CA Penal Code 459, also known as the burglary law for the state of California, is separate from robbery and theft. It covers a “wobbler” crime, since burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the defendant’s past and the details of the crime.
Burglary, defined under Penal Code 459, is the act of entering a structure with intent to steal something. If you’ve been charged with burglary in California, here are some important distinctions and facts to keep in mind:
First Degree and Second Degree
According to Penal Code 459, there are two degrees of burglary. First degree burglary – more commonly known as residential burglary – refers to a crime that takes place in an inhabited dwelling like an apartment or house.
Second degree or commercial burglary takes place anywhere other than an inhabited dwelling. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime.
The sentencing guidelines associated with Penal Code 459 depend on the degree of burglary you face. First degree burglary can result in two, four, or six years in state prison, along with up to $10,000 in fines. You will not be offered probation.
Second degree burglary, when charged as a felony, can result in sixteen months, two years, or three years in a state prison. Here, too, you can face up to $10,000 in fines.
When second degree burglary is charged as a misdemeanor, you’ll face a maximum of one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
There are some exceptions to these sentencing guidelines. For example, an additional three, five, or seven year state prison sentence can be added for crimes involving explosives or torches. If great bodily injury was inflicted on another person, three to six years can be added to your sentence.
Finally, another two years in state prison can be added if first degree burglary was knowingly committed on someone over the age of 65, under the age of 14, or someone with a severe disability – including those who are blind, deaf, mentally disabled, paraplegic, or quadriplegic.
Two Common Defenses to Penal Code 459
There are two strong methods of defense against Penal Code 459 charges. The first and most often used defense is intent.
In order to be charged under Penal Code 459, a prosecutor must be able to prove the defendant intended to steal something. For example, if the defendant entered the home to look for something, but never intended to take it, there cannot be an associated burglary charge.
A recent California law also defined the difference between burglary and shoplifting. It serves as another common defense.
According to the law, burglaries must take place outside regular business hours and property stolen must have a value of $950 or more. Anything else is considered shoplifting and cannot be charged under Penal Code 459.
Contact an Experienced Attorney for Representation
If you’ve been charged under Penal Code 459, contact an experienced attorney at Elden Law Group. Our team specializes in assault and battery, burglary, domestic violence, and more. Call (800)-455-6200 to schedule a free consultation.