Burglary is categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type and severity of the burglary. Burglary is broken into two categories:
- First-degree burglary. This type of burglary is most commonly related to entering a residence for the purpose of committing a crime. The residence may be occupied or unoccupied under this type of charge. Additionally, a residence is considered any habitable dwelling, which means it can include homes, apartments, hotels, trailers, and even some types of boats. This type of burglary is a first-degree felony.
- Second-degree burglary. This involves entering non-residential properties for the purpose of committing a crime. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, it could fall into the category of either a misdemeanor or a felony, making these types of cases raise more questions for the accused.
There are other types of charges that could also be applied to a burglary charge depending on the nature of the crime. A few examples include:
- Possession of burglary tools. If there was an intention to burglarize a property, vehicle, or structure, and a tool such as a crowbar, screwdriver, or even an altered key was used in the commission of the crime, this could also be added to the charges.
- Forgery. This could apply if the structure entered was for the purpose of burglary through documentation on which there was a forgery.
- Robbery. While most burglaries may seem like robbery, the key difference is if there was intimidation, fear, or force used with the intent and entrance into the vehicle or structure to take property.
- Trespass. In this situation, it must be determined if there was permission or an assumption of permission to be on the property where the crime took place. For example, burglarizing a store in the mall would not be considered trespassing unless the store had previously filed a legal restraint for a person not to enter the property.
- Looting. If there is a state of emergency, local emergency, or evacuation order in place and burglary is committed, it is considered to be similar to second-degree burglary and would fall into either a misdemeanor or a felony.
How Burglary Cases Are Proven
Once a person receives a burglary charge, the state must prove the following elements according to Penal Code 459:
- The defendant entered a building, room within a building, locked vehicle, or structure;
- At the time of entering the building, room, vehicle, or structure, the defendant intended to commit either a felony or theft; and
- One or more of the following three things are true:
- The value of the property stolen, or intended to be stolen, was more than $950.
- The structure that the defendant entered was not a commercial establishment.
- The structure that the defendant entered was a commercial structure, but the defendant entered outside of business hours.
Because a prosecutor must prove these to be true, we focus on the intent. By California law, you must have entered a structure, building, or vehicle with the intention to commit the crime. Our team will go through the timeline of events to pinpoint the moment of wrongdoing. By law, if you did not enter the building, vehicle, or structure with intent, then you did not commit the crime of burglary.
It is also important to work with your Riverside criminal attorney to understand if the charges are misfiled as burglary, shoplifting, or breaking and entering. To be classified as burglary, the monetary amount of the alleged property taken must be over $950. If it wasn’t, then it classifies as shoplifting. If a prosecutor wishes to add breaking and entering, they must be able to prove that a person physically broke into a locked vehicle or structure. It is also important to note that to be accused of vehicle burglary, the vehicle must be locked.
If the wrong charges are filed against you, an expert defense attorney can work toward acquittal, as well as dismissal or reduced charges.
The Penalties for Burglary
Given the “three strikes” law in California, it is essential to understand the potential penalties a person could face from a burglary charge.
First-degree burglary charges are always considered a felony, which means it would count against a defendant who is found guilty under the three strikes policy. This can be upgraded to “violent felony” if someone occupies the home or structure that you entered. In addition, penalties could result in felony probation, up to six years in prison, and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
Second-degree burglary charges carry a lighter sentence, and determining if it is a misdemeanor or a felony is up to the prosecutor. If it is charged as a felony, it could result in felony probation, a maximum of three years in county jail, and a possible fine of up to $10,000. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, penalties could result in misdemeanor probation, up to one year in jail, and a possible fine of up to $1,000.
In California, if you have prior convictions and your sentence requires time in state prison, the court may add up to one year of additional prison time to your penalty if it is deemed a felony. The exception to this is if the previous felonies are from more than ten years ago.
Unfortunately, whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge, the long-term impacts of any conviction on potential job or housing opportunities could carry on for years and even decades. If a person is in the United States temporarily or illegally, it could also mean deportation after serving any jail or prison time.
While there are many criminal charges that cannot be expunged, burglary does have the possibility to be expunged from a person’s record.
Because of the potential impact of these penalties, it is important to work with attorneys who are experts on criminal defense, who know what is at risk, and who want to get it right for you.
Fighting a Theft Charge in Riverside
In any criminal charge, it is the responsibility of the state to prove that the person who is charged is the perpetrator of the crime. Criminal defense attorneys know the assumptions that are made about a person when they are arrested and work toward acquittal to fight those assumptions. Some of the more common defenses for burglary charges include:
- Innocence. This is the preferred method of fighting any criminal case. If the criminal defense attorney proves that a client was not involved in the crime, then that is the easiest, most direct way to beat any criminal case.
- Mistaken identity. There are cases where witnesses or cameras do not have a clear picture of the perpetrator due to insufficient lighting, the person wearing a mask, or the person obscuring their face in a different way. Additionally, witness testimony is not always accurate.
- Improper questioning. This could include a failure from an officer in delivering Miranda rights or other areas of the questioning process that were not handled correctly. It is important to invoke your right to have an attorney present during questioning to help ensure all steps of the process are handled correctly.
- Illegal search and seizure. If any property that is considered stolen is found in a person’s possession, such as in their home, but there was no reasonable suspicion or a warrant in which to search the location, then this could qualify as an illegal search.
- Insufficient evidence. There may only be circumstantial evidence that the prosecutor is using to prove guilt without having anything concrete to support the claim. In some situations, a prosecutor may be hoping to gain a confession by scaring the defendant with potential charges.
- Lack of intent. As previously explained, a conviction of burglary must show an intent to commit a crime. If a person entered a building without the intent of robbing it and only developed that intent later, then they cannot be found guilty of burglary because the intent was not established prior to entering the building. Intent is one of the most argued points in any burglary case. Often, there is little evidence to prove what a person’s intent was, so many defenses will look to use this as the foundation.
- Intoxication. In some cases, proving that you were intoxicated or that your judgment was impaired could provide legal grounds to build a defense. This would speak to the lack of intent.
- Claim of right. There may be some situations where a person has been accused of taking the property of someone else, but that person is actually the owner of the property that was taken. In this type of defense, there must be legal proof of ownership. The law must reasonably see that property was taken back by the owner.
- Statute of limitations. In California, the general rule is that burglaries have a limit of three years. There are exceptions to this, such as additional charges, which is why it is important to make sure you have legal representation and to speak with a defense attorney. Then, they have knowledge of the situation and can offer advice, and they can be ready for any legal action that may arise.
No matter what defense is used, the prosecutor has the obligation of proving the crime was committed by you beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense that is used is intended to put the possibility that the crime was not committed by the person or in the manner that was laid out by the prosecution in the mind of the court. The addition of various charges could change the way the defense is approached and should be taken into consideration. An expert Riverside criminal attorney can help choose the best defense for your case to help bring doubt into the argument.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Accused of Burglary?
Because of the implications of such a crime, it is important that if you are arrested for burglary, you should follow a few steps:
- Do not talk to the police. You can ask them what your charges are and provide them with valid identification, but it is advisable to invoke your right to remain silent. Remember that in the Miranda rights, which must be read to you, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. What you say could end up hurting your defense. You can decline in a courteous way but remain firm that you wish not to make any statements.
- The next thing to do is to speak to an attorney, such as the experts at My SoCal Lawyers. It is important to remember that police and prosecutors are professionals at what they do and likely have a greater knowledge of the law. That’s why it is important that you bring in an expert of your own before providing any information. If they are arresting you, it is in their best interest for you to be found guilty, so they may manipulate you into answering questions a certain way. Hiring a burglary lawyer can help your case from the onset.
How Much Will a Defense Cost Me?
The general cost of a criminal defense attorney in California will be between $250 and $500 per hour. However, the fees paid to an attorney could be much less than any fines imposed for a guilty verdict that you may receive without one. While accepting a public defender may seem the better choice because of cost, a proven defense attorney is often worth the money spent. Unfortunately, while everyone deserves the right to a defense, public defenders are overloaded on cases and cannot provide all the time, energy, and experience that your case may need.
At My SoCal Lawyers, we bring over 70 years of experience to the table. Our experts have a proven track record with our clients and will fight for your rights from day one.
Honesty in Criminal Defense
You may be hesitant to speak with a criminal defense lawyer, particularly if you are guilty of a crime. However, it is important when facing any criminal charge to be honest with an attorney so that they understand the whole case. This allows them to know what evidence is out there and what kind of case they may be able to build for the defendant. Even admitting guilt does not mean a lawyer cannot build a case to help.
Being honest with your attorney also means they can help in questioning, so there is an avoidance of perjury. Because of client/attorney privilege, there is a level of confidence that can be built between an attorney and their client. Other than a few exceptions, attorneys cannot publicly share any information that is disclosed between them and their clients.
Therefore, to create reasonable doubt, a lawyer needs to know both sides. Because court filings will give an outline of why the state is pressing charges, the knowledge from the defendant can provide key details that can help.
When speaking to a Riverside criminal defense attorney, such as My SoCal Lawyers, their job is to help the client. They are not there to pass judgment on any action or inaction. They are there to help make sure you receive the best defense. In any criminal case, you have rights, and it is important that they are protected.
Get The Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney You Deserve
Criminal charges can be nerve-wracking, but with the right defense in your corner, then it can simply be a bump in the road. When you hire the experienced Riverside attorneys at My SoCal Lawyers, you hire a team with over 70 years of experience in criminal defense. Criminal charges don’t have to be life-changing; our team is here to assist at every step of the way. We can ensure your rights are preserved and that you receive the best defense possible. If you are facing burglary or any criminal charges in Riverside, contact our office today and let us help.