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Residential or First Degree Burglary - PC 459

Residential or first degree burglary can be defined as unauthorized entry into a dwelling – a unit, house, caravan, residential shed – with an intention of committing a felony.

California law treats residential burglary as a serious felony and carries a serious punishment once the offender is convicted of such offences.

What is an inhabited dwelling?

An inhabited dwelling is a place where someone sleeps or lives. According to California law, dwelling places can be can also be interpreted to mean docks, chicken coops, and even the phone booth.

On the other hand, if the dwelling place had been abandoned, then the accused may escape criminal responsibility as regards the first-degree burglary.

The exception to the above rule under the penal code occurs when the occupants have vacated their dwellings because of natural disasters. In such a case the prosecution has to prove that at the time of entering, the accused had the intention of stealing or committing a crime.

What is the punishment for residential burglary?

The penalty for residential burglary is determined by the court based on the evidence and circumstances surrounding the case. In most cases, it is filed as a felony. If found guilty, the defendant would face a jail term of either two years, four years, or six years and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars.

For the first-degree burglary to be tried successfully, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:

  • Entered a dwelling or a residential building without the consent of the owners,
  • The dwelling was inhabited, and it doesn’t matter whether the occupants was present or not during the incident, and
  • The defendant was out to commit a felony or steal.

Under the California law, the prosecution has to prove each of the above conditions beyond any reasonable doubt. Failure to prove the elements could result in a dismissal or having the charged amended to something different.

The law recognizes that entering the premises may include using the defendant’s body, part of the body or by using any equipment to gain entry into the residence.

If the defendant never had the intention to commit a crime in the first place but decide to commit the crime when he was already in the dwelling place, that is not sufficient to be charged with first-degree burglary. Residential burglary is, in most cases, filed as a felony, and depends on many factors such as the criminal record of the defendant, the type of dwelling under consideration or whether the individual is on probation, among other factors.

Defenses to first degree burglary

The defendant might argue he is not guilty if he was mistaken, for instance, if he was asked by another person to retrieve an item, and he entered a wrong dwelling place thinking it belonged to the individual who requested or sent him.

The defendant also can show that the intention was not to steal, and therefore, he could be charged with a different offense. The defendant could resolve the case for a lesser such as being in possession of burglary tools or just trespassing or the case could be dismissed.

First degree burglary is a serious crime and is a “strike” under the three-strikes law. Contact us today to discuss your charge.

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