Law enforcement agencies from across the state worked together to identify eight men who they believe to be connected to a string of burglaries in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. According to reports, the men are suspected to have committed as many as 20 burglaries. Evidence of the burglaries and other crimes, including stolen property, illegal drugs, and multiple firearms, were found in the homes of the suspects. At least seven of the men have been charged with multiple counts of first-degree burglary.
Understanding the Crime of Burglary
Burglary occurs when a person unlawfully enters a building or structure with the intent to commit larceny or any felony. Whether you are charged with first-degree burglary or second-degree burglary will depend on the type of building you enter.
First-degree burglary occurs when you enter a residence with the intent to commit a theft or felony. Residences can include any place that a person resides, as well as other structures on their land, including a:
- Tent, or
Since first-degree burglary involves a residence, it is often referred to as residential burglary. First-degree burglary is always a felony in Los Angeles.
Second-degree burglary occurs when you enter any other kind of property with the intent to commit a theft or felony. This can include:
- Railroad car
- Cargo container, or
- Other commercial building.
Since second-degree burglary involves property other than a residence, it is often referred to as commercial burglary. Second-degree burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Intent is King
California Penal Code 459 PC states that burglary is the crime of entering a building “with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony.” This means that you do not actually have to commit a crime successfully (or even try) to be guilty of burglary. The most important phrase in 459 PC is “with intent.” If you entered property intending to commit a crime, you can be guilty of burglary.
How is intent proven? Whether or not you entered with the intent to commit a crime is a question of fact. It is a subjective issue that will depend on a thorough analysis of the factors and circumstances of each specific case. Indicators of intent may include:
- Entering property for which you have no right of ownership or occupancy
- Possession of tools commonly used for breaking and entering
- Possession of items that do not belong to you
- Monitoring the homeowner’s schedule, or
- Possession of a firearm or weapon.
It is important to know that you can only be guilty of burglary if you enter a building with the intent to commit a crime. If you develop the intent to commit a crime once you are already inside you will face charges for a different crime.
Consequences of a First-Degree Burglary Conviction in Los Angeles
First-degree burglary is a felony in California. If you are convicted of first-degree burglary, penalties could include:
- 2, 4, or 6 years in a California state prison
- $10,000 in fines, and/or
- Formal probation.
First-degree burglary is also a strike for the purposes of California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law. You will face aggravated penalties if you have other strikes on your record or are ever convicted of another strike record.
How Can I Defend Burglary Charges in Los Angeles?
You have the right to defend yourself when you are accused of committing a crime. The best defenses will undermine the state’s case against you and/or help to excuse your behavior. Defenses that can be used in a Los Angeles burglary case include:
- You have been falsely accused
- You have been mistakenly identified
- You did not enter the property with the intent to commit a theft or felony
- You did not actually enter a building or structure, or
- You had permission to enter the property.
The best way to defend yourself is by hiring an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to handle your case. Do not hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation.