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Burglary, particular in the first degree, is a serious offense. Anyone convicted of a burglary in California may find that their criminal history follows them forever, making it difficult to find employment opportunities among other associated problems. If you have been accused of committing this crime, then you need a knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles burglary attorney working for you. Contact our offices even if you haven’t been charged yet. We may be able to provide assistance while law enforcement is conducting an investigation with the intent to charge you with burglary.
California First Degree Burglary
First degree burglary in Los Angeles is a serious criminal offense. Alternatively known as residential burglary, this felony involves entering a structure with the intent of committing a theft or some other felony. California first degree burglary falls under the state’s “three strikes” law, making the stakes for these cases particularly high.
Defining Residential Buildings in California
California’s first degree burglary law covers any structures where people reside or sleep. Accordingly, the structure could be a single-family home or an apartment. It could also be a camper, hospital room or hotel room. An attached garage is also included in the definition. Even common areas like the lobby or shared laundry room of an apartment complex are considered residential buildings for the purposes of this law. It’s important to note that the dwelling does not have to be occupied at the time of the burgling. The primary purpose and usage of the property is what defines the building’s inclusion as a residential building, not whether or not it is occupied upon the occasion of the burglary.
What Does It Mean to “Enter?”
Although California burglaries are sometimes referred to as “breaking and entering,” it is not necessary for any breaking to occur. Simply removing a screen from a window or wandering into a garage through an open door can constitute entering under the California law against burglary. Of course, breaking a window or forcing the lock on a door are also means of entering a property. You cannot be charged with burglary if the structure you enter is where you live or a business you own. Because you have a legal right to be in that building you cannot be charged with burglary for entering it. However, you can be charged with other crimes that you may commit while on your property.
The Role of Intent
One of the most difficult elements that the prosecutor must prove in California burglary cases is that the defendant actually intended to commit a theft or other crime at the time they entered the building. Sometimes defendants confess that they entered a residence with the intent to steal. This makes it easy for the prosecution to build a burglary case against them. In other cases, defendants do not confess but circumstantial evidence may suggest that they entered a property with an intent to steal. For instance, a suspect caught with lock picks and empty bags may be providing excellent circumstantial evidence that the prosecutor can use against him. He doesn’t have to confess because items found in his possession or at the scene are considered sufficient evidence to establish his intent. Don’t make it easy for the prosecution to prove intent in your case. Talk to an experienced Los Angeles burglary attorney before speaking with the police to avoid implicating yourself.
California Second Degree Burglary
Second degree burglary is sometimes called commercial burglary in California. This law covers all structures other than those that are used for residential purposes. In addition to business or industrial properties, automobile theft or stealing from cars is included in the second degree burglary category. Unlike first degree burglary, which is always a felony offense, second degree burglary may be either a misdemeanor or a felony. The value of the stolen item or items is often the determining factor in California burglary cases. Items worth less than $400 may result in a misdemeanor charge while items worth more may result in felony charges. Note that entering a business or retail shop during their operating hours and stealing items worth less than $950 will result in shoplifting charges instead of burglary charges because the defendant arguably had the legal right to enter the premises.
Penalties for Burglary in California
Second-degree, misdemeanor burglary charges may lead to up to one year in county jail. A fine of no more than $1,000 may also be levied. It’s possible that someone charged with a second-degree misdemeanor may only be sentenced to probation. While this means that the defendant will not serve time in jail they will have to abide by restrictions to avoid violating probation and being required to go to jail instead.
Second-degree, felony burglary charges may lead to as much as three years in county jail and a fine of not more than $10,000. The consequences are similar for first-degree burglary charges, with a defendant often being sentenced to one year in a county facility or as much as six years in a state prison. Fines of up to $10,000 may also apply.
Experienced Los Angeles Burglary Attorneys
Don’t take chances with your future if you are facing burglary charges in California. If you are convicted, it may affect you for the rest of your life. We provide dedicated, aggressive legal services to people who have been charged with burglary in Los Angeles.