Penal Code 469
(Duplication of a Key to a California State Building)

Penal Code 469 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to duplicate a key to a state building without authorization.

A few examples of state buildings include:

  • A building or area owned by the State of California;
  • A county or city building; and,
  • A public school.

Some examples of duplicating a key to a state building without authorization are:

  • A public-school teacher, without authorization, gets a duplicate key made to the school's main door.
  • An employee of the DMV makes copies of all his work keys with no prior authorization.
  • A janitor at Fresno City Hall gets duplicate keys made to several of the building's doors after the building owner told him not to do so.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 469. These include showing that an accused party:

  • did not know he was duplicating a key;
  • had authorization to make a copy of the key; and,
  • made a copy of a key to a privately-owned building.

Penalties

A violation of California Penal Code 469 PC is charged as a misdemeanor, as opposed to a California felony or an infraction.

As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

california state building key law
California Penal Code 469 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to duplicate a key to a state building without authorization.

1. The Legal Definition of Duplicating a Key to a State Building

A prosecutor must prove several elements to show that a person is guilty under California Penal Code 469. These are:

  1. The defendant knowingly made, duplicated, caused to be duplicated or used a key to a state building; OR
  2. The defendant attempted to make, duplicate, cause to be duplicated, or use a key to a state building; AND,
  3. The defendant did so without authorization from the person in charge of the building; AND,
  4. The defendant had knowledge of the lack of this authorization.1

Under California law, a person acts “knowingly” if the facts show he took some action to duplicate a key or attempt to duplicate a key. Knowledge of the unlawfulness of the act is not required.2

Penal Code 469 PC says that a “state building” is:

a building or other area owned, operated, or controlled by the State of California, any state agency, board, or commission, a county, city, or any public school or community college district…3

PC 469 also makes it a crime for a person to possess a duplicate key to a state building that was made without authorization.4

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under Penal Code 469 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the best defense.

Three common defenses to PC 469 accusations are:

  1. No knowledge;
  2. Authorization; and/or,
  3. Privately-owned building.

2.1. No Knowledge

Recall that the main element within a PC 469 charge is that a person must knowingly make or duplicate a key to a state building. Thus, it is an acceptable defense for an accused to prove that he is innocent because he did not have this requisite knowledge. For example, maybe the defendant was trying to get a key to his house made and mistakenly made a copy of his work key.

2.2. Authorization

An accused is only guilty under Penal Code 469 if he did not have the authorization to duplicate a key. A defendant, therefore, can try to show his innocence by proving that he had the authorization to make a copy of the key. This proof, though, must include a showing that he had authorization from the building's owner.

2.3. Privately-Owned Building

Penal Code 469 only applies to state buildings. It does not apply to privately-owned buildings (e.g., a building owned by a private company or business). An accused, therefore, can build a legal defense by showing that, while he was duplicating a key, it was not to a “state building.” Rather, the key was to a privately-owned building.

man behind bars for copying a state building key
Under Penal Code 469, the unauthorized duplication of a key to a state building may result in imprisonment and/or a fine

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Under Penal Code 469, the unauthorized duplication of a key to a state building is a misdemeanor offense.5

As such, it is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000.6

In lieu of imprisonment, a judge has the discretion to impose misdemeanor probation, or “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to duplicating a key to a state building. These are:

  1. Burglary – PC 459;
  2. Trespass – PC 602; and,
  3. Possession of burglary tools – PC 466.

4.1. Burglary – PC 459

California Penal Code 459 makes it a crime for a person to commit burglary in the State.

PC 459 defines "burglary" as entering any residential or commercial building or room with the intent to commit a felony or a theft once inside.7

One commits the crime of burglary merely by entering the structure with the requisite criminal intent, even if the intended felony or theft is never actually completed.

California burglary law is divided into “first-degree burglary” and second-degree burglary.” First-degree burglary is burglary of a residence. Second-degree burglary is burglary of any other type of structure (including stores and businesses).8

California first-degree (residential) burglary is a felony. The potential consequences include a state prison sentence of two, four, or six years.9

Second-degree (commercial) burglary is what is known as a wobbler in California law. This means that it may be charged as either:

  1. A felony, with a potential county jail sentence of sixteen months, two years or three years; or
  2. A misdemeanor, with a potential county jail sentence of up to one year.10

4.2. Trespass – PC 602

California Penal Code 602 PC prohibits the crime known as criminal trespass. A person commits this crime when he:

  1. Enters, or remains on, someone else's property; and,
  2. Does so without permission or a right to do so.11

In most cases, California trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • Up to six months in county jail; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000.12

However, certain kinds of trespass in California may lead only to infraction charges, with penalties consisting of only a small fine.13

A person guilty of “aggravated trespass” will face felony charges and could receive a jail sentence of:

  • 16 months;
  • Two years; or,
  • Three years.

“Aggravated trespass” is when a person:

  1. Threatens to injure someone; and then,
  2. Enters their home or workplace without permission.14

4.3. Possession of burglary tools – PC 466

Penal Code 466 PC prohibits possessing burglary tools when a person does so with criminal intent.15 "Burglary tools" are just that...tools that you use to commit a burglary. These tools include instruments such as

  • A screwdriver,
  • Pliers, or
  • Ceramic or porcelain spark plug chips or pieces.

The crime of unlawful possession of burglary tools is charged as a misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • Six months in a county jail; and/or,
  • A maximum fine of $1,000.16

Were you accused of duplicating a key to a state building in California? Call us for help…

california criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, under Penal Code 469, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 469 PC.

  2. California Penal Code 7(5) PC.

  3. California Penal Code 469 PC.

  4. See same.

  5. See same.

  6. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  7. California Penal Code 459 PC.

  8. California Penal Code 460 PC.

  9. California Penal Code 461 PC.

  10. See same.

  11. California Penal Code 602 PC.

  12. See same.

  13. California Penal Code 602.8 PC.

  14. California Penal Code 601 PC.

  15. California Penal Code 466 PC.

  16. See same.

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