What is the Definition of Burglary?

Over the last year or two, burglary cases in California have risen significantly. The police and prosecutors have got teams that all they do is prosecute residential burglary cases. So, if you or a loved one is charged with residential burglary or multiple residential burglaries, sometimes it's difficult to understand how the police can charge you or a loved one because of the way they've structured the evidence.

The way they do it in these cases is through cellphone ping evidence.  What that means is they are tracking a person's cellphone by way of specific evidence to put them at or near the burglary scenes.

Then they charge them with a bunch of different burglaries. The person is facing multiple years in prison, and they can't figure out if they weren't seen by a witness at the burglary scene or weren't caught with any of the property from the burglaries; how can they be charged with the burglaries.

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

Burglary - California Penal Code 459

Put, a burglary occurs once someone enters a structure with criminal intent, even if they never actually stole anything. PC 459 burglary laws are divided into either first-degree or second-degree burglary.

First-degree burglary is entering a residence, and a second-degree burglary includes any other structure, such as a business.  Penal Code defines burglary as:

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

PC 459 PC burglary is a “wobbler” that the prosecutor can file as a misdemeanor or felony, but first-degree burglary is always a felony crime. If convicted, you face up to six years in a California state prison.

What is a PC 459 First-Degree Residential Burglary?

First-degree burglary is typically a residential burglary involving entering into an inhabited dwelling designed for that purpose. However, it doesn't mean the residents must be home at the time of the burglary. The term “inhabited” means people use the structure as a dwelling place.

The term “residence” under the legal definition of a Penal Code 459 burglary includes many types of places, such as a:

  • home,
  • a room within a house,
  • guest house at someone's home,
  • apartment,
  • hotel or motel room,
  • recreational vehicle,
  • boat.

It should be noted that PC 459 defines residential burglary as entering a non-commercial structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. Further, the defendant must have stolen or intended to steal $950 or more in the property. To be charged with a first-degree burglary case, the structure must be considered a “residence,” such as the traditional homes or apartments.

What are the Penalties for Residential Burglary?

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

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

Judges won't typically grant probation only in a first-degree burglary conviction. This means a residential burglary conviction will typically include a state prison sentence followed by a period of supervised parole unless mitigating circumstances justify a lesser sentence.

Challenging the Evidence in Burglary Prosecutions

You've got to get an experienced attorney like me who's been doing criminal defense and defending people for burglary cases in the San Fernando Valley for almost 30 years. I'm very familiar with the ping evidence and how to attack it. Many people don't realize that just because they have phone evidence that they're trying to use to tie you to burglary scenes, that evidence has limitations.

It can't put you precisely at the scene. It can only put you bouncing off a tower that might be close to the stage. Then the next question is, okay, if it puts you at a tower, how far is that tower from the burglary scene, and if it's putting you at a tower, what's the range?

Is it a 5-mile radius or 3-mile radius or more?  That will determine, in general, where you may be about the burglary scene; that doesn't necessarily mean it puts you at the burglary scene.

Contact the Hedding Law Firm If Charged with Burglary

So, that's just one example of how to defend a burglary case the proper way.  Many attorneys are not familiar with it because the prosecutors and police are using new technology and new arguments to try to catch people for burglaries.

Burglary Defense Lawyer in California

If you're innocent and didn't commit the crime, you want to get an attorney who can defend you properly and attack the prosecution's evidence.

If, on the other hand, maybe you're guilty and they've got the evidence, you still want to get an attorney so you don't end up with multiple years in prison, various strikes on your record, and several other things that will stay with you the rest of your life.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with residential burglary, pick up the phone make the call.  Ask to speak to Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County and offers a free case review by calling 213-542-0940.