Penal Code § 464 PC defines the crime of burglary of a safe or vault. In simple terms, this is where you enter a building with the intent to commit a crime inside, and then use a torch or explosives to blow open a vault, safe or other secure place.
A conviction is a felony that carries up to 7 years in jail or prison.
The language of the statute reads as follows:
464. Any person who, with intent to commit crime, enters… any building, whether inhabited or not, and opens or attempts to open any vault, safe, or other secure place by use of acetylene torch or electric arc, burning bar, thermal lance, oxygen lance, or any other similar device capable of burning through steel, concrete, or any other solid substance, or by use of nitroglycerine, dynamite, gunpowder, or any other explosive, is guilty of a felony…”
- entering a bank and using a torch to open a vault.
- breaking into a home and using gunpowder to blow open a safe.
- going into a business at night and torching open a locked desk.
Our criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help you defend against safecracking charges. A few common strategies include showing that you did not:
- intend to commit a crime before entering a building,
- burglarize a safe or vault, and/or
- use a torch or explosive.
A violation of California Penal Code Section 464 is a felony (as opposed to a misdemeanor). The crime is punishable by:
- custody in state prison for up to seven years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following in this article:
- 1. How does California law define “burglary of a safe or vault”?
- 2. Are there legal defenses to PC 464 charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. How does California law define “burglary of a safe or vault”?
A prosecutor must prove the following to successfully convict you under California Penal Code 464:
- you entered a building,
- while inside the building, you opened or attempted to open a safe, vault, or other secure place,
- the opening or attempted opening was by use of a torch or explosives, and
- at the time you entered the building, you had the specific intent to commit this crime or some other offense.1
For purposes of this California law, it does not matter whether the building in question was inhabited or uninhabited, or whether you entered it during the day or the night.2
Though it is crucial that you actually entered a building. If you try to open a safe or vault without having first entered a building intending to do so, you are not guilty of this offense.3
2. Are there legal defenses to PC 464 charges?
You can challenge criminal charges under this statute with a legal defense. Three common criminal defenses include showing that:
- You did not intend to commit a crime.
- There was no safe or vault.
- There was no torch or explosive.
2.1. You did not intend to commit a crime
You are only guilty under this California burglary law if you intended to commit some crime before entering a building. A defense, then, is for you to show that you did not have this intent. For example, you can say that you developed the intent to break this law but did so only after entering a building.
2.2. There was no vault or safe
This statute only applies to the blowing open of safes, vaults, and other similar secured places. This means it is always a defense to show that you were not trying to open one of these objects.
2.3. There was no torch or explosive
Similarly, this law only applies to attempting to blow open a safe or vault via a torch or explosive. Therefore, a defense is that you were not trying to open a safe with either of these items. Perhaps, for example, you tried to open a safe by guessing the right combination on the safe’s dial, or by using various crowbars.
3. What are the penalties?
Violations of this statute result in felony charges.
A burglary offense under this law is punishable by:
- custody in state prison (as opposed to county jail) for up to seven years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.
Note that a judge can award you with felony (or formal) probation in lieu of prison time.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to burglary of a safe or vault. These are:
- burglary – PC 459,
- possession of burglary tools – PC 466, and
- duplication of a key to a state building – PC 469.
4.1. Burglary – PC 459
Note that while some states have different degrees of burglary (like first-degree or second-degree burglary), California only recognizes burglary.
Note, too, that while PC 464 requires you to intend to commit any crime prior to entering a building, this statute requires an intent to commit only a theft crime or a felony.
4.2. Possession of burglary tools – PC 466
Per Penal Code 466, possession of burglary tools is the crime where you:
- possess a burglary tool, and
- do so with the intent to commit burglary.
California law treats a violation of PC 464 as a more serious crime than a violation of this law. The possession of burglary tools is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in county jail.
4.3. Duplication of a key to a state building – PC 469
Under Penal Code 469, duplication of a key to a state building is the crime where you, without proper authorization, duplicate a key to a California state building.
Again, this is a less serious crime than safe blowing. Illegal duplication is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.
- California Penal Code 464 PC. See also People v. Cardwell (2012), 203 Cal.App.4th 876.
- California Penal Code 464 PC.
- See same.