California PEN 459 prohibits the offense of breaking into someone else’s structure or vehicle with the intent to deprive them of their property or commit a felony. Therefore, the offense combines the crimes of trespassing and theft. You will face these charges even if, after entering the premises, you did not manage to steal anything. The critical element of the crime is the intention to commit a felony or theft after entry. The penalties of a conviction include heavy court fines, lengthy incarceration, and probation.

At the California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have effectively defended several burglary offenses in Anaheim and learned about all aspects of the crime, which is crucial for a charge reduction or dismissal. 

Burglary Meaning Under California Statutes 

As per PEN 459, it is an offense to enter commercial or residential premises to take a valuable item without permission from the owner. Whether or not you succeed in the commission of a crime after the entry is not relevant to the prosecuting team. Instead, the fact that you entered the premises without consent and with the motive of engaging in a crime satisfies the element the prosecuting team needs to prove a violation of PEN 459.  

A burglary offense is a wobbler, meaning a conviction will result in misdemeanor or felony penalties based on your criminal record and the crime’s nature. When the burglary involves entry into a home, hotel room, or any other dwelling structure, you will face first-degree or residential burglary charges, which is a felony. When the building you are accused of entering is used for business, the offense is a commercial burglary, resulting in misdemeanor or felony charges because it is a wobbler. 

Also, a guilty verdict on the offense is not dependent on breaking into a structure. Even using an open window or an unlocked door to access the premises amounts to commercial burglary except for auto burglary, which involves bursting into a locked automobile. 

Burglary Elements

The prosecuting lawyer will gain a conviction in this case if they can prove that:

  • You broke into or gained access into a business, locked automobile, or residential place
  • You entered the area to participate in a felony or theft crime
  • The property you stole or purposed to take was worth at least $950, or the structure you entered was non-residential, or you entered business premises after operating hours.

The prosecuting lawyer must prove all the above elements or facts to gain a conviction. As soon as you enter an establishment to engage in theft, you are guilty of a PEN 459 violation. However, you did not commit burglary if you lacked the intent while entering the premises and only formed it after entry. 

For purposes of this statute, a residence is any structure that people use for dwelling even if the occupant was not present when you entered. What is crucial for the prosecutor to charge you with residential burglary is that you broke into an inhabited premise. The structure could be a hotel room and occupied travel trailer, or a boathouse. Besides, a residence could be a garage or any extension of an inhabited home. If the house was once occupied but the owner left with no plans of returning, you will not face residential burglary charges for breaking into such a structure. Nonetheless, when a natural catastrophe like a storm strikes and residents abandon their homes, entering these homes to commit theft or a felony will amount to residential burglary as the structures are still inhabited. 

Lastly, you go into a structure when any of your body parts or part of an object you hold moves inside a building’s outer boundary. Therefore, you will be deemed to have entered an establishment if:

  • You remove a screen from a building window in an attempt to steal property from inside
  • You reach your hand through an open window and take a mobile phone left by the owner on the windowsill

Dissimilarity Between Burglary and Shoplifting 

PC 459.5 defines shoplifting as the entry of a business building during operating hours to steal valuable items whose maximum value is $950. From this definition, you can conclude that shoplifting is a subset of burgling. 

Before Proposition 47 in 2014, shoplifting was not a separate offense, and shoplifters were often charged with commercial burglary. Nevertheless, after the amendments, shoplifting penalties were significantly reduced. Today, shoplifting is a misdemeanor offense punishable by misdemeanor penalties unless you have a prior sentence for rape, homicide, a sex offense against a child, or are required to register as a sex offender due to a previous conviction. If any of these circumstances applies in your case, the shoplifting offense will be charged as a 2nd-degree burglary under PEN 459. 

If you were convicted of commercial burglary for an offense that qualifies as shoplifting before 2014, you could apply for resentencing. The offense will be charged as a misdemeanor to avoid the consequences and humiliation of a felony sentence. So, when you think that you are eligible for resentencing under Prop 47, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer familiar with PC 459 to commence the process. 

Difference Between Breaking and Entering Offense and Burglary 

Technically, breaking and entering crime is different from burglary. For burglary to occur, one does not need to break into a structure. You commit burglary even by entering a building through an unlocked or open door or window. Trespassing or forced entry is not necessary for the crime to occur.

The only exception to this regulation is car burglary. Burgling a locked vehicle requires you to use force to break in. If the car doors are open, you are innocent of burglary. 

Burglary Arrest Process 

Once arrested for burgling, it is critical to obey the arresting officer’s instructions regardless of your belief in the crime. The officer will present you with an arrest warrant for burglary. When this happens, it is critical to understand the protocols that will follow next to reduce the anxiety associated with an arrest. Therefore, it is vital to contact an experienced defense lawyer. The legal expert will ensure you understand your rights and advise you against resisting arrest as it could lead to additional charges and damages. 

The law has set aside procedures that officers must follow during an arrest to make it legal. Firstly, the officers must follow due process, which involves protecting your civic rights and essential freedom like the use of reasonable force during apprehension. 

Similarly, you have a right to a lawyer who will discuss any critical information on burglary with the prosecutor on your behalf.

Also, just because you have been detained for burglary does not make you guilty of the charges. You are presumed innocent until the court proves otherwise. 

Lastly, a standard procedure the law enforcement officer must follow during burglary arrests is to advise you on your right to remain silent as anything you say can or will be used against you in court. 

California Burglary Penalties

The punishments for a PEN 459 violation hinge on whether the burgling occurs in a residential or business building. Residential burglary is a felony offense, while burglary of a business structure is a wobbler punishable by misdemeanor or felony penalties based on the crime’s characteristics. 

Residential or 1st Degree Burglary

When charged and sentenced for business building burglary, you will face the following felony penalties:

  • A prison sentence ranging from twenty-four to seventy-two months
  • Felony or formal probation
  • No more than $10,000 in monetary court fines
  • A strike on your criminal record

When charged with commercial burglary as a felony crime, the legal penalties are:

  • Sixteen to thirty-six months in jail
  • Felony probation
  • No more than $10,000 in court fines

On the other hand, a misdemeanor commercial burglary attracts these penalties:

  • No more than twelve months jail sentence 
  • Informal probation
  • At most $1,000 in court fines

Sentencing Enhancement 

If aggravating factors are present in your case, the court will increase your penalties. The extension of your sentence depends on your prior criminal record and how the current crime was attained. 

When the court discovers that you have been previously convicted of a first or second-degree burglary and sentenced to a county jail, the court will impose an additional and subsequent twelve months sentence for each of your previous sentences. 

Additionally, when your burglary involves violence, the offense becomes a violent felony. These are common when you break into a residential building to participate in a crime and find the owner inside. If you engage in violence or have a prior violent felony conviction, the court will enhance your initial sentence by three years. 

With these kinds of penalties, it is indispensable to hire a criminal lawyer for the case. If the police made mistakes during the arrest, an experienced lawyer will exploit these mistakes and poke holes in the evidence presented by the prosecutor to avoid being sentenced. Your legal team will negotiate a favorable plea deal to minimize the penalties when a conviction is inevitable.

Fighting Burglary Charges

While a PC 459 violation attracts steep penalties, the case is not entirely hopeless. The primary defense for the crime is claiming you are innocent. The prosecuting team must demonstrate beyond reasonable certainty that you entered someone else’s property with the intent to commit theft or a felony. On the other hand, you will challenge the evidence by mounting various defense strategies. The goal of your arguments is to cast doubt in the jury’s or judge’s mind and assert that you never committed the crime. Common defenses you can apply to contest the charges are:

     1. Mistake of Fact

You can argue that you believed someone else possessed your property, and you were simply trying to repossess it. In a case like this, you will be found innocent of the charges because you were not committing a felony or theft offense. Also, you can use this argument if you believe that the owner had issued permission or invited you to their property.

     2. You did not Intend to Engage in a Crime

Remember, for a conviction to occur in these cases, the prosecutor must prove that at the time of entering the said property, you intended to commit theft or a felony. Therefore, if you never planned on stealing or committing a felony, the court will not find you guilty of the charges. Besides, even if you formed the intent after entering the premises, your actions will not count as burglary because the purpose was missing. 

     3. Factual Innocence

Many people are arrested in California for crimes they never committed. Therefore, if you did not commit the burglary you are accused of, you should demonstrate that you did not commit the crime, and the charges will be dropped. You can argue that yours is a case of mistaken identity. For the defense to work, the victim or witnesses must have given a description that fits several individuals. Therefore, if the perpetrator's identity does not match you, you can assert that you are a victim of mistaken identity and innocent of the crime. 

Also, you can support the factual innocence claim by arguing that the evidence presented by the prosecutor is misleading. For instance, if you were arrested after your fingerprints were discovered at the crime scene, you can argue that you were there earlier for legitimate reasons hence the reason for the fingerprints. 

Additionally, you can claim that you are falsely accused of the crime out of revenge or due to the accuser’s mental condition. 

If you look at these circumstances, you will realize that the evidence of the crime can point to you as the perpetrator even when you never committed the offense. Therefore, you should ensure your freedom and rights are always protected by having a criminal lawyer by your side to prove your innocence. A profound lawyer will poke holes in the prosecutor’s evidence to convince them to lower or dismiss the charges. 

      4. Police Misconduct 

 As indicated earlier, police must follow due process when making an apprehension and investigating the case. Unfortunately, officers submit to the lure of violating your rights or using unconventional means to obtain evidence to close the charges. Therefore, if the police engage in improper interrogation by not reciting your Miranda rights or forcing you to answer questions, your lawyer can argue that police misconducted through the inappropriate question. 

Also, you can argue that they planted or fabricated evidence to frame you for the crime. Again, when law enforcement searched your property without a warrant, you can say they violated your 4th amendment rights. 

When there is evidence of police misconduct, you should file a Pitchess motion on the officer. When granted, the court will allow you to investigate the officer’s conduct in the past to determine whether the same complaints have been filed against them by other defendants. Your lawyer will attempt to prove a pattern of misconduct by the officer, and if successful, the burglary charges against you will be dismissed. Even if the count proceeds to trial, the court will find you innocent. 

Burglary Expunction 

Not all defendants are lucky to avoid a conviction, even with the help of a lawyer. However, a lawyer can help you reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor and have the sentence erased even if you have been convicted. Expunction involves petitioning the court to seal the records from the public. Before commencing, your legal counsel must check if you are eligible. The qualifications for expungement are:

  • You did not serve a prison sentence out-of-state
  • You did not serve a prison sentence for a felony conviction. If you were initially convicted of a felony but reduced it to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b), this condition must be satisfied. 
  • You must have a rehabilitation certificate if you have been sentenced for burglary to obtain a clean slate. The court will conduct a thorough background check before issuing the certification. And if the judge grants the motion, you will be eligible for a Governor’s Pardon. 
  • If you were sentenced for burglary on business premises and sentenced to prison, you could reduce the felony to a misdemeanor through the Voter’s intervention Prop 47. However, to qualify for a charge reduction under Prop 47, you must have entered the business structure during operating hours, stolen an item worth no more than $950, and have no prior conviction for a super-strike offense. 

Related Offenses 

Several offenses are filed alongside or in place of burglary. These are:

Possession or Acquisition of Burglary Tools

As per PEN 466, it is illegal to possess tools that could be used in the commission of burglary to participate in a crime. Besides, PC 466 criminalizes altering or making a key devoid of the permission of the individual controlling the premises where the key is to be used. 

The burgling tools defined here are pliers, crowbars, slim Jims, and screwdrivers. When arrested for entering a building to commit theft or after the crime and any of these burgling tools are found in your possession, you will face PC 466 and PEN 459 violation charges. The PEN 466 violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to half a year.

PEN 470 Forgery

According to PC 470, it is unlawful to deliberately create or change a written document to commit fraud. 

When you think of forgery and burgling, you can easily assume that the two offenses are unrelated because burglary involves entering a building to commit theft. In the real sense, the two are related because when you walk into a bank intending to commit forgery, you also commit burglary. PC 470 violation is charged as a misdemeanor or felony. 

California Robbery 

As per PC 211, robbery involves taking someone else’s from their person or immediate presence through fear or physical force. 

The prosecuting lawyer will charge you with both robbery and burglary if:

  • You enter another person’s premises or location 
  • On the inside, you use fear, violence, or intimidation to obtain valuable items from an occupant in the structure
  • You planned of doing so at the time of entering the premises

The two offenses differ in that robbery involves the use of force or intimidation, and you must succeed in taking the property. On the other hand, burglary does not include the use of force or coercion and can be satisfied independent of whether you achieved your purpose. 

Robbery is a felony punishable by twenty-four or sixty months in prison. 

California Trespass

PEN 602 prohibits entry into another person’s property without consent. Looking at the definition of burglary, it can appear as if trespassing occurs every time the offense occurs. The main element or fact about trespass is whether or not you had the right to access the property. 

PEN 459 focuses on your mental status at the time of entry. If you had intent to commit theft or a felony, the issue of trespass would no longer be essential in the case. You will face burglary charges. 

If the conviction lacks sufficient evidence to convict you of a PC 459 violation, your attorney can negotiate a charge reduction to a lesser offense like PEN 602 trespass. The crime is a misdemeanor, and under some circumstances, it can be charged as an infraction. However, if you trespassed within thirty days after threatening the property owner, you will face aggravated trespass charges under PC 601. 

Find an Experienced Theft Crimes Attorney Near Me  

Have you been detained for Burglary in Anaheim?
If so, you need help from a first-rate criminal defense lawyer to avoid sentencing. You should allow a California Criminal Lawyer Group professional to talk to the prosecuting team. Doing it in person can be self-incriminating, primarily when you have been falsely accused or found in possession of burgling tools. Our lawyers have been representing clients faced with theft crime charges for a long time and can come to your rescue in the hour of need. Call us today at 714-766-0965 to understand more about burglary and streamline the criminal justice system.