In Los Angeles, burglaries can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony and are used to cover a wide variety of offenses. You could be convicted of burglary even if you didn’t break into a property or steal anything. On the other hand, all first-degree burglary charges are booked as felonies.
Additionally, even though burglary is a non-violent crime, the consequences are harsh: you can face up to a year in jail or much longer if it’s charged as a felony. So, if you or someone in your family has been arrested for burglary, don’t take chances. Instead, talk to a Los Angeles burglary attorney today.
What Does Being Charged With a Burglary Mean?
If you were charged with burglary, it was under California Penal Code Section 459, which the state defines as entering a structure (commercial, residential, locked vehicle, boat, tent, railroad car, aircraft, underground mine, or any property) with the intent to commit:
- Grand larceny
- Petit larceny
- Any felony
Therefore, burglary is entering any structure or vehicle to commit a crime. This means that:
- You didn’t have to break in to be convicted of burglary.
- You didn’t have to steal anything. However, entering the place to commit a non-theft crime can also count as burglary.
- Even if you didn’t commit a crime before you were caught, you could still be convicted of burglary if you intended to steal or commit a crime.
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How Are Burglaries Charged in California?
A burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony and depends primarily on whether it is a residential or commercial burglary.
Residential Burglary in Los Angeles
Residential burglary is the most common kind of burglary that we see at Simmrin Law, and unfortunately, it is also treated the most severely. Residential burglary is always charged as a felony, carrying a much longer sentence if convicted.
Additionally, it counts as a severe felony strike under California’s Three Strikes Law, potentially increasing future sentences.
Commercial Burglary in Los Angeles
If you were charged with second-degree commercial burglary, it means you entered a store, restaurant, office, or another business establishment with the intent of stealing or committing another crime.
This version of burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The circumstances of your case will dictate which one your prosecutor is allowed to choose.
For example, you could be charged with a misdemeanor if the prosecutor claims the stolen or attempted to be stolen items were valued at less than $400. However, if they value the items at $400 or more, you’d be charged with a felony.
Further, if you were previously convicted of a crime involving theft and are charged with another robbery, the prosecutor would likely charge your alleged new crime as a felony. Your best defense is to speak to a burglary attorney in Los Angeles.
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Can I Be Charged With Burglary if I Didn’t “Break and Enter?”
There is no such thing as a “breaking and entering” charge in Los Angeles and statewide. And there is no forced entry requirement for burglary except with vehicles.
In practical terms, breaking in is a common phrase to mean burglary; however, it has no legal meaning. You could be convicted of burglary even if your neighbor left their door wide open. Indeed, you can be convicted even if you only stuck your head through the door to see if there was something worth stealing.
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What Is the Penalty if I’m Convicted for Burglary in Los Angeles?
Penalties vary between first- and second-degree burglary charges. Your penalty for burglary will depend on the charge you’re facing:
- Felony first-degree burglary (residential cases): Up to $10,000 in fines and either two, four, or six years in state prison, plus a strike and convicted felon status. Upon release, the person will receive three years of parole.
- Felony second-degree burglary (some commercial cases): Either 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.
- Misdemeanor second-degree burglary (other commercial cases): Up to one year in county jail and three years of probation.
To avoid the harshest penalties, you’ll want to consult with a Los Angeles burglary attorney.
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What Defenses Can I Use to Beat a Burglary Charge?
It is possible to beat your burglary charge or have it dropped, and our Los Angeles burglary attorneys frequently help defendants win their burglary cases.
Keep in mind that the burden of proving your guilt is on the prosecutor. They have to verify specific facts to get a conviction. If they fail to prove their case, you cannot be convicted.
Several defenses can be used to fight a California burglary charge, including intoxication, failure to read Miranda rights, having an alibi, mistake of fact, consent, illegal search and seizure, and lack of intent.
Lack of Intent
To have committed burglary, you must have entered the location with the intent to steal or commit some other felony inside the site. This means that the prosecutor must establish not only that you entered the structure, but at the moment you entered, there was the required intent.
In most cases, the prosecutor’s potential to convict you will be contingent on whether you can prove your specific intent. Intent is one the most challenging things for a prosecutor to prove, and they must show it with either direct or circumstantial evidence:
- Direct evidence: An example of direct evidence is if you made a statement to a police officer that you went into the structure or broke into a locked car intending to steal something.
- Circumstantial evidence: For circumstantial evidence, the prosecutor would need to make an inference of your intent based on specific facts. For instance, if you were caught after the fact, with tools and the stolen goods on you, the prosecutor could reasonably infer you entered a location with the specific intent to steal.
A defense attorney can use two clearly defined strategies to defend against your burglary charge:
- Insufficient evidence: Insufficient evidence may mean that investigators couldn’t find enough evidence against you or that some of it is inadmissible for legal reasons. In particular cases, this can include your own statement or “confession.” The experienced attorneys at Simmrin Law Group know how to find police work irregularities and have evidence against you suppressed that wasn’t appropriately collected.
- Intoxication: Voluntary intoxication (California Crimes and Punishments Section 29.4), in most cases, doesn’t qualify as a legitimate defense; however, if you were drugged, this would interfere with your ability to have the specified intent.
- Mistaken identity or wrong person: Just because you match the description of someone seen breaking in or entering a property doesn’t mean it was you. Alternately, if you have stolen goods on you, but you bought them from someone else, you may not have been involved at all.
- Consent: Owner or manager consent is a solid defense to a burglary charge. The consent could be that you were actually the owner, or the manager or property owner gave you consent to enter the property.
- Taking your own property. If you entered the location intending to take back your own property, you are not guilty of burglary.
These and other defenses can result in helping you:
- Get a charge downgraded to a misdemeanor
- Getting your California Penal Code Section 459 burglary charge reduced to something simple, like trespassing
- Having your burglary case dismissed or winning outright
While these defenses can work, they need to be handled by someone who understands the law. Don’t face your charge alone—the sooner you have a burglary lawyer in Los Angeles on your side, the better it is for your case.
Hire Lawyers Dedicated to Helping Clients Across the L.A. Area
For years, our criminal defense attorneys have been helping Southern California clients fight their burglary crime charges. We will thoroughly review your case and structure a plan to give you the best possible defense.
We’ll file motions and effectively argue your case to persuade the judge or the prosecutor that the case against you is unconvincing and your charges should be dropped. Your Simmrin lawyer will be by your side at every court appearance working hard to get you released from custody.
Your Simmrin lawyer can also assist in having a bail bondsman available in court to facilitate your release from custody. As soon as you discover there’s a theft crime filed against you in Los Angeles, call the L.A. burglary defense attorneys at Simmrin Law Group.
Talk to a Los Angeles Burglary Lawyer for Free
Due to the significant consequences to your future, it’s crucial to hire an experienced Los Angeles burglary attorney as soon as possible: when you’ve been charged or if they’ve begun investigating you for a crime.
No matter what the circumstances of your burglary charge, we don’t believe it should ruin years of your life. The Simmrin Law Group will listen to your story, take your side, and give you a FREE consultation to help you build a defense. Let us help you.
Call or contact us by filling out our confidential case evaluation form and get your free consultation today.
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