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How to Defend Burglary Charges

Posted by Sam Israels | Feb 26, 2022

California Penal Code 459 PC defines burglary as entering a residential or commercial structure, or a locked vehicle, with the intent to commit petty or grand theft or a felony crime.

Defending Burglary Charges in California

Put simply, the very moment you go into a structure with criminal intent; you have now violated PC 459 burglary laws, even if you never actually completed the crime for which you intended, such as stealing some property once inside.

California breaks down burglary into two separate “degrees,” including the first-degree burglary of a residence and second-degree burglary of any other structure, such as a business. There are differences between the two degrees.

For example, PC 459 first-degree “residential” burglary is always a felony crime in California and carries a sentence of up to six years in prison. 

Second-degree “commercial” burglary is known as a “wobbler” that the prosecutor has the discretion to file as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. 

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will take a more detailed look at the burglary laws below.

What Are California Crimes Related to PC 459 Burglary?

In California, several different theft crime statutes are directly related to the crime of Penal Code 459 burglary, including:

What is a Home Invasion Burglary?

Out of all the theft-related offenses, the crime of burglary usually is aggressively prosecuted. Most people have the traditional belief that burglary occurs at night when someone breaks into a home to steal any items of value, but this is not always true.

The primary reason burglary is a significant concern for police and prosecutors is the more serious home invasion burglary, which is described as:

  • “When someone breaks a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, larceny, or assault in with occupier's present in the home.”

Put simply, if somebody enters a home armed with a deadly weapon or if someone is at home, they could be facing charges of first-degree home invasion burglary, which carry severe penalties if convicted.

A home invasion in the first degree is punishable by up to 20 years in a California state prison, while a second-degree conviction is punishable by up to 15 years and a fine up to $3,000.

What is the Definition of PC 459 Burglary?

The burglary laws in California show a concern for the invasion of someone's home. Penal Code 459 PC defines burglary as:

  • “Anyone who enters into numerous types of buildings, containers, locked vehicles with the intent to commit larceny, which is theft, or any felony.”

Illegally entering a structure to commit a crime is a serious offense in the state of California. Auto burglary is also included under this statute, which is stealing items from inside a car.

What are the Penalties for PC 459?

The penalties for a burglary conviction will depend on what type of structure, called a “dwelling,” was entered, whether it was inhabited at the time. Burglary of the first degree will be charged for an inhabited building, while entries into uninhabited buildings are burglary of the second degree. Felony penalties for a first-degree burglary include:

Penalties for PC 459 Burglary
  • two, four, or six years in state prison,
  • a fine of up to $10,000,
  • a strike under the three-strikes law,
  • formal probation.

As noted, second-degree burglary is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime and carries the following penalties for a misdemeanor:

  • up to one year in county jail,
  • a fine of up to $1,000,
  • summary probation.

How Can I Best Fight PC 459 Burglary Charges?

The elements of the crime for burglary are listed under CALCRIM 1700. This means the prosecution has to prove every element of the crime to obtain a conviction beyond any reasonable doubt. Some of the common defenses against allegations of burglary include the following:

  • no intent to commit a crime,
  • mistaken identity,
  • false allegation,
  • improper conduct by police.

Further, poor eyewitness accounts of the alleged crime could create reasonable doubt under cross-examination by our criminal defense attorneys. We might also argue that the case is not a burglary under its definition. Perhaps the defendant did not:

  • enter into a qualifying structure under the definition of burglary,
  • enter a structure with the intent to steal an item or commit a felony.

If you were charged with burglary, you still have the same constitutional rights and criminal procedures for other charges.

How Can I Best Fight PC 459 Burglary Charges?

This includes the legal right against unreasonable search and seizure, where we might be able to make an argument of suppressing incriminating evidence.

The criminal procedures in California guarantee a preliminary hearing, discovery, motions to suppress or dismiss charges.

If you are under investigation or charged with Penal Code 459 burglary, reach out to our law firm to review the details of the case.

We might be able to pursue an alternative to prosecution, early disposition court, or even pretrial diversion negotiation with the prosecution to avoid filing charges. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case review by calling 424-372-3112 or filling out our contact form.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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