Why Are Burglary Charges Treated So Harshly by Prosecutors?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJun 21, 2022

In Los Angeles, there are many burglaries, especially now, and defendants and their families don't realize what happens when people get caught committing a residential burglary. 

A lot of times, it's more than one residential burglary.  Each one of those charges is a strike.  So, if you get convicted of one or more residential burglaries, each charge puts a strike on your record, at least as far as California is concerned, for the rest of your life.  So, it's a serious crime.

Felony Burglary Charges in California

Judges and prosecutors treat these crimes so harshly because they believe in the premise that a man or woman's home is their castle and a sacred location. 

They all have homes, so they take it very personally when people go into somebody else's house, scaring them if they're home and possibly hurting them and taking their property.

Everybody has the California dream to come to Los Angeles and have a wonderful life.  They set their home up, and somebody comes in and burglarizes it – they go through their personal property, memories, and history. 

That's holy to a lot of people. I think that's why judges and prosecutors take these cases so harshly and will try to send people to prison who commit residential burglaries, and that's why the three-strikes law includes residential burglary as a strike on your criminal record if you get convicted.

If someone is home when the burglary occurs, that makes it a violent felony, and you'd have to serve 85% of whatever county or prison time you get. Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine the laws more closely below.

Burglary – California Penal Code 459 PC

The most severe type of burglary is first-degree residential burglary, which is defined as entering a residential structure with the intent to commit a crime inside.

The intended crime must be either a felony or a theft under PC 459. California Criminal Jury Instructions 1701 explains the burglary degrees.

Burglary – California Penal Code 459 PC

Entering a structure with the intent to commit a misdemeanor unrelated to theft would not be charged as a burglary. A “residential structure” includes

  • houses,
  • apartments,
  • a room inside a house,
  • a motorhome, and
  • a hotel or motel room.

In other words, any structure or portion thereof used as a habitation falls under the umbrella of residential structure for burglary purposes, as explained under CALCRIM 1700. First-degree residential burglary is a felony offense punishable;

  • two, four, or six years in a California state prison,
  • a fine of up to $10,000, and
  • a “strike” offense under California's “Three Strikes” law.

A first-degree residential burglary can't be reduced to a misdemeanor crime.

What is a Home Invasion Burglary?

Among burglary charges, one particularly stands out for a prosecutor. A traditional burglary usually breaks into a home at night, intending to steal. A home invasion burglary stands out as the most severe form and is defined as follows:

  • “A person who breaks a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, a larceny, or assault in the dwelling with other occupiers present is guilty of a home invasion.”

If someone enters a dwelling armed with a dangerous weapon or another person is present, they are often charged with first-degree home invasion.

If convicted of a home invasion in the first degree, you face up to 20 years in a California state prison. If convicted of a home invasion in the second degree, you face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

Possession of Burglary Tools – Penal Code 466 PC

A related crime to PC 459 burglary is PC 466 possession of burglary tools. To be charged under this statute requires proof that a defendant possessed means with the intent of using them to commit a burglary.

Possession of Burglary Tools – Penal Code 466 PC

Making or copying a key to a structure for a planned burglary can also be considered possession of burglary tools.  The standard burglary tools include:

  • crowbars,
  • bolt cutters,
  • picklocks,
  • key bits,
  • screwdrivers, and
  • vise grip pliers.

These tools are, of course, legal for anyone to possess. The prosecutors will have to prove that, based on circumstantial evidence, possessing these specific tools was illegal due to the defendant's criminal intent to use them.

If you are convicted of PC 466 possession of burglary tools, you face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in county jail, a fine, or both. Other related crimes include:

How Can You Fight Burglary Charges?

Now, some people have light at the end of the rainbow.  You want to get the best attorney you can.  I've been doing this for nearly 30 years, so I certainly would be a good choice. 

You'd want to set up a meeting and come and talk to me.  Tell me what happened.  Tell me what led you to this and give me all the details without leaving anything out, and then I can give you a decent idea of some of the strategies we can utilize to help you and what you might be facing.

But the light at the end of the rainbow is that the current prosecutor in Los Angeles county is pretty weak on crime, so that might be one way to get a reasonable resolution.

Also, judges and prosecutors often give you a break if you have no criminal record.  If no one was home, you have a chance, as well.

Defense Strategy to Fight Burglary Charges

During the residential burglary, if you can make the victim whole, in other words, give their property back or pay them money for whatever they lost, that usually helps as well.

To stay out of prison and put yourself in a good position as it relates to defending a residential burglary, we will have to show that there are unusual circumstances. That's the law. 

That might be a little bit confusing for people. Still, an example of unusual circumstances is, you have a spotless record, you're young, and maybe you had some reason – you were down on your luck – for going into somebody's house and either taking their property or trying to take their property.

So, there are ways to mitigate the situation.  Now, if you're a career burglar and you're being caught again and have prior strikes, I would say all of the marbles are on the line. You're facing 25 years or more in prison.  You want to get the best attorney to help mitigate your life's damages.

So, if you need the best, you've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located and Los Angeles County and provides a free case review, or you can use the contact form.