Burglary charges are used for a wide variety of offenses in Los Angeles. You can be convicted of burglary even if you didn’t “break in,” and even if you didn’t actually steal anything. And, 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. If you or someone in your family has been arrested for burglary, don’t take chances. You need to talk to a Los Angeles burglary lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, our mission is to help you. We have dedicated our practice to one thing: defending those who have been accused. We have years of experience and we understand how the criminal justice system works—and how to win. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What is burglary?
Burglary is defined under a state law known as California Penal Code Section 459. It is defined as:
Entering any kind of building, room, structure or locked vehicle…
…With the intention to commit a felony inside, or
With the intention to commit petty theft.
Both “petty theft” and “felony” refer to specific offenses or groups of offenses under the law. So, burglary is entering any kind of structure or vehicle to commit a crime.
That means that:
You do not have to break in to be convicted of burglary
You do not have to steal anything—entering the place to commit a non-theft crime can also count as burglary
Even if you didn’t commit any crime before you were caught, if your intention was to steal or commit a crime, you can still be convicted
Burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This depends largely on whether it is a residential or commercial burglary.
What about “breaking and entering”?
In Los Angeles, and statewide, there is no such thing as a “breaking and entering” charge. And there is no forced entry requirement for burglary except with vehicles.
In practical terms, “breaking in” is a common phrase used to mean burglary, but it has no legal weight. You can 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.
What is “residential burglary” in Los Angeles?
Residential burglary means the place you broke into, or simply entered, was someone’s residence rather than a business. This can include an apartment, home, condo, or even a mobile home/trailer. It’s also known as “first degree burglary.”
Residential burglary is the most common kind of burglary that we see, and unfortunately, it is also treated the most severely. Residential burglary is always charged as a felony, carrying a much longer sentence if convicted. It also counts as a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes rule, potentially increasing future sentences.
What is “commercial burglary” in Los Angeles?
Commercial or “second degree” burglary means you entered a store, restaurant, office or other business establishment with the intent of stealing (or committing a crime). This version of burglary is not always a felony—it can also be a misdemeanor. Which one the prosecutor chooses will depend on the circumstances of the case.
What are the penalties for burglary in Los Angeles?
The penalties depend on the charge:
Felony first degree burglary (residential cases): Up to $10,000 in fines and either 2, 4 or 6 years in state prison, plus a “strike” and convicted felon status
Felony second degree burglary (some commercial cases): Either 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison
Misdemeanor second degree burglary (other commercial cases): Up to 1 year in county jail
Is it possible to beat a burglary charge? What defenses can I use?
Yes, it is possible and we see defendants win their burglary cases all the time. Remember that the burden of “winning” the case is on the prosecutor—they have to prove specific facts in order to get a conviction. If they cannot prove their case, you cannot be convicted.
One of the toughest things for a prosecutor to prove is intent. Burglary requires that you enter the place with the intent to steal (or commit a felony). If you were caught after the fact, with stolen goods on you, then intent is obvious. But if you were caught simply on the property, the prosecutor needs more evidence. If you were carrying several empty bags, it could suggest you intended to steal something, but it doesn’t prove it. This is a powerful starting point for many burglary cases.
Other defenses include:
Insufficient evidence. Insufficient evidence may mean that police didn’t find enough evidence in the first place, or that some of it can’t be used in the case for legal reasons. In some cases this can include your own statements or “confession.” We know how to find irregularities in police work and get evidence suppressed from your case if it was not collected properly.
Wrong person. Just because you match the description of someone seen breaking in does not mean it was you. Alternately, if you have stolen goods on you but you bought them from someone, you may not have been involved at all.
Taking your own property. If you entered the place purely to take back your own property, you are not guilty of burglary.
These an other defenses can result in getting a charge downgraded to a misdemeanor, getting it reduced to something simple like trespassing, having your case dismissed or winning outright. But they need to be handed by someone who understands the law. Don’t face your charge alone—the sooner you have a lawyer, the better it is for your case.
Talk to a Los Angeles Burglary Lawyer for Free
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. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.