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Burglary is defined in Penal Code 459 in California. It has several components: Entering any residential or commercial building or room with the intent to commit a felony or a theft once inside. It’s the criminal intent that makes it burglary. Even if the theft goes awry and it’s never completed, you’ve still committed burglary by entering the structure with the intent to commit a crime. To give you a clearer picture of the crime, here is the penal code in its entirety:
“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.” This covers a lot of ground and a lot of different structures so that there’s little left to the imagination when it comes to the definition of burglary. There are two degrees of burglary, and which one you are charged with will determine whether you’re charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
First versus Second Degree Burglary
First-degree-burglary is the more serious of the two charges. It’s always a felony. If you enter an inhabited structure as described above with the intent to commit larceny or any other felony, you’ll be charged with first-degree-burglary. Since there are people who live in the dwelling or commercial building, it makes the offense more serious and gives it more potential for violence.
Second-degree-burglary is a misdemeanor. It involves everything involved in first-degree-burglary except that there are no people who inhabit the building or home. As a result, it’s a less serious offense.
Always remember that residential burglary is viewed as more serious than other forms, so make sure to never, ever face a charge like this without the help of a great lawyer. You’re facing an uphill battle all the way, but a lawyer increases your chances of achieving a more desirable outcome in your case.
First degree burglary
First degree burglary is more serious and carries with it a state prison sentence up to 6 years as well as a $10,000 fine.
Second degree burglary
Penalties here aren’t as severe because they’re a misdemeanor, but they include up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Both of these can be imposed in either degree of burglary. For second degree, it will be time in county jail and not a state prison sentence.
No matter what your situation is, there’s an attorney who’s encountered similar circumstances and knows how to present a defense on your behalf. Since intent is such a crucial element to the crime, your attorney can easily argue that you did not enter the building or residence with the intent to commit a crime. This can change the nature of the case and perhaps reduce the sentence or in some instances get it dismissed altogether. At the very least, this defense strongly suggests that your actions were’t burglary.
Some attorneys can argue that you’ve been mistaken for someone else and the person who burglarized the residence or building simply wasn’t you in the first place. It’s not a common occurrence, but these things have happened in the past. If someone believes they saw you burglarizing someone’s home but you KNOW it wasn’t you, your attorney can present a compelling defense and have you cleared of the charges in the end. That’s the best case scenario.
And even if you are guilty, there are attorneys who will work from a “best outcome” scenario. They may try to barter a plea deal that will benefit you and help you stay out of jail. They may fight on your behalf to get you probation. And sometimes they can argue to have the charges reduced to a lesser crime, something that benefits you in the long run, both in keeping you out of jail and in helping you avoid a felony (if it’s first degree burglary).
Call for Help Today
If you’re facing a burglary charge, just know that’s a very serious charge. You need to contact an attorney as soon as possible.