First degree burglary charges in California are criminal allegations that I have dealt with many times in my almost 20 years of practicing law in Los Angeles County and throughout Southern California. If a person is charged with robbery as opposed to burglary there can be a significant differences in a sentence. A recent arrest in Anaheim, California is a good example of what appears to be a “home invasion robbery” where force is used against a person at their residence (see: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/09/05/anaheim-man-accused-of-robbing-girlfriends-82-year-old-mother/). Such a case can lead to a long state prison sentence in California. However, a charge of burglary has less severe consequences and such consequences can lead to different sentences depending on whether a charge is for first or second degree burglary in California.
First Degree Burglary in California
In California, a person is guilty of burglary when they enter a structure for the specific intent of committing a felony (usually stealing something from that structure) or a theft which can be petty theft. To be considered a First Degree Burglary, the structure has to be one where people reside or are living. Usually such structure is a home, apartment or even an attached garage. Unlike a robbery, a burglary often occurs when the owners of the property are not home or present. If the owners of the property are present and force or fear is used to take property even for a short time, such conduct could be considered a robbery which would expose a potential criminal defendant to a higher sentence in state prison.
First Degree burglary is a felony in California and technically cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. As sentence for a conviction of First Degree Burglary can be as high as 6 years in a California State Prison. Depending on the facts of each case, the background of the defendant and the legal issues of the case, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to get a First Degree Burglary charge amended or reduced to a second degree burglary charge which can be charged as a misdemeanor and have much less detrimental effect to a person’s life.
Second Degree Burglary Under Cal. Penal Laws
Burglary of a location or structure where people do not live such as a business or store is often times referred to as a “commercial burglary” and is considered a Second Degree Burglary under California Law. First degree burglaries, as discussed above, our most times distinguished from Second Degree Burglaries since they are “residential burglaries.” A commercial burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. In many instances, a prosecutor in California may charge a person with commercial burglary where they are caught shoplifting a valuable piece of merchandise. In such occasions, a person will usually be charged with felony commercial burglary. However, as with a charge of shoplifting in California, a competent criminal defense lawyer, may be able to get such charges dismissed depending on the facts of the case. At a minimum, a person charged with commercial burglary in California has a chance with attempting to get such charges reduced to a misdemeanor and eliminate any chance of having to serve a sentence in California State Prison.
Importance of Retaining Private Criminal Defense Counsel to Confront Burglary Charges
When arrested for first or second degree burglary, there are often times defenses that are available to you which can lead to the reduction or dismissal of charges. If arrested, one should immediately consult with a California criminal attorney who has experience defending persons accused of such crimes in Los Angeles, San Diego or the Inland Empire or any other court system within the CA criminal justice system. Having expert advice and representation can mean the difference between a lengthy prison sentence or alternatives such as dismissals of criminal charges, reductions of sentences to county jail time or probation and many other possibilities. For a free consultation on any burglary charge in CA call GlotzerLaw, PC at 310-623-3771.