What is Attempted Burglary?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingSep 24, 2019

Burglary is described under California Penal Code 459 PC, and attempted crimes are defined under Penal Code 664 PC. You rarely see attempted burglary filed because whenever the authorities think someone's trying to burglarize a location, it's so easy to do it, especially a residential burglary.  If you break any part of the plain of the home. 

So, I've seen people put tools in a home trying to unlock the door, but they never get in.  The alarm goes off.  The people are home.  They run away, whatever the case may be.  That's still a burglary case.  It's breaking the dwelling house of another with the intent to commit a felony inside.

So, once you break that plain, that's the breaking part, and that shows that you were trying to get into the house to steal something inside, which is a felony, and you're looking at a full-fledged burglary.

So, an attempted burglary would be kind of a weird scenario because most of the time, that substantial step that is necessary actually to effectuate the crimes versus you were just thinking about doing it is going to be you actually going up to the house and breaking partially or getting partially in and then running away.

Attempted Burglary in California

So, it would have to be a scenario where the authorities can prove that you were trying to break into a home, for example, if it's a residential attempted burglary, but that you never violated the plain or, you know, did anything regarding that.  Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will discuss this topic in more detail below.

Other examples of burglary would be a second-degree burglary where you are trying to break into a car or a store or something like that, and you don't effectuate it, so it is not a full-fledged burglary like it would be if you went into the location with the intent to steal.

So, with attempted burglary, the critical language in any attempted crime is did you take a substantial step towards trying to commit the crime.  So, then you get into an argument over what is a considerable step, and of course, a lot of this stuff will depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

Just because it looks like somebody may want to rob or burglarize a location doesn't necessarily mean that they wanted to.  You have to prove that they took some step toward doing so.  Let's say that somebody had a mask.  It was late at night.  They jumped over somebody's fence.

They had a bag to take away all the goodies.  They had a crowbar to break the door, and then they got cold feet and ran away.  But suppose they got caught in the perimeter of that house. In that case, that's going to be attempted burglary because now you've taken a substantial step towards committing that burglary, and you're going to put yourself in a position where the authorities are going to be able to arrest you and prosecute you for that.

Attempting to Commit a Burglary Crime, But Don't Complete it

So, the bottom line, if you just look at it in layman's terms of what Penal Code Section 459/664, which is the attempted burglary charge for Los Angeles, has to do with does it look like someone is trying to commit a crime, but they just don't get away with the offense for one reason or another.  Maybe somebody spots them.  Maybe somebody yells at them.

Maybe someone's home at a residence, and they realize it, so they run away.  There are a whole bunch of different circumstances.  But in the end, if a jury looks at this and evaluates it, they will believe that the person was going to commit burglary but just didn't do it for some reason.

If the answer is yes and proves it, they can get you for attempted burglary.  If it's questionable — maybe the person had some innocent reason for whatever they were doing, then you might be able to try to present a defense to the attempted burglary charge and say no, I wasn't trying to do that. I was trying to do this, and this is lawful.  Just because you think I might have been doing something wrong is not enough to get me for the attempted burglary.