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What is the Law on Burglary in California, and what are the Punishments for it?

In California, there is a clear-cut law on a burglary that defines this offense as entering a locked vehicle, structure, or a room with the motive of committing petty theft or a felony therein. 

Based on the structure type involved, burglary in the state of California can be either charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As just auto burglary in the state needs the break-in to happen actually, the actor can be charged with an act of burglary even when he/she did not enter a structure or a room forcibly. 

Definition of a residential burglary in California

According to the penal code 459 of California, residential burglary is typically regarded as a felony. Such form of burglary usually takes place in a structure, which is occupied by the victim instead of a commercial establishment.

California has the three-strikes law wherein being convicted with residential burglary leads to a strike. If the defendant has a strike on his/her record, it can eventually lead to serious consequences on future felony convictions like the jail sentence getting doubled.

California Burglary Laws

Definition of commercial burglary in California

A person or person(s) can be charged for commercial burglary under the Penal Code 459 PC of California and can be considered as a felony or misdemeanor. It occurs if the defendant enters a business establishment or store having the intention of committing a criminal offense inside. 

In order to establish that the accused has committed burglary, the prosecution side needs to establish these elements or facts:
Did the defendant enter a specific building, a particular room of that building or broke open a locked vehicle?
While entering, the defendant had the intention of committing a feeling or a theft therein.

Ways of fighting burglary charges in California

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can use these common defenses to protect their clients from being convicted of a burglary charge in California:

Inadequate evidence

When the prosecutor could not produce sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant actually committed the burglary. As such, the defendant cannot be declared guilty of the crime. 

Burglary Laws California

Mistaken identity

It is easy to succumb to the prey of mistaken identity especially where the face of the perpetrator could not be seen properly due to insufficient light or when they wore wearing masks to cover their faces.

A defense counsel will make attempts to convince the judges that the defendant was not the perpetrator, particularly when the incident occurred at an inadequately lit site or if the identity of the perpetrator was purposefully concealed. 

Reclaiming/ownership of what is owned by the actor rightfully

When the only reason why an individual entered a residential or commercial structure is that they wished to reclaim those items that belong to them originally, he/she cannot be charged with burglary as the intention of the defendant was to take back what was actually owned by them simply.

Lack of intent/purpose

In case the defendant did not have the intention to steal while he/she entered the building, there can be no charges of burglary against them as the act requires that the individual should have such intent while entering the structure.

Burglary Laws

Penalties for burglary in California
In case a person is found guilty of burglary in the state of California, he/she can face the penalties mentioned below:

1st-degree burglary in California

In case a person has committed an act of residential burglary in an apartment or a house, they can face felony charges in the state and it is regarded as a felony of a 1st-degree. They may have to pay a maximum fine of 10,000, a strike on their record and jail time of two, four, or six years. 

2nd-degree burglary in California

In case a person commits a commercial burglary, which is in an official or business structure, they may either face misdemeanor or felony charges. 

The prosecutor will look at the prevailing circumstances and the criminal record of the actor to ascertain whether it should be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. In case it is a felony, the convicted may have to serve jail time of 3 years, 2 years, or 16 months. If filed as a misdemeanor, the convicted has to serve a county jail term of 1 year.

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