According to FBI statistics, hundreds of homes in Ventura are broken into in any given year. How does the State of California prosecute these crimes, and how does breaking and entering factor into it?

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In truth, there’s no such thing as “Breaking and Entering” in California law.

Any case of entry into someone else’s property with the intent to commit a felony or petty theft once inside is considered burglary. Consider these examples:

Example 1: Tom’s neighbor leaves home for work, accidentally leaving his garage door open. Tom sneaks inside and steals a toolbox.

Example 2: Tom’s neighbor leaves on vacation, locking his house up before leaving. One night, Tom forces open a window and steals a toolbox.

In both cases, Tom could be charged with burglary, even though he walked through an open door in one and broke into the house in another.

How does it work?

California Burglary Laws

california burglary lawsAs we mentioned, “breaking” isn’t necessary to be charged with burglary. Burglary is simply the act of entering someone’s property with the intent of committing a felony or petty theft.

A person can be charged with burglary at the point a body part has crossed the threshold into a property. Something as simple as putting an arm through a window can qualify as burglary under California Penal Code 459.

California divides burglary charges into three categories: Second-degree burglary and first-degree burglary.

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and the value of items stolen or damaged.

Prosecutors typically charge second-degree burglary if the crime occurred at a commercial property. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor second-degree burglary is a year in county jail and a $1,000.

For felony second-degree burglary, a person would face a state jail sentence of 16 months, two years or three years.

Because of this, if you or someone you know has been charged with felony second-degree burglary, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. Depending on the facts of the case — particularly if the goods stolen or damaged was less than $950 — it’s possible to have felony second-degree burglary charges reduced.

First-Degree Burglary

First-degree burglary is the burglary of a residence, and it carries very serious penalties. It is a “Three Strikes Offense,” meaning that anyone convicted of first-degree burglary will have to serve at least 85% of their sentence, regardless of good behavior.

If convicted, a person will face a state prison sentence of two, four or six years. They’ll also receive a “strike” on their record.

What this means is that, if convicted of a second felony, the person’s prison sentence will double for the second charge. If convicted of a third felony, the person will serve life in prison.

When dealing with California’s Three Strikes Law, it is critically important to work with a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney who has experience working with these charges. In more than 30 years in Ventura and Los Angeles area, I have successfully defended numerous burglary charges. Call today for your free case review — 805-273-5611.