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A Quick Look at Burglary Laws in CaliforniaJuly 29, 2019 0 Comment Category: Acquisitions
In case of first-degree burglary offense, the guilty person is required to serve jail time in a California state prison for 2 to 6 years. In case of second-degree burglary offense, the defendant is required to serve imprisonment in a county jail for up to 3 years.
According to California law Penal Code 459, a burglary happens when a person (with or without permission) enters a residential or commercial area with the intent to commit a larceny or commit a felony. In other words, the crime of burglary is committed by merely entering the premises with the intent to steal, even if the robbery is not done actually.
As per Penal Code 459, “Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel… with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.” So if the defendant enters a house, a commercial building, or a vehicle with the intent to commit either a felony or a robbery, the person is found guilty as per the California law Penal Code 459.
Aside from that, any one of the below things should also be true to charge the defendant at fault.
- The property’s value that the defendant tried to steal or stole is more than $950
- The building or area that the defendant entered is not a commercial institution
- The building or area that the defendant entered is a commercial institution, but the defendant entered it illegally or after the business hours
First-Degree and Second-Degree Burglary
The California law Penal Code 459 categorizes burglary of a residence as first-degree burglary. Here, a “residence” may include a house, an inhabited vehicle (car, boat, trailer, etc.), an inhabited portion of a building, or an inhabited room in a hotel or lodge. First-degree burglary charges can also be imposed if the person had entered a residence with a wrongful intent such as kidnapping, to commit the crime of arson, or to commit rape.
Second-degree burglary is recognized by the California law Penal Code 459 as entering any structure that is not a residence with the intent to commit a felony or theft. This, however, can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case, the criminal history of the person, as well as many other factors. If the crime were charged as a felony, the defendant would have to serve imprisonment in a county jail for up to 16 months to 3 years. If the crime were charged as a misdemeanor, the guilty person would be required to serve jail time for up to one year in a county prison.
Note that a “break-in” is not necessarily required to rob a property or to be charged for burglary under the California law Penal Code 459. In fact, “breaking and entering” offenses can be charged under Penal Code 602 (Trespassing) or Penal Code 594 (Vandalism) as well aside from Penal Code 459 (Burglary).
Legal Defenses to Burglary Charges
An experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge the charges for both first-degree and second-degree burglary on the defendant’s behalf. The commonly raised defenses in such cases include the following.
- There was no intent to commit a felony or theft even though the defendant entered the residence or commercial establishment
- The value of the property that the defendant intended to steal was not more than $950
- The defendant was arrested without any probable cause
Note that shoplifting is classified in a different category by California law. According to Penal Code 459.5, “Shoplifting is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950). Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is burglary.”
The California law also states that, “Shoplifting shall be punished as a misdemeanor, except that a person with one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 may be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”
If a person is found guilty of shoplifting charges, he/she is required to serve imprisonment in a county jail for up to 6 months and/or pay a fine of up to 1000 dollars. Yet again, if the defendant has a criminal history with serious convictions like rape or homicide, then shoplifting may be charged as a felony by California law.