Burglary Defense Attorney for Torrance and Redondo Beach
THE CRIME OF “BURGLARY” is one of the oldest in the books. That’s not just an expression– burglary is one of those crimes which has its roots in the old English common law system of centuries ago; there really are ancient law books talking about burglary. Originally, burglary had a very narrow definition: it was the crime of actually breaking into someone’s home at night (it didn’t count if they left the door open!), while there were actually people present, with the purpose of stealing their property.
A lot has changed since that time. These days, burglary is probably the most broadly defined, overly expansive crime in the books. Burglary has been defined in such a broad way that almost anytime a person does anything criminal, it’s possible to also accuse that person of having committed burglary. Rough someone up in a bar fight? If you knew that person before you entered the bar, and had some prior beef with that person, then maybe it could be charged as burglary. Having fun at a friend’s house, at your friend’s invitation, but then walk into your friend’s roommate’s room without permission, and damage the roommate’s stuff? Burglary. Follow someone who has a restraining order against you into a department store? Burglary.
Definitions and Degrees of Burglary
How could all those situations potentially be charged as burglary? They have nothing to do with each other, and they certainly don’t have anything to do with the traditional idea of burglary as breaking into an inhabited home with the intention of stealing something. These days, however, burglary can roughly be defined as the crime of entering any place not truly “public” (stores, gas stations, any sort of business, or any sort of home) with the purpose of either committing a theft or doing something which could get you charged with a felony. It’s more technical than that, but that’s the rough idea.
Not all of these broadly defined “burglaries” are treated the same under the law, however. Burglary is divided into degrees: first degree burglary (sometimes called “residential“) and second degree burglary (sometimes called “commercial“).
Second-degree burglary is what is known as a “wobbler,” meaning a prosecutor can decide to charge it either as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail, or as a felony, which can get you up to three years in county jail (it is no longer a “state prison” felony). These sorts of commercial burglaries were often charged in connection with shoplifting offenses, but as of November 2014, that practice is no more. Now, as long as the amount taken was worth less than $950, shoplifting offenses are charged simply as shoplifting, not burglary.
First-degree burglary is much more serious. First-degree burglary can land a person in state prison for up to six years. It also counts as a strike offense for the purposes of California’s three-strikes sentencing scheme.
How Can a Good Defense Attorney Help?
First of all, because the crime of burglary is so broadly defined, no two burglary offenses are quite alike. Although the statute makes it possible to argue that just about anything counts as burglary, there are still plenty of technical elements to examine in a burglary case, and a skilled lawyer will carefully examine the case for potential defenses based on failure to satisfy the elements of the crime.
Second, all burglary crimes are “specific intent” offenses. That’s a fairly technical legal term, but it essentially means that a person’s state of mind at the time of the alleged offense is extremely relevant to the defense. A prosecutor will have the burden of establishing that at the time the defendant entered into the location in question, the defendant did so with the purpose of committing some other crime (theft, assault, stalking, etc.) That’s not always so easy as it might appear. On the other hand, it takes a skilled defense attorney to understand how to exploit this specific intent element to help secure an acquittal. (Simply saying “I didn’t mean to do it” isn’t going to be enough!)
Burglary Charges – Call Us Today
Finally, because burglary can be punished so seriously, it is extremely important to have an experienced lawyer on your team. The broad definition of the offense means that there is a lot of room for skilled lawyering to make a difference on your behalf. If you or your loved one is accused of any sort of burglary, there is a lot at risk, and you must be sure that an aggressive, skilled, caring criminal defense attorney is doing everything that can be done to make a difference.
Hire a qualified, aggressive criminal defense attorney. Call our office today.