent

The prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended to commit a felony crime inside the building. The evidence that theft occurred is not necessary as it does not show that the crime was committed. The accused must have had the intent before making the unauthorized entrance.

  1. Unlawful Entry

 An unauthorized entrance element must be proven to make the defendant guilty of burglary. The prosecutor must prove the defendant entered the building without consent. Further complicating this element is the intention to execute a crime. In other words, the defendant must have entered the premises with an evil intention.

  1. The Accused Mental State

There are circumstances where the accused may not be in his or her right mind. The defendant might have been intoxicated or under medication. As long as the accused had no intention, one cannot be convicted over the burglary.

Burglary Expungement

Is burglary eligible for expungement or reduction to a misdemeanor? This question is often posed by defendants who have already been convicted of burglary crime. However, all is not lost. There are several post-conviction options available to those convicted of burglary. The process involves filing a petition that you were convicted and asking the court to dismiss the case and expunge your conviction. Fortunately for you, there is no waiting period to be expunged. Our Defense attorney can file your petition as soon as the next hour after sentence. Below are qualifications for the expungement:

  • If, as a defendant, you did not get imprisoned in the state, your conviction can be expunged under Penal Code 1203.4. You are entitled to considerable benefits, including employment opportunities in private sectors.
  • It is possible to have your charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor under Penal Code 17 (b) if you plead guilty to a felony. The jury can grant your motion for the offense to be a misdemeanor. In other words, you will not have to disclose to anyone your felony offense conviction. However, there must be evidence showing you did not serve for the offense, which you sort for its reduction.
  • If you had been convicted of a burglary crime, you must seek certification of rehabilitation for you to have a clean criminal record. The process involves a full investigation of your background, and the judge has the discretion to deny it. If the court grants your motion, you automatically fit the California Governor’s application for a pardon by the.
  • In case you were convicted with commercial burglary, and sentenced to state prison, you are eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor under proposition 47. However, there are some requirements you need to meet to obtain the reduction. For instance, you must have committed the crime during the store hours, the value of the property you possess does not exceed $950, you are not a Penal Code 290 registrant, and you have not been convicted previously for a super-strike offense.

Related Offenses To Burglary

Penal Code 459 involves burglary crime. There are other closely related crimes. They include:

  1. Acquisition Of Burglary Devices

Penal Code 466 prohibits one from possessing tools that can be used for burglary with intent to commit an offense. The tools include a screwdriver, crowbars, slim jims, and pliers. When you get arrested for committing a burglary with any of the tools, you risk being charged with 459 and 466 PCs. This offense is filed as a misdemeanor with penalty imprisonment for six months in the county jail.

  1. Forgery

Penal Code 470 defines forgery as creating or altering what is written in a document aiming to defraud. For instance, you commit fraud by forging/ altering a check to cash out money from a bank. This crime is a wobbler.

  1. Robbery

Penal Code 211 explains robbery as taking someone else's belongings either forcefully or through instilling fear. The defendant is convicted with both robbery and burglary if he or she entered a private premise, used power to get the property, and intended to steal prior to entry. The crime is a felony. The perpetrator faces two to five years in county jail.

  1. Trespass

Trespass is under Penal Code 602. It refers to entering another person's property without permission. This crime focuses on the owner's consent, the accused presence in his or her property. The crime would be a burglary if the accused intended to perpetrate a felony when entering the property. When you are charged with committing Penal Code 459 crime, you may negotiate for a lesser penalty crime of Penal Code 602, which is a misdemeanor. At times the crime is punished as an infraction.

  1. Burglary of Safe or Vault

The crime burglary of safe or vault is also called burglary with explosives is under Penal Code 464. The accused is charged with the crime when he or she uses explosives for opening a safe or vault to commit burglary. 464 PC is treated more severely than 459 PC. The accused faces a felony regardless of the crime scene. The penalty for this crime is three to seven years in jail.

Contact an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Have you or your loved one been arrested for burglary? If so, you need a strong defense to prove that the burglary crime elements did not occur. This time can be overwhelming, especially if you are a first time offender. Talk to our lawyers at Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm and get informed on what to expect in court based on your charges and the assigned judge and prosecutor. You can also give us a call today at 714-740-7848, so we can protect your rights and have time to navigate the criminal justice system to fight your allegations.