According to a San Diego government site which mapped crimes in the city from 1950-2015, the crime of burglary reached an all-time high in 1978, and from that point on has steadily decreased. In 2015, there were 5,129 burglaries committed in the city of San Diego. If you or a loved one has been charged with burglary, call San Diego burglary attorney Vikas Bajaj today to find out how we can help. We offer a free consultation.
Overview of Burglary PC 459
Under California Penal Code 459, a person who enters any “house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel…railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container…inhabited camper or mine…with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.”
Under Penal Code 459, a person may be charged with burglary of a residence, which is first-degree burglary, or burglary of other structures, such as stores or businesses, which is second-degree burglary. Burglary, in the state of California, is not the same as the crime of shoplifting, which is charged under Penal Code 459.5, and occurs when a person with no serious prior crimes on his or her record, enters a business intending to steal merchandise in the amount of $950 or less.
Intent Must Be Present for a Burglary Conviction
To be clear, a person does not actually have to take something to be charged with burglary, rather must only enter a building (or aircraft or vessel) with the intent to steal, or commit another felony. In the same vein, a person doesn’t have to break a window or pick a lock to gain access to a residence to be charged with burglary, he or she only has to “enter,” even if that means walking through an unlocked door. Therefore, the prosecutor in your burglary case must show you entered the building with the intent to take something which did not belong to you, or to commit another felony.
Because intent is such an important element of the crime of burglary, if you are found in possession of certain tools which could be considered burglary tools (screwdriver, pliers, crowbar, or lock picks) you could face burglary charges. Obviously, these tools can be and are used commonly for other purposes than burglary, therefore the prosecutor must prove your possession of the tools equals intent to commit the crime of burglary.
Burglary Charges and Penalties in San Diego
In San Diego, (and in the state of California), first degree burglary is always charged as a felony crime. A conviction for first degree burglary counts as one strike for the purposes of California’s Three Strikes sentencing law. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, second-degree burglary may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If you have a prior criminal record or are currently on probation, it is much more likely your second-degree burglary crime will be charged as a felony, however second-degree burglary charges do not count under the Three Strikes law.
The penalties, should you be convicted of first or second degree burglary, are harsh. If you are convicted of first-degree burglary in the state of California, you could face from 2-6 years in a California state prison. If your second-degree burglary crime is charged as a felony, you could be sentenced to 16 months to three years in county jail. If your second-degree burglary crime is charged as a misdemeanor, you could serve up to one year in county jail.
Defenses to the Crime of Burglary
Of course, the actual defense your attorney uses on your behalf will depend on the circumstances surrounding your charges of the alleged crime of burglary, however one or more of the following may be applicable:
- There was no intent to commit a crime, i.e. you were entering the building for a purpose other than to take something which did not belong to you or to commit another felony offense;
- You did not unlawfully enter the premises because you had permission from the owner to enter;
- The place you entered is not actually considered a “building or structure,” under California Penal Code 459;
- You were intoxicated at the time of the alleged crime to the extent you were prevented from forming intent to commit burglary;
- You are actually innocent of the crime of burglary (mistaken identity, you have a solid alibi, etc.);
- You were forced or coerced to commit the act of burglary under the threat of harm, physical injury or death;
- The police failed to properly Mirandize you following your arrest, or
- There was no probable cause for a search of your property for evidence.
In many cases, your attorney may be able to have your burglary charges lessened, or even dropped entirely, if one of the above defenses applies to your charges. It is important to know that under California law, the statute of limitations allows three years to bring a felony burglary case or one year to bring a misdemeanor burglary case.
Why You Need an Experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
Whatever you do, don’t think your burglary charges are not all that serious, therefore don’t require the services of a criminal defense attorney. Burglary charges are very serious, and only a knowledgeable attorney knows how to apply California laws pertaining to your alleged crime and can build a strong defense on your behalf. Having a dedicated attorney in your corner who will zealously fight for your rights and your future can make the difference in the outcome of your charges. Contact Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC today for a free consultation.