Burglary is a serious crime with severe consequences. In California, burglary is governed by California Penal Code § 459. The crime of burglary involves entering a structure or locked vehicle with the intent to commit petty theft, grand theft, or any felony offense inside such structure or vehicle. It is crucial to note that the crime of burglary is complete once the person enters the structure or vehicle with criminal intent, regardless of whether any intended crime is committed.

California Penal Code § 459 PC states:

“every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel…with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.”

California charges burglary as either first-degree burglary or second-degree burglary. First-degree burglary involves burglary of a residence while second-degree involves the burglary of any other type of structure and applies to burglary of a commercial building that houses a store or other business. First-degree burglary is always charges=d as a felony and carries potential sentences of 2, 4, and 6 years. Second-degree burglary is a “wobbler” and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances.

California law considers a person to have entered a building if some part of the individual’s body, or some object or tool, penetrates the area inside the building’s outer boundary. For example, reaching in to push an open window further ajar would suffice as meeting the requirement for entering a building or structure. In the case of automobiles, the California burglary statute will only apply if there is evidence of forced entry into a locked, rather than unlocked, vehicle.

One legal defense to burglary is that the defendant did not have the intent to commit any crime once inside the building. However, if the defendant possessed tools typically used in a burglary, it will be easier for the prosecutor to establish the requisite intent to commit theft or a felony once inside the building or structure.

John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result in any criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.

Burglary Under California Law