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Looking for information that tells you what is burglary? You are in the correct place. This crime is included inside the property crimes in California. 

Our Los Angeles theft lawyers have extensive experience dealing with the crime of burglary. We have defended hundreds of people accused of this crime with successful results.

Call now and you will get a professional consultation with any of our lawyers. We have been treating these cases for more than 50 years with favorable results for our clients.

What is the crime of burglary in the U.S.A.?

The U.S. states define the crime of burglary differently. However, the essence of the crime is to enter someone else’s property and without permission to commit a crime inside it.

Note: “Property” is just the term we use to shorten it. It can actually refer to a house, room, apartment, dwelling, shop, warehouse, barn, stable, and many other places. 

Burglary does not necessarily mean entering by force, what is punished is the act of entering another’s property without permission with the intention of committing a crime inside.

1st and 2nd grade burglary in California

The California Penal Code, Section 459 , describes burglary as a felony or misdemeanor. It is the crime perpetrated when entering a building with the intention of committing petty or grand theft or any other serious crime.

The law also divides this crime in two different degrees:

  • First grade
    • It is known as residential burglary because it always occurs in a residence. 
    • It is always considered a serious crime.
  • Second grade: Occurs in any other type of structure including businesses and stores.
    • It is known as commercial burglary.
    • As a “wobbler” your charge is variable and depends on the value of the property at the discretion of the prosecutor.
    • It occurs in other types of non-residential properties.

Type of properties including burglary

When speaking of residential or commercial structure, Penal Code 459 refers to:

  • A person’s home or inhabited residence (apartment, house, boat, houseboat, tent, trailer, hotel or motel room, and any other part of a building). 
  • Office or commercial premises (store, barn, warehouse, boat, car, railroad cars, containers, tents and others). 

Burglary charges 

illegal entry into private property

The type of conviction and its severity will depend on the charge of burglary, according to the violated structure. Without the need to prove that there was or was not theft or other crime, after trespassing the property with the intention of committing a crime.

Each state has its own laws to punish the crime of burglary so that between them there can be wide differences.

In general, penalties for burglary include:

  • Prison. For serious burglary offenses, prison terms of more than one year are imposed in a state jail. Being the case that the crime is qualified as a misdemeanor.

Depending on the circumstances, the state and the value of the stolen elements, the punishments may exceed 20 years in prison. 

  • Fines. Depending on the state and severity of the crime, the fines could be up to $ 100,000 or more. For minor offenses, the fines are approximately $ 1,000.
  • Restitution of the stolen. The extracted assets and property damage resulting from the crime must be restituted or compensated. 

If the court orders the return of the property, the defendant must compensate the victims for their losses (repair, return or replace).

  • Probation. The judge may add or substitute probation to the prison sentence after paying the prison sentence. 

Failure to comply with the conditions established by the court, the person could return to prison and serve the original sentence.

In such a case, the convicted person must periodically appear in court and report to his probation officer. 

If the person was convicted of drug offenses as well, they will likely need to undergo narcotics testing and home registration.

Charges in California

First degree (residential) burglary in California is always considered a felony. Possible consequences include a sentence in a state prison during one of the following periods:

  • 2 years;
  • 4 years;
  • 6 years:

Note: This charge also counts as a strike under California’s 3 strikes law.

Second degree (commercial) burglary is what is known in English as a “wobbler” or rather in legal terms. It is something variable that can involve:

  • Felony with possible entry into the county jail for 16 months, 2 or 3 years.
  • Misdemeanor with possible entry to the county jail for up to one year.

Note: In either 1st or 2nd grade, burglary may include a fine of up to $ 10,000 and affect probation.

Differences between roberry and burglary

To understand the nature of both crimes, it is useful to know the differences between one and another legal concept. 


This crime consists of illegally taking something of value from another person directly. It is characterized by:  

  • Take valuables (money, clothing, other goods).
  • Directly from another person.
  • Without authorization or illegally.
  • With the intention of appropriating the good.
  • Through the use of force or intimidation.


Many states define it slightly differently from robbery. 

It is materialized by:

  • Illegally entering someone else’s property.
  • A building or dwelling (house / business).
  • With the intention of seizing something or committing any other crime inside.
  • It does not require the use of force or intimidation.
basic elements to protect your home from burglary

How is the crime of burglary characterized?

Laws previously associated burglary only with the use of violence. For example, breaking into another’s home at night and forcibly seizing an item of value. 

Currently, the concept is much broader and it is considered that it is enough to enter a property to commit the crime. Regardless of the time of day it is done and whether the good is extracted or not. Only the intention to steal counts. 

Use of force / threats 

What distinguishes burglary itself from the crime of robbery is the use of force or threats. Robbery requires using violence to enter the property and once there to seize the property.

Another example is threatening someone else with a knife or firearm and stripping them of their wallet on the street. While in burglary, the single entrance to the property is already an invasion and supposes the intention to steal or commit another crime.  

To learn more about robbery in California click the link.

Defense in burlgary cases

The person is guilty of the crime as soon as he enters a property with the intention of committing a robbery or other crime. This is established by PC 459 of California and it is not a requirement that the defendant has been able to successfully commit the crime.

A person may present a legal defense for a burglary charge alleging that they do not intend to commit a crime. Despite the aforementioned, the intention to commit a robbery or other crime once inside is something that our attorneys can fight for in your defense.

Los Angeles burglary attorneys

Facing a California burglary crime can carry penalties of many years in prison and strong fines. A proper defense for this type of crime requires extensive knowledge of the law and experience.

As criminal lawyers in Los Angeles, we have a successful record of California court proceedings. Over the course of 50 years, we have managed to reduce or dismiss burglary charges in their various categories.

Some of the cases that we deal with in our usual practice include (but are not limited to):

If you have been charged with burglary or any other criminal offense, please contact us. We are happy to offer you a professional consultation and answer all your questions about the legal process you are facing.