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Penal Code Section 459 Auto Burglary

Penal Code 459 Auto Burglary

According to California Penal Code Section 459, auto burglary is breaking into a locked automobile or any other vehicle or its trunk with intent to steal the vehicle, steal property from the vehicle or commit a felony inside it.

In case a person is facing auto burglary charges, he/she can also face criminal charges of grand theft auto, petty theft or a felony offense.

To Be Convicted of Auto Burglary Prosecution Must Prove

The prosecution must prove the following element for convicting a person in auto burglary: 

  • Defendant entered a locked vehicle, and
  • Defendant entered the vehicle with intent to commit a felony or the crime of theft.

California Vehicle Code Section 670

According to California Vehicle Code Section 670, a vehicle is defined as a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, except a device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

In auto burglary cases, the most common forms of vehicles include cars, trucks, or motorcycles.

California Penal Code Section 459 Breaking and Entering

California Penal Code Section 459 clearly states that the doors of the vehicle must be locked, meaning that a person must get inside to be convicted of auto burglary.

Here are some actions that can be considered as breaking in a locked vehicle: smashing the window, using a tool to get inside a trunk, reaching into an open window to open the door. You are considered to have “entered” a vehicle in case any part of your body or any object goes inside of it. This means that you don’t have to actually open the door and place your whole body inside the vehicle for committing auto burglary. 

Legal Defenses to California Auto Burglary Under Penal Code 459 

There are many common defenses to an auto burglary charge include the following legal defenses.

The Vehicle Wasn’t Locked

One of the most common defenses to an auto burglary charge is to argue that the doors or the trunk of the vehicle weren’t locked and there was no forced entry. Without proving this important element, a person can’t be convicted of auto burglary. 

Lack of Intent

One of the main elements of auto burglary is intent to commit a California felony or theft. If a person simply entered someone else’s locked vehicle with no intent to steal or commit another kind of felony he can’t be convicted of auto burglary crime.

Penalties for Auto Burglary Penal Code 459 

Under California law auto burglary is considered a form of second-degree burglary which is a wobbler and depending on the circumstances of the offense and defendant’s criminal history it can charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. 

  • If the defendant is convicted of auto burglary as a misdemeanor, he can face up to one year in a county jail
  • If the defendant is convicted of auto burglary as a felony, he can face of sixteen months, two or three years in a county jail

Auto Burglary of Inhabited Trailer in California

In case the defendant breaks into an inhabited trailer with the intent to commit a theft or felony he may be committed to first-degree burglary with the punishment of two, four or six years in California state prison.

Get Help Defending Auto Burglary Charges from an Experienced Glendale Lawyer

Are you in need of legal assistance from an attorney for burglary charges in California? Dedicated Glendale criminal defense lawyers at KAASS Law are prepared to help you out! Get in touch with us now at (310) 943-1171 or fill out the contact form below.


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