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Los Angeles Burglary Defense Lawyer

Being investigated for or charged with burglary is a potentially life-changing situation. Burglary is a complex area of the law and it is aggressively prosecuted in Los Angeles County. A burglary conviction can result in significant penalties, including imprisonment. If you have been charged with burglary, your defense attorney must be experienced, sophisticated, well-armed with the facts and knowledgeable in California burglary law in order to best serve you.

Contact the Law Office of Kenneth H. Lewis & Associates today to schedule an appointment with a skilled Los Angeles burglary lawyer.

California Burglary Law

Man breaking into a house - sentencing for burglary

According to California Penal Code section 459, any person who enters a building, vehicle, vessel or cargo container, intending to commit a theft (i.e., petty theft or grand theft) or a felony is guilty of burglary. In California, burglary can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case or the defendant's criminal history.

First degree burglary (burglary of an inhabited dwelling, often referred to as "residential burglary") is always charged as a felony. Second degree burglary (commonly referred to as "commercial burglary") is any other type of burglary.

Burglary Defenses

There are a variety of defenses that an experienced burglary attorney can assert on a client's behalf. For example:

  • Lack of intent to commit a theft or felony (e.g., the defendant did not enter the store intending to shoplift a sweater, but took it on impulse.)
  • Mistake of fact (e.g., the defendant thought that the item taken from a person's home belonged to him, or he had permission to take it.)
  • Innocence (e.g., the defendant did not commit the burglary, but has similar looks to the real offender, and has been falsely arrested.)
  • Consent (e.g., the owner said you could take it.)

Police officers and prosecutors make mistakes just like anyone else. An experienced criminal defense attorney can quickly identify possible defenses and get wrongful burglary charges dismissed as quickly as possible.

Sentencing for Burglary

Burglary sentencing in California depends largely on the circumstances of the alleged burglary. Charges include first degree burglary (residential) or second degree burglary (commercial). Possible penalties for first degree burglary include 6 years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000 whereas penalties for second degree burglary include a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

Sentencing for Burglary:

  • First Degree Burglary (Residential Burglary) Sentencing -- imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
    • First degree burglary is a "strike."
    • 85% of a first degree burglary sentence must be served, regardless of good behavior.
  • Second Degree Burglary (Commercial Burglary) Sentencing
  • Misdemeanor commercial burglary -- up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1000.
  • Felony commercial burglary -- 16 months, two or three years in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Having a prior criminal record can increase the sentence. In addition to fines and imprisonment, a burglary conviction can result in an order for restitution of the value of the victim's property, and a criminal record that can have life-long consequences.

Is burglary the same as "breaking and entering"?

Yes and no. While prosecutors often refer to burglary as "breaking and entering," California law contains no requirement that a "breaking" occur. The term has survived from old common law that required a forced entry into a structure. Although force is no longer required, the prosecution still must prove that the defendant "entered" the property. What constitutes an entry can become complicated.

According to California burglary law, an entry occurs when any part of the defendant's body crosses the outer limits of a structure or when any object under the defendant's control has crossed them. Therefore, when a person reaches into a window and steals a purse, uses a flashlight to case someone's home or uses some sort of device to remove property, it is considered an entry.

When can shoplifting be charged as commercial burglary?

When the defendant entered the store intending to steal something. According to California law, commercial burglary is entering a structure other than a residence with the intent to commit a theft or a felony. Stealing merchandise from a store can be charged as either a theft crime or commercial burglary. If the suspect intended to steal something when he entered the store, it is burglary.

'If not, it is generally charged as theft. If there was no intent and the merchandise was worth less than $400, it is petty theft, a crime that carries a significantly lesser penalty than burglary. There are a variety of ways to prove intent, for example, entering a store with extra empty bags, a scissors to cut off tags, concealed pockets, no money or credit cards.

What should I do if I am charged with or being investigated for burglary?

  • Invoke your Miranda rights to remain silent, request an attorney and then say nothing.
  • If you have been arrested in Los Angeles, contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who can help you try to arrange for bail.
  • As soon as you are released, arrange for a meeting with an attorney knowledgeable in burglary cases.
  • Do not speak with the police if they contact you after you have been released; have them talk directly to your attorney.

Building a Strong Defense to Burglary Charges

With burglary charges, "open and shut" cases are rare. But the evidence in burglary cases is often incriminating, especially when the police find stolen items in the defendant's home, automobile or personal possession. However, at Kenneth H. Lewis & Associates, we have the experience, resources and skill to provide each client with aggressive and effective burglary defense representation.

We believe that the best defense is one that is based on thorough investigation of the circumstances leading to the burglary charges. We examine the evidence, interview potential witnesses and work closely with our clients to build the strongest defense possible. We also make every attempt to have illegally obtained evidence suppressed and to prevent inappropriate witness testimony – the less evidence the prosecution has to use against a burglary suspect, the better. In some cases, it makes sense to negotiate for a reduced charge.

Hiring a lawyer who knows how to negotiate a felony burglary charge down to misdemeanor burglary or petty theft can mean the difference between imprisonment and community service. We understand the criteria that the Los Angeles prosecutors and the courts use in burglary cases and aggressively negotiate the best outcome possible.

Everyone makes mistakes. Don't let a mistake jeopardize your future and your freedom. Consult an experienced Los Angeles burglary defense attorney to protect your rights.

Arrested for Burglary? Call Los Angeles burglary attorney Ken Lewis for a free consultation at (213) 255-3011, day or night.

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