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First-Degree Burglary

Penal Code 460 PC - First-Degree Residential Burglary

In California, unlawfully entering someone's home, room, apartment, or recreational vehicle to steal or commit a felony, you can be charged with a felony first-degree residential burglary as defined under Penal Code 460 PC.

The type of burglary is a first-degree felony, while all other burglaries are second-degree. One of them is burglary of a commercial structure, a wobbler crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Penal Code 460 PC - First-Degree Residential Burglary

Penal Code 459 PC defines burglary as entering any commercial or residential structure or locked vehicle to commit grand theft, petty theft, or a felony offense once inside.

The intent to commit theft or a felony inside must be formed before somebody enters. For example, suppose a perpetrator breaks into a home without intent to commit theft inside but decides to steal property after they gain entry.  In that case, they should avoid charges of PC 460 first-degree residential burglary.

Put simply, when somebody enters a home intending to commit theft or a felony, they have violated Penal Code 460 PC.

Under the law, an intrusion by force into a residence is considered entering a place, even with slight pressure. Also, once any object enters a home, it's considered residential burglary.

California considers residential burglary the most severe form of all burglaries, and a conviction carries up to six years in prison. Let's review this state law further below.

What Does the Law Say?

As noted, California recognizes several forms and degrees of burglary. For example, related PC 459 burglary is described as entering a public or private structure with the intent to commit theft or any felony once inside.

PC 460 first-degree residential burglary, however, defines explicitly unlawfully entering an "inhabited dwelling place." Therefore, it's always charged as a felony.

This statute says that all other burglaries are "second-degree," which are wobblers that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Penal Code 460 says, “(a) Every burglary of an inhabited dwelling house, vessel, as defined in the Harbors and Navigation Code, which is inhabited and designed for habitation, floating home, as described in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, or trailer coach, as defined by the Vehicle Code, or the inhabited portion of any other building, is burglary of the first degree. (b) All different kinds of burglary are of the second degree.

Notably, no actual felony or theft must be committed in the home for the first-degree burglary to be completed. In other words, the crime was committed as long as the perpetrator intended to commit a theft or a felony inside the residence before entering the home.

For example, suppose someone entered a home intending to commit Penal Code 261 rape inside the house, but she was not home then.

Since they entered the home intending to commit a felony rape, they violated Penal Code 460 PC first-degree residential burglary law, even though they did not complete the intended crime.

What is Considered an "Inhabited Dwelling Place?"

To qualify as an "inhabited dwelling place" under PC 460 first-degree residential burglary laws, somebody must live there, even temporarily.  For example, a dwelling place is considered "inhabited" if somebody sleeps or stores possessions there.

It does not mean residents of the home must be present when the burglary occurs, only that someone uses the structure as a home.

Nor does the inhabitant have to be presently living there for it to be considered first-degree residential burglary. Perhaps it's a vacation home. Nevertheless, it's still deemed inhabited because the person intends to return.

What is an Inhabited Dwelling Place?

Under California laws and the court's interpretation, an "inhabited dwelling place" can be any of the following:

  • House,
  • Guest home,
  • Room extension,
  • Home office,
  • Attached garage,
  • Apartment,
  • Townhome,
  • Condominium,
  • Occupied hotel room,
  • Occupied hospital room,
  • Recreational Vehicle (RV),
  • Mobile trailer home,
  • Houseboat,
  • Any other kind of vessel if someone lives on it.

What Are the Penalties for PC 460?

The penalties for California PC 460 first-degree residential burglary will depend on the circumstances but will generally carry the following:

  • charged as a felony crime,
  • a maximum of six years in state prison,
  • a maximum $10,000 fine,
  • a strike under the three strikes law,
  • formal felony probation.

This is a serious crime, but the offense is considered severe and violent if the victim is at home during the burglary.

PC 460 is considered a moral turpitude crime, with severe collateral consequences for non-U.S. citizens and licensed professionals.

What Are the Defenses for PC 460?

There may be several ways a California criminal defense lawyer can fight PC 460 first-degree residential burglary charges, as discussed below.

Defenses for First-Degree Residential Burglary

Perhaps we can argue that you had no intention of committing a crime or theft once inside. Maybe we can say that the dwelling did not classify as inhabited.

Maybe it was vacant. This argument is usually used to downgrade a charge to second-degree burglary with lesser penalties.

Perhaps we can argue that you had permission to be on the property or dwelling. Maybe we can say that there was no physical entry into the home. Perhaps you only opened an unlocked door or window.

Notably, whether you were unaware the dwelling was inhabited is not a valid defense. Thus, prosecutors might still get a felony conviction for breaking into an occupied home, even if you thought the house was vacant. Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecution prefiling to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges (DA reject).

You can contact our law firm for a free case review via phone or the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark are based in Los Angeles, CA.

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