Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Burglary » Five Things to Know About a Burglary Charge
Burglary (California Penal Code 459 PC) is defined as entering a room, structure, or vehicle, with the intent to commit a theft within. Whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony will depend on what type of structure was broken into. Burglary charges and their penalties vary depending on several factors.
1) Theft of a Private Residence
A theft from a private residence is always a felony under California law. Also, a burglary conviction is considered a strike under California’s three-strike law.
2) Theft of a Business
This type of theft can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. The offense occurs when a defendant enters a store or other business, intending to commit a crime within. This is often seen where a shoplifter is caught with tools that would suggest they were planning to commit the theft before they entered the store.
3) Two Degrees
In California, there are two degrees of burglary. First-degree burglary is committed where the dwelling involved was inhabited. It is important to note however, that the dwelling did not have to be physically inhabited at the time of the crime. Second-degree burglary occurs where the structure or building does not fit into the definition of a dwelling under first-degree burglary.
There are several defenses to this crime. Some of these include lack of intent, and insufficient evidence. Also, if the defendant entered the structure to take something back that belonged to them it is not considered a burglary. Mistaken identity is also a possible defense. Sometimes, a victim (store owner) may not actually see the perpetrator, or they may not get a good look at the perpetrator because it is dark.
First-degree burglary is punishable by 2, 4 or 6 years in prison. Second-degree prison is punishable by no more than one year in jail.
In some cases, though not very commonly, a defendant can get probation, however the premises involved must not have been inhabited. (Refer to our articles: “When does Shoplifting in California become Burglary?“; and “Comparing California burglary laws to Nevada burglary laws.”)
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
It is not considered “breaking and entering” under the burglary laws of California for a person to enter an unlocked car. However, if a person enters a car through an unlocked door without the owner’s consent, that person could be charged with tampering with a vehicle. California Vehicle Code section 10852 VC states that no ...
The determination as to whether a California burglary offense (under Penal Code 459) gets charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on whether the crime is charged as a: first-degree burglary, or a second-degree burglary. First-degree burglary is burglary of a residence and it is always charged as a felony. Second-degree burglary is burglary ...
California burglary law (under Penal Code 459) is divided into “first-degree burglary” and “second-degree burglary.” First-degree burglary is burglary of a residence. Second-degree burglary is the burglary of any other type of structure (including stores and businesses). First-degree (or residential) burglary is always a felony. The potential consequences include a state prison sentence of: two ...
The basic definition of burglary is the same in California and Nevada: entering a structure or vehicle intending to commit certain crimes once inside. In Penal Code 459 PC, California burglary law draws a distinction between first-degree residential burglary, and second-degree commercial burglary. Burglarizing a home can land someone in California Prison for six years, ...