How Can You Get a Not Guilty Verdict in a Burglary Case?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingMar 23, 2022

California Penal Code 459 PC burglary cases are charged all the time in Los Angeles, and especially now as I make this post, burglaries are happening all over the city.  The police are on the lookout.  They've got teams of officers, who all they do is deal with burglary cases.

So, if you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with PC 459 burglary or is trying to work out some deal, or you want to fight the case and get that not guilty verdict, you've got to get the best attorney first off.

California Penal Code 459 PC - Burglary

Secondly, you have to be in a position to beat the prosecutors in a jury trial.  That means they have to prove certain things in their jury instructions. You have a situation where there are elements of a crime, and they have to prove each element. 

Penal Code 459 PC defines the crime of burglary as the act of entering a residential or commercial structure with the intent to commit grand or petty theft or other felony crime. The “entry” into the structure only has to be done with the intention of committing a felony.

The crime of burglary is completed once you enter a structure with criminal intent, even if nothing was stolen. PC 459 burglary laws divide this offense into either first-degree or second-degree burglary (CALCRIM 1701).

First-degree burglary means entering a residence, while second-degree burglary includes all other structures, such as a business.  Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will cover this topic in more detail below in this article.

What Is First-Degree Residential Burglary?

First-degree burglary is usually a residential burglary involving the entry into an inhabited dwelling designed for habitation.  It does not mean the people who live there must be home when the burglary occurs. The term “inhabited” means that people use the structure as a dwelling place. A “residence” under Penal Code 459 burglary includes a:

  • home,
  • room within a home,
  • apartments,
  • guest house,
  • hotel room,
  • recreational vehicle.

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

When you're talking about a first-degree residential burglary, the first thing the prosecutors have to establish per the jury instructions (CALCRIM 1700) is that somebody entered the home of another to commit a felony therein. 

That's the interesting thing.  When the person enters the home, they have to be of the mindset they will commit a felony.  That's also something people don't realize is that it can be any felony. Maybe the person enters with the intent to commit a rape, for example, versus stealing anything, and the police can prove that, and the prosecutor puts the evidence on, that would be enough to meet that element of a burglary.

When somebody enters the house of another, they're usually looking to steal things from that individual inside the house.  They also could be looking for somebody. 

See related: Defenses of Residential Burglary Cases

Proving Defendant Had Intent to Commit a Felony

Maybe they want to do some harm to somebody in the house.  That could amount to a felony, and then they leave, take nothing, and still get hit with PC 459 burglary because the police can prove that they intended to commit a felony therein.  How they establish that is by the evidence. I don't see how they can see into a person's mind to determine what they would do when they entered the home.

Penalties for Penal Code 459 PC Burglary

If somebody enters the home with many bags and has committed other burglaries at other locations, I think that's circumstantial evidence.  They intend to commit the felony of stealing inside the other person's home.

If somebody enters the home with a gun and there's circumstantial evidence that the house that's being entered, those two have a prior relationship, and the person entering with a weapon has threatened the other person.

Now, you have an example of where you might be able to argue they entered with the intent to commit a felony with a gun against that person, even though that person might not have been home. 

They can still get them for burglary.  Residential burglary is a strike.  You serve 80% of the time, and you have a felony on your record for the rest of your life – at least for purposes of Californian, specifically Los Angeles. If convicted of the felony crime of PC 459 first-degree residential burglary, the penalties include:

  • 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 will not typically grant probation only in a first-degree burglary conviction.

Defenses for Penal Code 459 Burglary Charges

So, that gives you an idea of what has to be proved in a burglary case.  However, the question that we posed is, how do you get a not guilty verdict. 

The answer is, if the prosecutor can't prove all of the elements of the burglary crime according to the California Criminal Jury Instruction 1700, then they're not able to prove the case, and the individual will get a not guilty verdict for the burglary charge.

You also have to look at defenses to burglary.  One defense might be that the person entered the home without the intent to commit a felony.  When they entered the house, they were invited in, for example. Then, if they were to steal later, they'd still be responsible for a crime, but they wouldn't be responsible for a burglary.

See related: Defense of Burglary Cases in Los Angeles

Real Burglary Case Example

I had a case once where my client was accused of entering the house in the afternoon, and they were charged with burglary.  We ended up taking that case to trial in the Van Nuys courthouse, and we were able to prove that my client was innocent. 

I was able to get that not guilty verdict because, number one, whoever entered the home at that time, the people who owned the house were not present, so they didn't have a witness showing it was my client who entered the home. 

They didn't have any video evidence.  My client didn't admit that he had entered the home.  What they had was, they had him with property from home, so they charged him with a burglary assuming he must have been the one who went in. 

But, as we know, sometimes people can burglarize a home and then sell that property off.  They can lie to the person they sell it to, say that it's their property when in reality, it's stolen property.  So, the prosecutors could not prove a residential burglary, and my client was able to get that not guilty verdict.

See related: Burglary Cases in the Van Nuys Court

What are the Related California Crimes for Burglary?

  • 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.

How Can the Hedding Law Firm Help You in Burglary Cases?

So, you have to look at the surrounding circumstances of the case.  That's why I have you come in if you're a loved one trying to get help for your significant other, or even if you're the person charged with the burglary.

Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles

We have to sit down and talk about the case, see the prosecutors' evidence, and see your mindset.  People often say, I am 100% not guilty, and I want to take the case to trial and fight it. 

Then we're going to line up all of the prosecutors' evidence and look at the evidence we have to support the not guilty verdict. Then there may be some evidence that we need to get – do an investigation – hire an investigator, subpoena some evidence – whatever the case may be. 

That's not the case in every case, but sometimes you have the right case, where you need to get that additional evidence that shows that person is not guilty of the crime. Once we sit down and determine whether we will fight the case if we decide to fight the case, we'll put the pieces together; we'll put our plan together to get that not-guilty verdict.

If you're looking for a not guilty verdict on a burglary case – either residential or commercial – you've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. Negotiation might be possible to get the charge reduced or dismissed. 

Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecuting agency and law enforcement to persuade them from filing formal charges, known as a "DA reject." The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles and offers a free burglary case review by phone, or you can fill out our contact form.

Related Content: Why Are Jury Instructions Important to a California Trial?