Understanding California Burglary Law

October 3, 2016

If you or a loved one is facing burglary charges, you need to understand that a burglary conviction carries serious consequences including thousands of dollars in potential fines and even jail time.burglury

Under California Penal Code Section 459, burglary is defined as entering a room, structure, or locked vehicle intending to commit a felony. You could be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the type of structure you allegedly entered.


Residential Burglary versus Commercial Burglary

Many people are surprised to learn that the type of structure you enter plays a major role in whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor. For example, if you are charged with residential burglary (i.e. allegedly breaking into someone’s home), you will likely be charged with a felony.  On the other hand, if you are charged with commercial burglary (i.e. allegedly breaking into a store or business), you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony.

Consequences of a Burglary Conviction

There are different “degrees” of burglary, which change the affiliated penalties. If you are convicted of first degree burglary (typically the charge for residential burglary), the penalties include a potential six-year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in a monetary fine.

Second degree burglary is typically when you are charged with commercial burglary. The penalties for a commercial burglary conviction include a potential one-year jail sentence, if the charge is a misdemeanor, but up to three years in state prison if the charge is escalated to a felony.

If that was not bad enough, the judge has the discretion to “enhance” your punishment under California Penal Code 667.5. This discretionary enhancement is generally used if you have a prior felony conviction or if the burglary involved violence against third parties (e.g., someone was in the home you entered).

Defenses an Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Use to Defend You

The punishments associated with a burglary conviction are quite harsh. This is why you should retain an experienced Los Angeles burglary defense attorney to stand up for your constitutional rights. Below is just a sample of the potential defenses that could be raised to create reasonable doubt concerning the burglary charges against you:

  • No Intent: California Penal Code Section 459 requires a showing by the district attorney that actually intended to commit theft when you entered the home or business. Therefore, if you did not have intent to steal, you cannot be charged with burglary.
  • Reclaiming Your Property: If you entered a home or business to retrieve property that rightfully belongs to you, you can fight the burglary charge because your intent was to reclaim your property, not steal another person’s property.
  • You Never Entered the Structure: Mistaken identity is quite common, especially in a situation where the real perpetrator’s face was covered or it was dark. Your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can highlight the fact that no one could affirmatively identify you as the perpetrator.

Take Action Now: Contact a Los Angeles Burglary Defense Lawyer

The Law Office of Peter Berlin has many years of experience in the area of theft crime and criminal defense. Our law firm is comprised of creative and innovative defense attorneys who explore all options in any case before deciding on the best strategy to implement. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation (310) 289-5418.