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Is Stealing Packages Off Porches the Same as Burglary?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jan 06, 2022

We get a lot of cases, especially during the holidays, where people are stealing packages off of people's porches.  The issue becomes where precisely the package is.

I had one case where it was stolen from a mail location inside particular college campus, and that was treated as a burglary.  That's just like a residential burglary.

It's a strike.  It's presumed that you go to prison if you get caught for something like that.

If you or a loved one is caught for being a porch pirate and stealing things off of people's porches, you want to get a criminal defense attorney right away.

Is Stealing Packages Off Porches the Same as Burglary?

Please don't talk to the police about it.  You're in big trouble, and you want to get a criminal defense attorney right away, so you don't get a residential burglary charge on your record and have a strike for the rest of your life, making it very difficult to get a job.

The prosecutors can file other alternative charges against you, especially during the holidays when people steal things.

The prosecutors and judges take this very personally because they are members of the community, and a lot of these judges and prosecutors either have had things stolen from them or know people or family members who have had items stolen during the holidays from their porch or otherwise — mailboxes and even inside their home.

Once you go inside the home and break that plain, that's residential burglary.  Whether or not it's going to be a residential burglary. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review below.

What is Burglary?

California Penal Code 459 PC defines the theft crime of burglary as entering a residential or commercial structure with the intent to commit petty theft, grand theft, or a felony offense.

Once you enter a structure with criminal intent, you have committed a PC 459 burglary even if you didn't complete the intended crime, such as taking property inside.

In California, the burglary laws are divided into “degrees,” such as:

  • first-degree is burglary of a residence, and
  • second-degree is the burglary of any other structure, like a business.

Penal Code 459 first-degree “residential” burglary is always a felony offense in California and is punishable by up to six years in state prison.

Second-degree “commercial” burglary is a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony.

Entry Into an Inhabited Dwelling

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

It does not mean the people who live there have to be home at the burglary time. The term “inhabited” means people use the structure as a dwelling place.

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

  • home,
  • room within a home,
  • apartments,
  • guest house,
  • hotel or motel room,
  • recreational vehicles.

Recall that Penal Code Section 459 PC is defined as entering a non-commercial structure which the intent to commit a crime therein and that you either stole or intended to steal $950 or more in the property.

In other words, in a first-degree burglary case, the structure has to be considered a “residence,” such as a home or apartment.

What are the Penalties?

If convicted of the felony offense of PC 459 first-degree burglary, you are facing the following penalties:

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

Judges will not usually grant probation only in a first-degree burglary conviction. A conviction will typically include some jail time followed by a period of supervised parole unless mitigating circumstances justify a lesser sentence.

What are the Related California Crimes?

Several statues are related to burglary, including the following:

  • Penal Code 459.5 PC – shoplifting,
  • Penal Code 466 PC – possession of burglary tools,
  • Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft,
  • Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft,
  • Penal Code 211 PC – robbery,
  • Penal Code 602 PC – trespassing.

Defending Burglary Charges

If you have been accused of violating California's PC 459 burglary laws, then the prosecutor has the burden to prove your guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

Whether or not it's going to be a residential burglary when you're stealing things from mailboxes and off people's porches is going to de6nd on the facts and circumstances — exactly where it was — whether or not that could be considered part of the home.

California Burglary Defense Lawyer

For example, let's say you stole it out of somebody's garage — that will likely be a residential burglary, and you'll be facing prison time and a strike on your record.

Common defenses against burglary charges include insufficient evidence, mistaken identity, misconduct by police, and a lack of criminal intent.

It might be possible to negotiate with the prosecutor for lesser charges or a case dismissal. Further, we might avoid the formal filing of charges through prefiling intervention.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with any theft crime, whether it be burglary, whether it be grand theft, you need to get an attorney right away.

I've been doing this for 30 years, defending people charged with these types of offenses in all of Los Angeles — the 38 courts in LA.

Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I will do everything I can to avoid a residential burglary on your record, try to avoid a felony as well — try to get it reduced down to a misdemeanor.

And, of course, we're going to look to see whether or not they have the evidence against you and try to defend the case in every possible aspect.

Pick up the phone now.  Make the call. Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case consultation.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.