California defines burglary as an unlawful entry into a structure with intent to commit a theft or other felony. If you are facing a burglary charge or suspect an arrest is likely, committed Riverside and San Bernardino County burglary defense attorney Gregory H. Comings can assist. At our office, we understand that every case presents a unique set of facts, and that you are entitled to understand all aspects of your case. Our goal is to protect your rights, informing you of potential acquittal, reduction in charges, or diversion, should they apply. At the Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings, we clearly communicate potential challenges you may face in a burglary or robbery case, as well as any defenses in your favor.Burglary Offenses According to California Law
According to Penal Code Sections 459 and 460, burglary can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. First degree burglary includes burglary of a residence, while second degree burglary refers to other structures, such as stores and businesses. As a felony, burglary charges are punishable by up to six years in prison, up to ten thousand dollars in fines, and are considered a “strike” according to California's Three Strikes Law.
Common “residences” in regards to burglary, according to California law, include an inhabited house or boat, a trailer coach, or an inhabited hotel room. Any other structure used as a dwelling may be considered a residence.
Second degree burglary, commercial burglary, may be charged by the State as a felony or a misdemeanor. A defendant who has previously received a conviction for a theft crime and is charged with another theft will likely receive a felony charge. Conviction of felony second-degree burglary carries a prison term of up to three years, and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars. Misdemeanor second-degree burglary convictions carry the potential punishment of up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to one thousand dollars.
Notably, there is a difference between shoplifting under Penal Code 459.5 and burglary. Shoplifting includes entering a commercial establishment, while it is open during normal business hours, with the intent to steal property worth $950 or less. In some ways, shoplifting is a subset of burglary. Depending on the facts of a case, some defendants may in fact be able to reduce their burglary conviction to a shoplifting conviction or other lesser crime. A skilled burglary defense lawyer in Riverside or San Bernardino County can negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf.The Prosecution Must Prove Intent to Commit a Theft or Other Felony
The State must prove all elements of a crime by setting forth evidence supporting their case in order to obtain a conviction. The elements of the crime of burglary include entering a structure and having intent to commit a crime. Entering a structure means that some part of your body or object under your control penetrates the building’s “outer boundary.”
In a burglary case, the element of intent is central to the crime. If the intent to commit a theft or other felony was not present at the time the defendant entered the building, the defendant may have a strong defense. The prosecutor is required to prove that at the moment the defendant entered the property, the defendant held the required intent. Again, timing matters for a burglary charge, as this intent must have existed at the moment the defendant entered the building.
The prosecution can show the defendant’s intent to commit a theft or felony through direct or indirect, circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence would include evidence such as a statement made to police that the defendant intended to steal once inside the location. Circumstantial evidence involves inferences, such as the defendant carrying burglary tools and valuables from inside the house. The intended crime does not have to occur; it is enough for the prosecution to show that at the time the defendant entered the building, they intended to commit the crime.Defenses to a Burglary Charge
As a defense, the defendant accused of burglary may be able to show they did not have the intent to commit a theft or felony. Legally, this lack of intent is a strong defense, and a knowledgeable San Bernardino or Riverside County burglary defense attorney can help you raise this kind of argument. For example, if a person unlawfully entered a church in order to sleep, there would not be intent to commit a felony once inside. Another defense to a burglary charge includes permission to enter by the residents or building owners.
Other defenses to a burglary charge include violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. Evidence that was obtained through an illegal search warrant, for example, will not be permissible in court. Likewise, if law enforcement failed to read the defendant their Miranda rights when the defendant was in custody and being interrogated, then any statement the defendant made in violation of their Miranda rights is inadmissible as evidence.Experienced Burglary Defense Attorney in San Bernardino and Riverside County
If you have been charged with burglary, experienced lawyer Gregory H. Comings can help you understand your legal rights and assess the best possible outcome based on the facts of your case. Hiring an attorney is an investment in your future, and the consequences of a burglary conviction can forever change your life. Call the Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings at (951) 686-3457, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Attorney Gregory H. Comings advocates on behalf of the criminally accused throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, and defends various theft crimes as well as white collar crimes, violent crimes, domestic violence, drug crimes, and sex crimes.