Burglary in California

Burglary in California

Burglary is addressed in California’s, Penal Code 459 PC. The law clearly states, “Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or mine or any underground portion thereof, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary. As used in this chapter, “inhabited” means currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not. A house, trailer, vessel designed for habitation, or portion of a building is currently being used for dwelling purposes if, at the time of the burglary, it was not occupied solely because a natural or other disaster caused the occupants to leave the premises.”

While that tells you what California lawmakers think burglary is, it doesn’t list the consequences of what will happen if you’re convicted of burglary.

In California, the consequences of a burglary conviction depend on what you broke into. For example, if you are caught in a car that isn’t yours, but you haven’t actually taken it anywhere, you’ll be charged with auto burglary, which has a 3-years in jail maximum sentence. On the other hand, if the police catch you in someone’s house, you’ll face a potential 6-year jail sentence.

Just like with murder, burglary is broken into a first- and second-degree offense.

You’ll be charged with first-degree burglary if you broke into someone’s residence. In California, first-degree burglary is always a felony. If convicted you will go to a state prison. 

If you broke into a different type of building, such as a store or a tool shed, you’ll be charged with second-degree burglary. Second-degree burglary is one of California’s wobbler laws. Your history and what you intended to do once you entered the building determine if the court pursues misdemeanor or felony charges.

If you’re convicted of second-degree misdemeanor burglary, you could be sentenced to a single year in county jail. If you’re convicted of second-degree felony burglary, you could be sentenced to as much as three years in a state prison. 

It’s important to understand that the only thing the prosecutor has to prove in a burglary case is that you intended to enter the building without permission. That means you can be charged and convicted of burglary even if you never get into the building.

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