Recently, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department exposed a wide and sophisticated burglary ring in Los Angeles where numerous alleged suspects are being investigated for burglarizing hundreds of residences in Los Angeles County. Charges of burglary of a residence whether it be a home, apartment, RV trailer or any other kind of residence can be very serious with exposure to state prison since residential burglary is considered a strike under California Three Strikes Law. When arrested for burglary whether you are facing such charges in Los Angeles, Palmdale, Pasadena, West Covina, Ontario or any other city in California, you should always consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney to determine what defenses you have available and if you have a chance of winning the case which may involve dismissal of charges or reduction of charges to a misdemeanor.
- First Degree Burglary Charges in California
A person may be convicted of first degree burglary in California if they violate California Penal Code section 459. Penal Code section 459 makes residential burglary a crime when:
a. A person enters a building or room within a building; and
b. The person entered the location with the intent to commit a theft or one or more felonies.
The prosecution need not prove that the person actually committed the theft or other felony but rather just prove that the defendant had the intent to commit a theft or other felony. For purposes of proving the element of “entering” the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, with some part of his or her body or with an object under their control such as a crowbar penetrated the area inside a buildings outer boundary.
To be guilty of first degree burglary the structure that is entered must be an inhabited dwelling under the law meaning a house or room within a house that is inhabited, a trailer coach, floating home or vessel. A structure is deemed inhabited if another person uses it as a “dwelling” whether or not they are inside the dwelling at the time of the alleged crime. A home or other related structure is still considered to be an inhabited dwelling even if a person left due to a natural disaster or other disaster which caused a person to leave the dwelling.
A structure is not considered an inhabited dwelling if the person living their permanently left the dwelling with no intent to return even if they left property inside the home.
For purposes of first degree burglary, a “house” includes any structure including an office or garage that is functionally connected with it.
A conviction for first degree burglary can result in a maximum of up to 6 years in a California state prison with a fine up to $10,000.00. Moreover, a conviction for first degree burglarly is a strike which means that under the California Three Strikes a first degree burglary convictions can be used to increase the sentence on a present or future additional felony conviction.
- Second Degree Burglary
A second degree burglary is commonly referred to as all other burglaries not considered first degree burglaries. More specifically, a second degree burglary may include the burglary of a car or a commercial store. In many occasions a seasoned criminal defense attorney in California can get a commercial or second degree burglary charged reduced to a petty theft or other misdemeanor depending a lot on the value of the items taken and the defendant’s criminal record.
A second degree burglary is a wobbler meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted of a felony, a defendant may be exposed to serving time in state prison (or a state prison sentence to be served in county jail) for 16 months, 2 years or three years. If convicted of misdemeanor second degree burglary in California, a person faces a potential sentence of up to 1 year in state prison.
Facing either felony or misdemeanor burglary charges in California may lead to potential serious consequences. If facing criminal charges, one should always contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect their rights and determine the best way to face a government prosecution.
Leib Law will be happy to provide a free consultation at (844) 210-1701 if you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges in California.