Orange County 1st-Degree Burglary Lawyer

Burglary is an illegal entry into an inhabited dwelling—a house, room, apartment, or even a tent, commercial establishment, or any inhabited mobile home or RV—with the intent to commit a theft (grand or petit larceny) or any felony. To establish the elements of burglary, there must be a physical entry as well as evidence of an intent to commit a theft or a felony. The underlying crime, however, need not be completed in order for the accused to be convicted of burglary. 

Burglary charges are governed by California Penal Code § 459. Burglary in the first-degree is limited to an illegal entry into an inhabited structure as described above. Burglary in the second-degree is used when there is an illegal entry into a commercial structure or locked vehicle and can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Residential burglary in the first degree is a felony and a strike under California’s “Three Strikes” law. Sentences are harsh. A conviction for first-degree burglary can be punished by imprisonment in state prison for two, four, or six years. 

What is an Inhabited Dwelling?

An inhabited dwelling is a place where someone sleeps or lives. In addition to the more conventional places, such as a house, apartment, tent, or RV, a dwelling might include virtually any structure wherein a person resides. The fact that a dwelling was abandoned and is no longer inhabited may be a defense against a charge of burglary.  However, abandonment does not apply if the dwelling was vacated due to a natural disaster.

Elements of the Crime of First-Degree Burglary

The elements of first-degree burglary are:

  • Illegal Entry: The act of burglary into a residential structure can occur without breaking in. An illegal entry may be established by entering, without permission, via an unlocked door or open window, by the use of force or coercion, or through the threat of force or blackmail.
  • Dwelling or Structure: To commit the act of burglary in the first-degree, the structure must be a dwelling. As stated above, this might include a house, apartment, tent or RV. Although the inhabitant need not be present, the dwelling cannot be abandoned.
  • Intent to Commit a Crime: Although the crime need not be accomplished, there must be evidence that the purpose of the illegal entry was to commit a theft or any felony.
Orange County 1st-Degree Burglary Lawyer


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During the consultation, we will help you understand your rights and the charges against you.

Arrest Process for Burglary

Upon arrest with or without an arrest warrant, we recommend that you calmly adhere to all police instructions. An arrest is not the time to challenge the authority of the police. The criminal justice process affords opportunities for you and your lawyer to challenge the police and prosecution.

  • You have the right to remain silent and to demand an attorney. At the time of your arrest, you should be informed that you have the right to remain silent and that you have the right to speak with an attorney. It is essential that you only answer police questions relating to your name and address. Anything else can be used against you. And remember, just as it is portrayed on television, police are allowed and will likely attempt to manipulate you into talking by the use of lies and misinformation. It is in your best interest to keep quiet until you have spoken with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.  
  • Presumption of innocence. Under the United States Constitution, you are presumed innocent until it is either proven that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial or you enter a guilty plea. 
  • Right to a trial by jury. As a defendant, you have the right to challenge the charges of first-degree burglary in a criminal trial before a jury of your peers. This process is time-consuming and expensive. However, this is where the experience and reputation of your defense attorney really make a difference. A skilled and experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney will have extensive experience in dealing with the police, the prosecutor, and judges. The knowledge and experience that your criminal defense attorney has with the police, prosecutor, and judges will open opportunities for negotiated settlements, eliminating some charges, or even dismissal of the case.

Punishment for 1st-Degree Burglary

Upon conviction of first-degree burglary, a defendant faces a two to six-year state prison sentence and/or a $10,000 fine. Sentences can be enhanced if there is a showing of violence, destruction within the dwelling, prior convictions, or presence of the inhabitants while the crime is being committed. First-degree burglary is always charged as a felony.

Defenses for 1st-Degree Burglary

Defenses vary depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. Common defenses include:

  • Mistaken Identity: You have been wrongly identified as the burglar. Here is where alibi evidence corroborating your absence can be beneficial to your defense.
  • Lack of Intent: Burglary requires the intent to commit a theft or other felony once inside the dwelling. Entering a dwelling by mistake, or while intoxicated can be a defense against this element.
  • Permission to Enter: The entry into the dwelling must be without the occupant’s consent. Therefore, it is a defense if your entry into the dwelling was authorized.
  • Police Misconduct: A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney will investigate police conduct to determine whether police protocols were followed during your arrest. This would include the crime scene examination by the police, handling of the evidence, and the questioning of witnesses. Serious police misconduct may result in the dismissal or reduction of the charges.

Defending Against a Charge of 1st Degree Burglary

Prosecutors have the power of the state behind them when investigating any criminal charge, including first-degree burglary. This means that you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend your rights and freedom. 

Our team will sit down with you and start working on your defense strategy as soon as we know the facts of the case so that we can examine all of the evidence against you.

Contact our Orange County Burglary Lawyers Today

If you or someone you care about has been charged with first-degree burglary in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, or San Diego counties, the Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian can help. We will work to build a defense strategy that aims toward getting the charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. 

We have offices in Santa Ana, Westminster, Newport Beach and Fullerton to serve clients with matters heard at the Central, West, Harbor, and North Justice Centers, respectively, for all of Orange County.  The lawyers at The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian are here to help!  Book an online consultation to get started today.
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