Facing a burglary charge can be overwhelming, with serious consequences that can affect your freedom, reputation, and future opportunities. Whether you or someone you know is facing first-degree or second-degree burglary charges, having a skilled attorney is essential to navigate the legal system and protect your rights.

At The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, we understand the gravity of burglary charges and the stress they cause. Since 2003, our firm has been dedicated to providing strong legal defense for individuals accused of burglary in Los Angeles. Our attorney, Arash Hashemi, utilizes extensive knowledge of California burglary laws to fight effectively on your behalf. We work diligently to minimize the impact on your life and secure the best possible outcome for your case.

Understanding Burglary Under California Law

Burglary, as defined by California Penal Code Section 459 PC, involves entering a structure with the intent to commit theft or any felony once inside. This crime hinges not just on unauthorized entry, but on the intent at the time of entry. It is important to note that the entry must be unlawful, meaning without consent or beyond the scope of the consent given.

Distinctions Between First-Degree and Second-Degree Burglary

First-Degree Burglary: Known as residential burglary, first-degree burglary occurs when someone unlawfully enters an inhabited dwelling, such as a home or apartment, with the intent to commit theft or a felony. This type of burglary is more severe and carries stiffer penalties, including potential strikes under California’s Three Strikes Law.

Second-Degree Burglary: Often referred to as commercial burglary, this involves entering commercial premises or other non-residential buildings with similar intent. Second-degree burglary is generally treated as a “wobbler” in California law, meaning it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.

If you or a loved one is facing burglary charges, contact our office at (310) 448-1529 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case. Our dedicated attorney is here to help you every step of the way.

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    Potential Penalties for Burglary Convictions

    The penalties for burglary in California are determined by whether the burglary is classified as first-degree or second-degree:

    First-Degree Burglary: First-degree burglary, also known as residential burglary, is always charged as a felony. The penalties are severe, including:

    • Imprisonment: Individuals convicted of first-degree burglary face imprisonment in state prison for two, four, or six years.
    • Strike on Record: This type of burglary counts as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law, potentially leading to significantly enhanced penalties for any future felony convictions.

    Second-Degree Burglary: Second-degree burglary, commonly referred to as commercial burglary, is classified as a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning it can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.

    • Misdemeanor Penalties: If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty may include up to one year in county jail.
    • Felony Penalties: If charged as a felony, the potential imprisonment terms in county jail are sixteen months, two years, or three years.

    The Impact on Future Employment and Personal Freedom

    A conviction for burglary can have profound effects that extend beyond the courtroom and prison, particularly affecting one’s future employment opportunities and personal freedoms:

    Employment Challenges:

    • A burglary conviction, especially a felony, can significantly diminish job prospects. Employers often conduct background checks and may be reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record, especially in fields requiring security clearance or positions of trust.

    Restrictions on Personal Freedom:

    • Civil Rights: Felony convictions can lead to the loss of certain civil rights, such as the right to vote while incarcerated and restrictions on firearm possession.
    • Social and Personal Impact: The stigma associated with a criminal record can strain personal relationships, reduce community standing, and overall impact one’s ability to reintegrate into society post-incarceration.

    Key Elements of a Burglary Charge

    What Prosecutors Need to Prove

    To secure a conviction for burglary under California Penal Code Section 459 PC, prosecutors must establish several key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

    • Entry: The defendant must have entered a building or specified structure. This entry need not be complete; even partial entry, as long as some part of the defendant’s body or an instrument used crosses into the structure, is sufficient.
    • Intent: At the time of entry, the defendant must have had the intent to commit theft or any felony. It is crucial to note that this intent must exist at the moment of entry — intentions formed after entry do not qualify for burglary charges.

    The Role of Intent in Burglary Cases

    Intent plays a critical role in differentiating burglary from other types of property crimes:

    • Proving Intent: Demonstrating the defendant’s intent at the time of entry is often the most challenging aspect for prosecutors, as it typically relies on circumstantial evidence. Evidence such as possession of burglary tools, the defendant’s actions, and the circumstances surrounding the entry can all suggest intent.
    • Intent and Charge Severity: The presence and nature of intent can also influence whether the burglary is charged as first-degree or second-degree, significantly affecting the severity of potential penalties.

    Understanding these elements is essential for both legal professionals handling burglary cases and individuals facing burglary charges, as it impacts the development of defense strategies and the overall approach to contesting the charges.

    Common Misunderstandings About Burglary Offenses

    Correcting Myths About Breaking and Entering

    One widespread myth about burglary is that it requires “breaking and entering” or the use of force to enter a property. However, under California Penal Code Section 459 PC, burglary charges can apply simply when an individual unlawfully enters a building or structure with intent to commit theft or any felony, regardless of whether any physical breaking occurs. Even entering through an unlocked door or an open window can qualify as burglary if the intent to commit a crime is present at the time of entry.

    Misconceptions About Intent and Presence at the Scene

    Another common misunderstanding relates to the role of intent and the accused’s presence at the crime scene:

    • Intent Does Not Require Theft Completion: It is a misconception that a burglary only occurs if the intended theft or felony is completed. Burglary charges hinge on the intent at the time of entry, not on the completion of the crime.
    • Physical Presence: People often believe that physical presence inside the property at the time of the crime is necessary for a burglary charge. However, legal responsibility for burglary can also apply to individuals who aid, abet, or conspire with another person to commit burglary, even if they do not physically enter the property themselves.

    Defending Against Burglary Charges

    Challenging the Prosecution’s Evidence of Intent

    Defending against burglary charges often requires discrediting the prosecution’s assertion of intent. Since the law demands that intent exists at the time of entry, defense attorneys often argue that the accused entered without a premeditated plan to commit a crime. This approach challenges the core requirement for a burglary conviction. They support this argument by showing a lack of preparation for theft or another felony, or by presenting evidence that the accused formed any criminal intent only after entering the premises.

    Lack of Evidence Linking the Accused to the Crime Scene

    Another effective defense strategy challenges the evidence linking the accused to the crime scene. If fingerprints, DNA, surveillance footage, or witness testimonies connecting the defendant to the scene are weak, inconsistent, or subject to multiple interpretations, a defense attorney can argue that the evidence fails to meet the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard. This approach demands a thorough examination of the evidence collection and handling processes, as well as an assessment of the evidence’s overall reliability.

    Mistake of Fact or Identity as a Defense

    Mistake of fact or identity serve as potent defenses in burglary cases. A defendant can effectively counter charges by credibly claiming they believed they had permission to enter the premises or that someone mistakenly identified them as a person seen at the crime scene. To prove a mistake of fact, the defendant must demonstrate a reasonable belief under the circumstances that negates the required criminal intent. Conversely, a mistake of identity defense aims to discredit the accuracy of witness identifications or other evidence purportedly placing the accused at the scene.

    The Role of an Experienced Burglary Defense Attorney

    How Legal Expertise Can Make a Difference

    An experienced burglary defense attorney plays a critical role in navigating the complexities of burglary charges. Legal expertise can significantly impact the outcome of a case by effectively challenging the prosecution’s evidence and presenting a strong defense. Attorneys specializing in burglary cases understand the nuances of the law and have the skills to dissect the prosecution’s arguments, question the credibility and admissibility of evidence, and counter the establishment of intent which is pivotal in burglary charges.

    Tailoring the Defense Strategy to Individual Circumstances

    Each burglary case comes with its unique set of facts and circumstances, which necessitates a customized defense strategy. A seasoned defense attorney will evaluate the specifics of the case, including the evidence presented, the alleged intent, and the manner of entry into the property, to develop a tailored approach. This could involve leveraging alibis, demonstrating the absence of intent to commit a crime at the time of entry, or negating the prosecution’s claims with counter-evidence. Such personalized defense strategies are crucial in addressing the particular needs and goals of the client, aiming to achieve the most favorable outcome possible.

    FAQs on Burglary Charges and Defense

    How do first-degree and second-degree burglary differ?

    First-degree burglary, or residential burglary, occurs when an individual enters an inhabited dwelling intending to commit theft or any felony. Courts charge this type of burglary as a felony without exception, and it carries severe penalties, including potential strikes under California’s Three Strikes Law. Second-degree burglary, commonly known as commercial burglary, involves entering a commercial or non-residential property. The legal system may charge second-degree burglary as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the specific circumstances of the crime and the defendant’s prior criminal record.

    What are my rights if I’m accused of burglary?

    If you face burglary charges, you possess several fundamental rights: the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial by jury. Additionally, you have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Exercising these rights is crucial. Consulting with a defense attorney will enable you to navigate the legal process effectively and safeguard your interests.

    Can burglary charges be reduced or dismissed?

    Yes, you can secure a reduction or dismissal of charges if the evidence is weak, the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense justify it, or your legal defense proves particularly effective. A lack of intent to commit a crime, insufficient evidence, or procedural errors during the investigation can lead to reduced charges or a complete dismissal of the case.

    What defenses are available for those accused of burglary?

    Several defenses can be effective in burglary cases, including mistaken identity, lack of intent, consent to enter the premises, and alibi. Each defense depends on the specifics of the case. For example, proving that the accused had no intent to commit a crime upon entering or was not present at the scene can be crucial defenses. A skilled attorney can assess the available evidence and advise on the best defense strategy.

    Building a Strong Defense Against Burglary Charges

    Los Angeles Criminal LawyerIf you’re facing burglary charges, The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi are equipped to provide expert defense strategies tailored to your case. With extensive experience in criminal defense, Attorney Arash Hashemi and his dedicated team focus on protecting your rights and securing the best possible outcome for you.

    Located at the Westside Towers in Los Angeles, our firm serves clients across Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood. We understand the challenges these charges can pose, which is why we offer flexible scheduling, including weekend appointments and jail visits, to thoroughly discuss the details of your case.

    For specialized legal assistance with burglary charges, do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi at (310) 448-1529 or schedule a consultation online. We are committed to advocating for your rights and guiding you through every step of the legal process to build a strong defense on your behalf.

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      Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is not intended to predict outcomes, as individual circumstances vary and laws may change over time. Those seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified attorney to understand how current laws apply to their specific situation. For detailed legal guidance on the topics discussed, please contact our law firm directly.