Burglary of an inhabited dwelling, house, vessel, floating home, or trailer home is a first-degree offense in California. This crime is the highest level burglary offense in the state, with burglary of commercial buildings and other non-residential structures being a second-degree offense.
First-degree residential burglary, as defined under California Penal Code Section 460, is a felony offense that can potentially carry severe consequences for offenders if convicted. At the Simmrin Law Group, our team has extensive experience fighting first-degree residential burglary charges. Learn more about how we can help you with a free case evaluation today.
Defining First Degree Residential Burglary
Burglary is the act of entering any residential or commercial structure, or locked vehicle, with the intent to commit petty theft, grand theft, or any other felony once inside. Forced entry is not a requirement of a burglary classification.
Additionally, no further crime has to occur in order for a charge to be brought. As soon as the structure is entered, with the intent to commit a crime, burglary is considered to have taken place under California law.
What Qualifies As a Residence?
One of the crucial factors in determining whether a burglary charge qualifies as being first-degree residential burglary is assessing what qualifies as a residence. Any structure used for sleeping and storing possessions can be classified as a residence.
A structure does not have to be in a fixed location to qualify. That means that things like RVs and tents can count as residences under the law. Guesthouses can also be considered residences even if they are unoccupied, as long as they are occasionally used. Additionally, an attached garage will also fall under this classification.
Apartments, condos, hotel rooms, and common facilities within these structures like laundry rooms can also be considered residences under PC 460. When burglary is committed at any of the aforementioned residences, the crime will be prosecuted as first-degree residential burglary pursuant to California Penal Code 460.
Potential Penalties for a First Degree Residential Burglary Conviction
First-degree burglary is a felony charge in California. As such, it carries severe penalties. A conviction under California PC Section 460 can result in up to six years in prison.
If the burglarized structure was not a residence, you could face a second-degree burglary charge. A second-degree burglary offense is a wobbler in California. That means it can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Even if a second-degree burglary charge is prosecuted as a felony, the penalties are not as harsh as those of a first-degree offense. A conviction for felony second-degree burglary is punishable by up to three years in prison. If convicted of a misdemeanor charge, you will face up to one year in jail.
Common Defenses Against a First Degree Residential Burglary Charge
There are many potential defenses that can be used against a first-degree residential burglary charge. Some of the more common arguments include:
- The structure was not a residence
- Mistaken identity
- No intent
The Structure Was Not a Residence
If you can show that the structure you entered was not a residence, you can avoid a conviction under Penal Code 460. However, this defense does not clear you of any wrongdoing. You could still be convicted of second-degree burglary and face the charges for that crime instead.
Unfortunately, people are mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of a crime far too often. Sometimes, mistaken identity occurs out of confusion, while in other instances, an individual is maliciously identified.
There are many ways in which a witness can accidentally accuse the wrong person of a crime. Sometimes, the person identified as the culprit shares a resemblance with the offender. Other times, the accused may have been in the area when the crime occurred, and the witness remembered the face and falsely identified it with the crime.
Malicious mistaken identity occurs when a witness wrongfully identifies an individual on purpose. This often occurs out of anger and with the intent to get even with the accused or otherwise punish them.
A vital element that must be present to be convicted under Penal Code Section 460 is intent. You are only guilty of first-degree residential burglary if you entered a residential dwelling with the intent to commit petty theft, grand theft, or another felony. If you entered the structure with no intent to commit a further crime, you should not be found guilty.
However, you could still potentially face another charge, such as trespassing, depending on the circumstances.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you are facing charges for first-degree residential burglary under California PC Section 460, it is critical that you retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you fight this charge. At the Simmrin Law Group, we have helped our clients fight back against this and many related charges.
Contact us today by giving us a call or filling out our online contact form. We offer free, no-obligation consultations. We will be happy to review your case and answer any questions you may have.
Once we have looked over your case, we will offer legal advice on how best to proceed. Should you choose to retain our services, we will immediately get to work investigating your case and building your defense.