Burglary Defense in Los Angeles

Under California law (Penal Code Section §459) burglary is, “the act of entering into a building with the intention of stealing property or committing another felony,” and is usually, itself, charged as a felony.  A burglary charge is incredibly serious and can result in a prison sentence, a “Strike,” and a permanent criminal record.  If you have been arrested or charged with 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.

Burglary Laws in California

a.)  First Degree Burglary

First Degree Burglary is often referred to as residential burglary.  First Degree Burglary includes a home, attached garage, boat, floating home, trailer, railroad car, aircraft, warehouse or the inhabited portion of a building.  The theft or other felony does not have to be actually committed; only the entry with intent to commit the theft or the felony must be proven.  First Degree Burglary is considered a serious felony and a “Strike” in California.

  • First Degree Burglary is punishable by 2, 4 or 6 years in a state prison except in very unusual cases where probation and county jail are ordered. First Degree burglary is also a “Strike” under California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” Law. What this means is that if you commit any other felony (including some minor drug offenses and felony petty theft) in the future, your sentence on the new case is doubled.

b.)  Second Degree Burglary

All other burglaries of cars and businesses are classified as Second Degree Burglary.  These auto or commercial burglaries of a store or car are charged as misdemeanors, but can also be charged as a felony.  Second Degree Burglary is often charged in connection with shoplifting charges. Second Degree commercial burglary can be charged if a shoplifter is caught stealing and has scissors or some cutting tool used to remove price tags on their person.

  • Second Degree Burglary is punishable in county jail or state prison depending on how it is filed. Second Degree Burglary is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  If it is a misdemeanor, then the maximum sentence is a year in county jail.  If filed as a felony then the maximum sentence is 3 years in state prison.  However, Second Degree Burglary is not a “Strike” under California law.

Defending Burglary Charges

The key to a burglary charge is the intent of the person entering the residence or other occupied structure.  If the person intends to steal or commit a felony when entering, then burglary has occurred.  The prosecutor does not have to prove that the theft or felony actually occurred; only that it was intended at entry.  Proving intent may be tricky especially if the theft or felony was not committed.  If the requisite intent cannot be proved, then a criminal defense attorney has a chance of defeating the charges.

Another common defense to burglary is that the accused had a legitimate reason for being on the premises in the past.  If fingerprints were lifted at the crime scene then the prints could be explained by a previous visit to the location.

The defense of mistaken identity could be raised in certain cases.  Having a strong and believable alibi would be critical in this situation.  Any home or store surveillance videos could help validate the defendant’s alibi.

Los Angeles Burglary Defense Attorney

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