Burglary used to be a narrow crime in California, only applying to very specific behaviors. Over time, however, California has expanded its definition to capture a broader scope of criminal activity. In this expansion, California has introduced laws to criminalize home invasion – a crime that is distinct from, but related to, burglary. Home invasion is a type of burglary. It differs from traditional burglary because the act requires the premises invaded to be inhabited.
If you have been arrested and/or charged with home invasion in California you should immediately exercise two of your Constitutional rights. First, you should remain silent and refuse to answer any questions posed by law enforcement. Second, you should explicitly tell law enforcement that you would like to contact an experienced San Diego home invasion attorney. Home invasion charges are serious and should be handled by an experienced legal professional. The attorneys at the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC have decades of experience of successfully defending clients against home invasion charges. To learn about how we may be able to help you – or someone you know – contact our offices today for a free consultation.
Understanding Home Invasion Laws
In California, a burglary is committed when a person enters a vehicle or building with the intent to commit a crime. A home invasion – sometimes referred to as residential burglary – is essentially a burglary of a home that is inhabited. Home invasions are charged as First Degree Burglary in California, under Penal Code 460. California takes charges of home invasion very seriously and applies a greater penalty to those convicted of the crime.
To be convicted on the charge of First Degree Burglary (home invasion) in California, the prosecution must prove:
- You entered a home or dwelling that was inhabited; and
- You entered with the specific intent to commit a theft or other crime.
When is a Home Inhabited?
California law defines “inhabited” as meaning a building that is “currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not.” An inhabited dwelling need not be a primary residence, and can be a vacation home, RV, houseboat, or other premises used for dwelling purposes.
In some cases, a person may enter another’s home after a natural disaster – such as an earthquake or flood – causes a homeowner or tenant to vacate the premises. A home is not considered inhabited under California’s First Degree Burglary laws if a natural disaster causes the occupant(s) to vacate.
When is there Intent to Commit a Crime?
The second requirement of a home invasion is for the defendant to have the specific intent to commit a crime once inside the premises. How can the prosecution prove that you had such an intent? Generally, the prosecution will point to the facts and circumstances surrounding the home invasion to prove that there was intent to commit a crime. This may include carrying a weapon, partially loading a bag or vehicle with items from the home, or tampering with an alarm system.
It is important to note that you do not actually have to commit the crime to be convicted of a home invasion in California. Rather, a person is guilty of a home invasion when they merely have the intent to commit a crime upon entry into the dwelling.
Crimes Related to Home Invasion
If the prosecution cannot prove their case – perhaps they lack evidence to prove that you had the intent to commit a crime once inside the dwelling – they may still be able to charge you with and convict you of a related crime. Trespassing and unauthorized entry are the commonly charged crimes related to home invasion.
Trespassing. A trespass is committed when you (1) purposefully enter the property of another with the intent to trespass; (2) enter property of another with the intent to interfere with a business or the occupant’s well-being; (3) refuse to leave the property upon request; and/or (4) enter property with the intent to do physical damage.
Unauthorized Entry. Unauthorized entry is basically the crime of home invasion minus the intent to commit a subsequent crime. Unauthorized entry occurs when you enter or remain in a residence without the permission of the owner or occupant. The crime of unauthorized entry is aggravated if the owner or occupant is present at the time of the entry.
What are the Penalties for Home Invasion?
Home invasion – or First Degree Burglary – is a serious crime in California. If convicted of this felony, a person may face between 2-6 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. In determining an appropriate sentence, a judge will take certain factors into consideration, such as (1) your prior criminal record, (2) prior home invasion convictions, (3) the seriousness of the crime you intended to commit, and (4) whether the occupants were home at the time of the invasion.
If the prosecution is unable to carry their burden of proof for charges of home invasion you may still face serious consequences if convicted of trespassing or unauthorized entry. Unauthorized entry and trespass are generally misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. However, if a trespass is particularly dangerous or violent it may be charged as aggravated trespass. Aggravated trespass can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by 16 months to 3 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Defenses to Home Invasion Charges
Not all accusations of and charges for home invasion in California are legitimate. An experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney will review the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest and alleged criminal behavior to determine which defenses may be applicable. Some defenses to home invasion charges in California include:
- Defendant lacked the intent to commit a crime inside the dwelling;
- Defendant was mistakenly identified as the intruder; and
- Defendant was lawfully present on the property.
How Can a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me?
California imposes serious consequences on those convicted on charges of home invasion. If convicted, you could face serious time behind bars. An experienced San Diego home invasion criminal defense attorney will build a case highlighting why you are not guilty of the charges, negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, and/or to reduce your sentence if you are convicted.
An investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest and alleged conduct is crucial to building a solid defense. At the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, our attorneys understand how to review and analyze relevant information to uncover details that can make or break your defense. We leave no stone unturned when investigating and building your case.
Even the smallest detail could be the difference between a slam-dunk for the prosecution and a non-starter. Our attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that you are afforded the best criminal defense representation in San Diego. We use our past experiences and legal expertise to craft custom defenses that highlight (1) facts that are favorable to your defense, and (2) facts that poke holes in the prosecution’s case against you.
Experienced San Diego Home Invasion Attorney
If you have been arrested and/or charged with a home invasion in San Diego, contact our experienced home invasion criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. Law enforcement and the prosecution will begin to construct a case against you immediately – the quicker you let us get to work crafting your defense, the stronger and more persuasive it can be. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn about how we may be able to help you defend against California home invasion charges.