How the Law Defines Burglary in California

Burglary, also known as breaking and entering, is an unlawful entry into a building or other location for the purposes of committing a felony offense such as theft. No physical breaking and entering are required; an offender may simply walk through an open door to be charged with burglary. Unlike robbery, which involves the use of force or fear to take another person's property, there is usually no victim present during a burglary.

The Elements of a Burglary

Under California law, two elements are required to prove burglary: (1) the accused person must have entered a structure or place that is recognized under state law as a target of burglary and (2) the accused person must have entered the target structure or place with the intent to commit theft or a felony crime.

Degrees of Burglary

In California, the crime is divided into two degrees of severity: first-degree and second-degree. State law defines the first-degree burglary as any burglary of an inhabited dwelling. "Currently inhabited" means that the property was used as a dwelling at the time of the burglary, even if nobody was actually occupying the property. Any burglary not qualifying as first-degree burglary proceeds as a case of second-degree burglaries, such as commercial burglary of a business.

Burglary Penalties

If you are charged with first-degree burglary, you face up to 6 years in prison, a maximum of $10,000 in fines, probation, and restitution to the victim(s). Second-degree burglary can result in either a misdemeanor with up to one year in county jail, a fine and probation or a felony punishable by up to 3 years in county jail or state prison, a fine, probation, and restitution. Burglary with explosives is a felony and is punishable by up to 7 years in prison, fines, probation or parole, and restitution to the victim(s).

Defending Burglary Cases

A close analysis of the facts of your case and the law of the jurisdiction may be necessary to fight burglary charges. The most commonly used defense for burglary cases is the lack of evidence proving intent. Without intent, there cannot be a conviction. Another common defense is the mistake of fact. This defense strategy tries to prove that a defendant unknowingly took something that they thought was okay to take. If a criminal defense attorney can prove that the defendant took what they thought was their property, then it cannot lead to a conviction for burglary. The final and best defense is that a defendant is innocent.

If you or a loved one is being charged with burglary in California, please contact our Murrieta criminal defense attorneys at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, to discuss your legal options. 

Call us today at (951) 506-6654 or contact us online to get the help you need.


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