According to California Penal Code Section 459, burglary is the act of entering into a residential or commercial structure with the intent to commit either a theft crime or felony.
To be convicted of burglary the prosecution must prove the following elements:
- Defendant entered a building, room, locked vehicle or structure. For being convicted in a burglary a person doesn’t not require to “break into” a property, it is enough to enter a structure through an unlocked or open door or a window;
- Defendant intended to commit a theft crime or felony at the time of entering the building, room, vehicle or structure;
- Defendant stole or had an intent to steal a property, which value was more than nine hundred fifty dollars.
California burglary law also differentiates between two forms of burglary charges which are categorized as first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary.
California First Degree Burglary Charges
California first-degree burglary is burglary of a residence. A “residence” can be any of the following: inhabited house, a room within an inhabited house, inhabited floating home, inhabited hotel or motel room, inhabited trailer coach, inhabited floating home. Residence will still be considered inhabited even if the occupants left it because of a natural disaster or other type of disaster.
California Second Degree Commercial Burglary
California second-degree burglary occurs when if the burglary involved a commercial break in and other type of structure including stores and businesses.
Defenses for Penal Code 459 Burglary
Lack of Intent is a legal defense to Penal Code 459 Burglary If the defendant did not have intent to commit a theft or a felony at the time of entering the structure, he can’t be found guilty of burglary.
Factual innocence is also a legal defense to California burglary charge and occurs when an innocent defendant is accused for a charge which may include the following:
- False accusation
- Mistaken identity
- Deceptive evidence
Penalties for California First-Degree Burglary Conviction
In California, first-degree burglary or residential burglary is always considered a felony. The punishment for first-degree burglary can include:
- Two, four or six years in California State Prison
- Felony Probation and/or
- A fine up to $10,000 dollars
Penalties for California Second-Degree Felony Burglary Conviction
Under Penal Code Section 459 second-degree or commercial burglary is considered a wobbler. Conviction for commercial burglary carries a less harsh penalty than a conviction for first degree burglary. Depending on specific circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history this type of burglary can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Penalties for second-degree felony burglary are:
- Felony probation;
- 16 months, two or three years in county jail; and/or
- A fine up to $10,000 dollars
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