If you’ve been charged with burglary in Orange County, you already know that it’s a serious charge.
You also probably are aware that you are facing the prospect of jail time, even state prison, and a lifelong criminal record.
However, all is not lost. As stressful as a criminal charge might be, you are innocent until proven guilty. Additionally, there are viable defenses available to explain your alleged actions if applicable.
What you do after your arrest is critical. It helps to know what to expect. The more understanding you have of the charge, the possible defenses, and how to protect your rights in the criminal justice system, the better you will be equipped to address your current situation.
Let’s consider the various types of burglary charges in Orange County, the associated penalties, and the possible defenses available.
Types of burglary charges
The charge of burglary can take several forms, none of which should be taken lightly.
Burglary is defined under California Penal Code § 459 the following way:
“every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel…with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary”.
A simple definition might be “entering of a structure with the intent to commit a larceny or any felony.”
Although it is often referred to as “breaking and entering,” you can see from the above definition that a burglary charge is not reliant upon there being any signs of forced entry.
A second-degree burglary offense can be charged as a misdemeanor, which is bad enough. But some charges proceed as felonies and these are associated with even harsher penalties. In almost every case, the possibility of substantial jail time exists.
The most important distinction in the law regarding burglary is between first and second-degree offenses. This is determined by the type of building entered by the suspect.
First-degree burglary involves a residence and second-degree burglary could be any other type of structure or vehicle (but note that shoplifting is treated separately from burglary under Penal Code § 459.5 PC).
First-degree (“residential”) burglary
A charge of first-degree burglary (burglary of a residence) is always charged as a felony.
It is punishable by up to six years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are sentenced to prison it could be for two, four, or six years and upon your release from prison, you will face state parole supervision with strict conditions. If you are sentenced to county jail time, you will be placed on supervised probation after the conviction with similar conditions.
First-degree burglary also counts as a “strike” offense under the California Three Strikes laws.
Second-degree (“commercial”) burglary
Burglary of a commercial structure may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the prosecutor’s discretion. This type of crime is known as a “wobbler”.
If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by up to 16 months, two or three years in the county jail in California. There is also a fine of up to $10,000 and the possibility of formal probation.
If second-degree burglary is charged as a misdemeanor, summary probation, up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000 may be consequences.
The crime of auto burglary is also covered under California Penal Code § 459–460.
Like second-degree burglary, auto burglary is a “wobbler” offense and may be charged by the prosecutor as a misdemeanor or felony.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor auto burglary, the penalty includes up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If sentenced to a felony, you will face 16 months, two or three years in county jail, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
Defending a burglary charge
If you have been charged with burglary the good news is that prosecutors can settle cases with reduced charges that can have a far lesser impact on you and your future.
Since there are various legal technicalities and difficulties of proof with burglary offenses, a skilled criminal defense attorney is essential in defending a burglary charge.
Immediately after arrest
If you are charged with burglary, do not make any statements to police or answer any of their questions before you speak with a criminal defense attorney. This applies to any crime.
If you do choose to say something, it can be used against you in court. Remain calm, cool, and collected, and be polite to the police.
Ask to speak to your attorney. This attorney should be someone who is experienced with the state laws concerning your charge, the processes within the California criminal justice system, and the courtrooms in the jurisdiction of your charge.
In preparation for building your defense, your attorney should conduct a thorough investigation and request all records and any evidence from the prosecutor.
Possible defenses for burglary charges
After examining the evidence, your attorney should fight to have the case to be dismissed, reduced, or modified to another charge.
The evidence in burglary cases, as with all crimes, must be collected in accordance with strict standards and laws. If this did not happen in your case, certain evidence may be excluded. This may mean the prosecution’s case against you may not be able to proceed forward toward a conviction or trial. There may be no other option for the prosecutor except to have the charges dropped and the case dismissed.
If your case does proceed, regardless of whether it is prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor, there are legal defenses available. These defenses may either limit the consequences you face or aid the chances of acquittal at trial.
Most commonly, one or more of the following three defenses may be employed by your attorney:
No intent – there is no dispute that you entered a home, commercial building, or vehicle, but at the time of the entry you did not have the intent to commit a theft or a felony (as per the legal definition outlined in Penal Code § 459).
No entry – at the time of the arrest you did not enter the home, commercial building, or vehicle and there is no evidence of an entry into that location.
Mistaken location – you entered the home, commercial building, or vehicle under the mistaken belief that the location was your own or you had permission by the owner to enter the structure or vehicle.
With the right legal guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney, it may be possible to beat a burglary charge and stay out of jail in Orange County.
Have you or a loved one been charged with burglary in Orange County?
If you or a loved one have been charged with burglary, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian at (855) 918-4253 today to set up a free consultation with an attorney who can advise you on the next steps in protecting your rights.