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California Burglary Laws

Overview of California Burglary Laws

To prove a charge of burglary, a prosecutor must show that the defendant entered a property without permission and intended to commit a crime after entering the premises. The California Penal Code lists the types of properties which an individual might enter while committing a burglary. These types of premises include houses, apartments, residential rooms, and businesses. More uncommon types of property such as tents, outhouses, and others often also qualify.

The prosecutor must show that the defendant entered the premises with a specific intent to commit a crime. For example, the defendant may have entered a building with a plan to commit larceny. If the defendant did not intend to participate in criminal activity after entering the premises, the prosecutor might have to pursue an alternate charge such as trespassing. See Can I Be Accused of Stealing Something I Borrowed If I Forget to Return It? for related information.

California state laws establish two types of burglary: first-degree and second-degree. State law defines first-degree burglary as any burglary of an inhabited dwelling. During burglary prosecutions, an inhabited dwelling is any house, vessel, or other property designed for inhabitation and currently inhabited at the time of the burglary. "Currently inhabited" means that the property was used as a dwelling at the time of the burglary, even if nobody was actually occupying the property then. State law also includes properties abandoned due to a natural disaster or local emergency as currently-inhabited properties. Any burglary not qualifying as first-degree burglary will proceed as a case of second-degree burglary.

Defenses to California Burglary Charges

  • Permission or consent to enter the property given by owner or occupant
  • Intoxication or another reason why the defendant did not have a specific intent to commit a crime after entering the property
  • Entrapment

Penalties and Sentences

The punishment for a burglary conviction in California depends on whether the prosecutor charges the defendant with first-degree or second-degree burglary. A conviction for burglary in the first degree may result in a sentence of imprisonment in state prison for a term of two, four, or six years. A conviction for burglary in the second degree, however, cannot exceed a term of imprisonment in county jail for more than one year.

In some cases, the state court may decide to grant a defendant's request for probation. The court cannot grant probation for burglary of a inhabited dwelling unless the court gives reasons for the decision that reflect the interests of justice required by an unusual case. California state laws also set specific provisions regarding the sentencing for burglaries committed during natural disasters and local emergencies.

California Burglary Laws: Statute

California Penal Code Sections 458-464

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a California criminal defense lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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