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Burglary charges and possible defenses in California

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2022 | Juvenile Crimes |

California Penal Code Section 459 PC defines the crime of burglary as “entering a structure with the intent to commit a theft or felony once inside.” A conviction for burglary in California can result in a prison sentence of up to six years.

Burglary in California

There are two types of burglary under California law: first-degree and second-degree. First-degree burglary is committed when someone enters an inhabited dwelling like a home or apartment with the intent to commit a theft or felony once inside. Second-degree burglary, on the other hand, is committed when someone enters any type of commercial building or an uninhabited dwelling like an unoccupied house with the same intent.

Possible sentences

First-degree burglary, a felony in California, is punishable by up to six years in prison. Second-degree burglary is also a felony, but offenders may be sentenced to two, four, or six years in jail.

To be convicted of burglary in California, the prosecutor must prove that you entered a structure and that you did so with the intent to commit a crime once inside. It’s important to note that entering a structure doesn’t only involve breaking the door or jumping through the window; even the simple act of reaching through an open window can count as burglary.

You could also be convicted of burglary if you tried to break into someone else’s property but were unsuccessful such as if you tried to pick a lock on a house’s front door but couldn’t get it open. This is called attempted burglary and is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Possible defenses

There are several possible defenses you and your criminal defense attorney can use against a burglary charge in California. Some of the most common include that you:

  • Didn’t intend to commit a theft or felony
  • Were mistakenly identified as the burglar
  • Had consent to enter the property
  • Were on property that wasn’t actually a dwelling
  • Were entitled to enter the property under the doctrine of “shopkeeper’s privilege”

If you are facing burglary charges, it is important to understand the specific elements of the crime and possible defenses that may apply in your case. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to turn the burglary charge to something like trespassing if you can prove to the court that you had no intention to commit any crime on the plaintiff’s property.