Los Angeles Burglary Lawyer
What’s the Legal Definition?
In legal terms, burglary can refer to entering a building with the intent to steal something or commit another felony. It cannot refer to attempting to steal or commit a felony crime opportunistically while inside a building if you did not intend to do so when you entered the building.
Auto burglary refers to entering someone’s vehicle with the intent to commit theft or a felony crime.
While trespassing and forced entry are often components of a burglary, they are not required for you to be charged with burglary. You can be charged with burglary for committing a crime after entering a dwelling even if you had permission to enter, but not a commercial property such as a store.
Burglary does not cover situations where someone enters a building or vehicle without the intent to commit theft or a felony offense, even if they later do so. For example, if someone breaks a car window and leaves the area without taking anything, the prosecution would need to prove that they intended to steal or commit a felony when they broke in to convict them of a burglary charge.
In situations like this, the accused person may be able to defend themselves against a lesser charge like vandalism (Penal Code 594) or trespass (Penal Code 602), which is less likely to be prosecuted as a felony crime, if the prosecution cannot prove they intended to commit theft or a felony when they broke in.
What is First Degree “Residential” Burglary?
Burglary can be charged as either first or second degree. First-degree burglary is one committed in “an inhabited dwelling”, an extremely broad term that covers houses, boats, and any structure where a person lives. (Pen. Code §460.) Anywhere that is used as a dwelling by one or more occupants is covered by burglary, even locations such as a phone booth or a temporary structure like a tent.
Even if the owner or occupant of the structure is not home at the time of the burglary, it is still considered first-degree burglary. The only exception is if the dwelling was vacated and abandoned because of a natural disaster.
First-degree residential burglary is considered a violent offense and a felony crime. This will add a strike to your record and could result in a sentence of up to six years in state prison. California’s three-strikes law applies to first-degree residential burglary, which means it could result in a life sentence if you already have or later receive two strikes for other offenses. This means that any accusation of first-degree burglary should be taken very seriously.
If you have been charged with first-degree burglary or believe that you might be, contact an experienced Los Angeles burglary lawyer immediately.
What is Second Degree “Commercial” Burglary?
All other burglaries, like those committed against businesses and other non-residential structures, are burglaries of the second degree. (Pen. Code §460)
Unlike a first-degree burglary, it must be proved that you intended to commit theft at the time that you entered the building. It must also be proved that you were not allowed to enter the property, or the part of the property you entered. So if you entered a store during business hours without the intent to steal, and are accused of stealing opportunistically while inside, you cannot be charged with second-degree burglary.
What are the Possible Penalties?
For a first-degree burglary, a person may be sentenced to up to 6 years in state prison, and no fewer than 2 years in state prison. (Pen. Code §462) You can also receive a fine of up to $10,000.
First-degree burglary is always a felony crime in California. Additionally, it counts as a strike under California’s three-strikes law.
For a second-degree burglary, prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a person may be sentenced to one year in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but if prosecuted as a felony, a person may be sentenced to 3 years of state prison and not less than 16 months of state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Building a Strong Defense to Burglary Charges in California
Common defenses for commercial burglary include having permission to enter the building, or that you did not initially intend to commit a crime and later made a rash decision, for example, because you were intoxicated.
Once someone has given you permission to enter a property, you may be able to argue that if they did not explicitly revoke that permission, you believed you were still allowed inside.
You can also argue that you only entered the property because you were entrapped by a law enforcement officer harassing or threatening you to coerce you into committing the crime.
Contact Our Law Firm for Help
First and second-degree burglary charges can both be felony crimes with serious consequences including custodial sentencing and a strike on your criminal record. If you are facing burglary charges in California, there is no time to waste in preparing your legal defense.
Contact us today to book a free consultation with an expert Los Angeles burglary lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Burglary Charge be Dropped?
A burglary charge can be dropped if you can provide evidence that proves your innocence, agree to testify against another defendant, take a plea deal, or show that your rights were violated by the police.
How Long do You Do to Jail for Burglary in California?
For a misdemeanor second-degree burglary, you could face a jail sentence of a year or less. More serious burglary charges can lead to sentencing of up to 6 years in state prison.
How Do You Beat a Burglary Charge?
Get a criminal defense attorney, and don’t say anything to the police without your lawyer present.
What Determines the Severity of a Burglary?
Factors that increase the severity of burglary include: 1. If you damaged property in order to enter the property 2. If you hurt someone or intended to hurt someone 3. If you were carrying a weapon 4. If the property you entered was occupied by people
What is the average sentence for burglary?
The average sentence for burglaries is 15 to 18 months.