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Committing a Burglary When People Are Home

What Happens If You Commit a Penal Code 459 PC Burglary While Someone Was Home?

California Penal Code 459 PC defines the crime of first-degree burglary as the act of entering a residential structure with intent to commit grand or petty theft, or any other felony offense.

The key term in any burglary prosecution is the word “intent.” A crime of first-degree burglary is actually completed the very moment you enter a residence with criminal intent. It doesn't matter if you actually stole anything from inside.

Put simply, the crime of burglary is completed the instant someone enters a structure with criminal intent, even if nothing is taken.

California's PC 459 burglary laws are divided into a first-degree or second-degree burglary, which cover burglary of all non-residential structures, such a business.

The article will focus on a first-degree burglary when people are actually inside the home when you are burglarizing it.

Penal Code 459 PC says:

  • “Any person who enters a house, apartment, shop, warehouse, store, tent… or other building with the intent to commit grand or petty larceny, or other felony crimes, is guilty of the crime of burglary.”

A Penal Code 459 first-degree burglary is always a felony crime punishable by up to six years in a state prison.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

PC 459 Home Invasion Burglary

First-degree is a residential burglary involving the entry into an inhabited dwelling that is designed for habitation.

Penal Code 459 PC Home Invasion Burglary

If you break into and enter a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, a theft, or assault inside the home with occupant's present is guilty of home invasion, which is also considered a residential burglary under Penal Code 459 PC.

If you enter or exit a home while armed with a dangerous weapon, or someone is present at the time, then you will normally be charged with first-degree home invasion.

If you break into and enter a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, larceny, or assault, but don't actually commit these crimes once inside, then you will normally be charged with a second-degree home invasion.

If you have intent to commit a misdemeanor and enter without permission, then it's a third-degree home invasion.

What is Considered a Residence?

A “residence” under the context of Penal Code 459 burglary includes a:

  • home,
  • apartment,
  • guest house,
  • boat,
  • hotel room,
  • recreational vehicles.

Recall that PC 459 burglary is entering a non-commercial structure with the intent to commit a crime therein, or a felony offense.

Put simply, a first-degree burglary requires illegal entry into “residence,” such as the traditional homes.

What Are the Penalties for First-Degree Burglary?

If convicted a PC 459 first-degree burglary, then you are guilty of a felony crime punishable by the following:

  • up to six years in a California state prison,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000,
  • formal probation,
  • a “strike” under the three strikes law.

Most judges will not grant a defendant probation only in a first-degree burglary conviction.

What are Consequences if you Break into Someone's Home to Burglarize it and They're Present at the Time?

These burglary cases in California with the person present are much more serious than a burglary case when the person is not present.

Obviously, the logic behind this is there is much more likelihood of some sort of confrontation and violence that can occur if you break into someone's house to commit a burglary and they're actually home at the time.

They may arm themselves.  You may be armed.  There may be some sort of a physical confrontation and that's how people get injured and that's how people get killed.  So, burglary when a person is present is:

  • a violent felony,
  • it's a strike and
  • defendant is typically looking at prison time.

Someone's Home is Their Castle

When you start to look at the policy behind why this is more serious and why the consequences are likely prison with a lengthy sentence, and a strike and a violent felony serving 85%, you really have to assess from a prosecutor and judge standpoint, and even society's standpoint, is that someone's home is their castle.

That's they're sanctuary. That's where they live. That's where they go to get away from everybody, and if someone is going to disturb that sanctuary, break in, try and take their property and potentially injure them or kill them, that's why the judges and prosecutors are so harsh on these crimes.

You also have to realize that they're putting themselves in the shoes of the victims.  They're realizing they've got a home that somebody could break into and somebody could hurt one of their family members or them.

So, when judges and prosecutors start to put themselves in the shoes of some of these victims, I find that they're much harsher and conservative in their approach to a sentence under those circumstances.

How Can I Fight the Burglary Charges and Avoid a Long Prison Sentence?

So, really, what we have to do is try to take it out of the gamut where they're looking at putting you in prison for a long time.

Where they're looking at you as a serious danger to the health and welfare of society if they give you a probationary sentence — if they give you a break in your burglary case. The way we do that is through:

Criminal Defense for California Burglary Cases
  • looking at your criminal record to see if you have any prior burglaries;
  • looking at whether there was, in fact, any type of confrontation;
  • looking at the circumstances surrounding the burglary allegation.

That's where your criminal defense attorney is crucial in getting facts that are helpful to you into the prosecutor's hands.

A lot of times, when the police investigate these burglary charges where a person is present, under Penal Code Section 459, they're only looking at it from the victim's and prosecutor's standpoint.

They are trying to get the person who is the target of their investigation verses getting all of the facts and details here and see what really happened, so that when the prosecutor gets this case and evaluates it, they've got everything.

They don't do that.  So, it's up to your criminal defense attorney to get your side of the story out to the prosecutors, to the judge, to a jury — whatever make sense in your particular circumstance.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with burglary with a person present, facing prison, facing a strike, facing 85% of the time that you actually get, pick up the phone now.

Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I've been doing this almost three decades from the criminal defense standpoint getting results for people just like you.

Hedding Law Firm has two office locations in Los Angeles County. Contact our office for a free case consultation at (213) 542-0979.