Auto Burglary

Auto Burglary Law in California

Auto burglary charges in California are very serious.  Most people assume that being arrested for burglarizing a car is a fairly simple misdemeanor matter that can be handled without an attorney. This could not be further from the truth.  California auto burglary laws are complex and a charge can result in a felony conviction, a county jail or state prison sentence, a large fine, and a permanent criminal record.  If you have been arrested or charged with auto burglary, you should contact Damian Siwek, an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, at DCS Defense to schedule a no-cost confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

According to California Penal Code Section §459, a person who enters any locked automobile or other motor vehicle or enters the locked trunk portion of the vehicle (doors locked or unlocked) with the specific intent to commit a theft, or any felony, is guilty of auto burglary.

In other words, if a car is unlocked and someone takes the purse sitting on the front seat, it is not auto burglary.  You would likely be charged with a theft offense.

If you opened the unlocked car door hoping to steal something, but there was nothing to steal, you could be charged with criminal trespass or attempted theft; but not auto burglary.

There must be evidence that the defendant entered the automobile by unlocking the doors or trunk, prying open the hood, or breaking the windows in order to be convicted of auto burglary.

If you break into a car with the intent to steal whatever you find inside, but there is nothing to steal, the offense can still be charged as auto burglary.  It doesn’t matter that you left empty-handed; it is the intent at the time of breaking and entering that is important.  These distinctions are important because the penalties for auto burglary are often more severe than the penalties for theft or criminal trespass.  It is important to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the nuances of the various California burglary, theft and criminal trespass laws and who can take advantage of every opportunity to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.

Penalties and Punishment

According to California law, auto burglary is second degree burglary.  Second-degree burglary is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.  In deciding whether to file an auto burglary case as either a misdemeanor or felony, prosecutors usually consider the offender’s criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense.  If you are convicted of committing a misdemeanor auto burglary, the maximum sentence is a year in county jail, plus three years of informal probation, fines and restitution.  If the auto burglary is filed as a felony, sentencing ranges from probation and county jail time to a maximum of three (3) years in state prison.  In most California criminal courts, a felony auto burglary is charged when the defendant has a prior auto burglary conviction even if the prior auto burglary was a misdemeanor.

Auto Burglary Related Crimes

There are additional auto burglary related crimes that can be charged in California including:

  • Tampering with a Vehicle (Vehicle Code Section §10852) – This is a misdemeanor in California and involves injury or removal of car parts.
  • Theft or Driving a Stolen Car “Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle” (Vehicle Code Section §10851) – This is a “wobbler” meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances.
  • Grand Theft Auto (Penal Code Section §487) – This is also a “wobbler” in California and involves the theft of a vehicle.
  • Joyriding (Penal Code Section §499b) – This is a misdemeanor and it involves the taking of a vehicle without permission of the owner for the purpose of temporary use or operations.

Los Angeles Auto Burglary Lawyer

Being charged with auto burglary is a serious matter that requires consultation and assistance from an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer.  Call Damian Siwek at DCS Defense to arrange a confidential consultation and learn about your rights, defenses, and any and all legal options.

For aggressive and effective representation against auto burglary charges, including a free confidential consultation, contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Damian Siwek at DCS Defense.