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Burglary Law in California – Penal Code 459 PC

California Penal Code 459 PC describes burglary as entering a residential structure, commercial structure, or a locked vehicle with intent to commit petty theft, grand theft, or a felony crime.

Once someone enters a structure with criminal intent, they have committed a PC 459 burglary even if they do not complete the intended crime, such as stealing property inside.

Burglary Law in California – Penal Code 459 PC

In California, burglary is divided into first-degree, a residential burglary, and second-degree, a burglary of any other structure, such as a business.

PC 459 says, “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.  Inhabited means currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not.”

First-degree “residential” burglary is always a felony in California and is punishable by up to six years in state prison. Second-degree “commercial” burglary is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Penal Code 459.5 defines the crime of shoplifting, which occurs when somebody enters an open business intending to steal merchandise valued at $950 or less. Let's review this state law in more detail below.

What Does the Law Say?

Under California Criminal Jury Instructions 1700, a Penal Code 459 PC burglary charge requires a prosecutor to prove all the elements of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following:

  • You entered a building, room, locked vehicle, or structure;
  • When entering, you intended to commit either a felony or a theft;
  • The value of the property you intended to steal was over $950; or
  • The structure you entered was not a commercial business; or
  • The structure was a commercial business, but you entered outside regular business hours.

What is PC 459 First-Degree Burglary?

First-degree burglary typically involves entering an inhabited dwelling designed for habitation, but it does mean people were at home when the crime occurred.  Further, the defendant either stole or intended to steal property at $950 or more.

Penal Code 459 PC First-Degree Burglary

Inhabited means that people use the structure as a dwelling place. A “residence” under the law includes the following:

  • home,
  • room in a home,
  • guest home,
  • apartment,
  • hotel or motel room,
  • recreational vehicle.

If convicted of the felony crime of PC 459 first-degree burglary, it carries the following penalties:

  • two, four, or six years in state prison,
  • a fine of up to $10,000,
  • formal probation,
  • a “strike” under California's three strikes law.

A judge will not usually grant probation only for a first-degree burglary conviction.

What is a PC 459 Second-Degree Burglary?

Second-degree includes all other types of burglaries outside any structure considered residential.

Penal Code 459 PC Second-Degree Burglary

This involves typically commercial burglary of a store, business, or other types of structure that is closed during regular business hours. Penal Code 459.5 shoplifting charges could be filed if the company was open during regular hours.

PC 459 Second-degree burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony (wobbler).  A misdemeanor carries the following penalties:

  • up to one year in county jail,
  • a fine of up to $1,000,
  • summary probation.

A felony second-degree commercial burglary carries the following penalties:

  • 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison,
  • a fine of up to $10,000,
  • formal felony probation.

What is a Home Invasion Burglary?

A home invasion burglary is the most serious due to the potential for injuries to a victim inside the home.

It's defined as “A person who breaks a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, a larceny, or assault in the dwelling with other occupier's present is guilty of home invasion.”

If at any time someone is entering the dwelling armed with a dangerous weapon or another person is present, they can be charged with first-degree home invasion.

The penalties for home invasion include up to 20 years in a state prison. If convicted of a home invasion in the second degree, the penalties include up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

What Are the Related Crimes for PC 459?

Several California laws are related to Penal Code 459 PC burglary, including the following:

What Are the Defenses for PC 459?

If charged with PC 459 burglary, a California criminal defense can use several strategies for the best possible outcome, including the following:

  • lack of intent,
  • mistaken identity,
  • mistaken intent,
  • false accusation,
  • police misconduct.

Perhaps we can argue that you did not intend to commit a theft or felony once inside the structure, as the timing of intent is critical. On the other hand, maybe we can say that there is insufficient evidence, mistaken identity, or misconduct by police.

Defenses for Penal Code 459 PC Burglary
I wrote the book on criminal defense.

Perhaps we can advocate successfully for an alternative to prosecution, early disposition court, or pretrial diversion.

Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for lesser charges or even get the case dismissed. Maybe we can avoid the formal filing of charges through prefiling intervention (DA reject).

These are very serious, especially if it's a residential burglary.  It is considered a strike, and you'll be facing prison time.  If there's a person present, it's not only considered a strike; it's regarded as a violent felony, and any prison time you get, you'll have to serve at 85%.

So, burglary is a serious charge, and you want to ensure you get a serious defense attorney with much experience. We will review all the discoveries, any videos, and other evidence.  Sometimes they have eyewitnesses or use the person's phone to ping their location during a particular burglary.

We will have to decide whether we will fight the charges or submit a mitigation package to the prosecutor and try to work out some resolution, preferably one not involving a burglary charge.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with burglary, you need the best criminal defense attorney who has handled many cases and gone down the road you're about to travel; pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

You can contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.

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