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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. 

The theft lawyers at Lluis Law in Los Angeles have vast experience dealing with the crime of burglary. We have defended hundreds of individuals accused of this crime with successful results.

Call right now for a professional consultation with any of our attorneys. We have been managing these cases for more than 40 years with favorable results for our clients.


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What Is The Crime Of burglary?

US 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.

Note: “Property” is just the term we use for short. Actually, it can refer to a house, room, apartment, dwelling, store, warehouse, barn, stable and many other places.

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

examples of burglary in california

Differences Between 1st And 2nd Degree Burglary In California

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

It also defines the crime in two different degrees: 

First Degree

  • It is known as a residential trespass because it always occurs in a residence.
  • Is always considered a felony.
  • It is criminally counted as a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes law.

Second Degree

  • Occurs in any other type of physical structure including businesses and stores.
  • It is also known as commercial trespass.
  • 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 occupied 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, railway cars, containers, tents and others.).

Burglary Charges

illegal entry into private property

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

Each state has its own laws to punish the crime of burglary, so there may be big differences between one and the other.

In general, the penalties for trespassing include:

  • Jail. For felony burglary crimes, prison sentences of more than one year in a state jail are imposed. If it is qualified as a misdemeanor.

Depending on the circumstances, the condition and the value of what was stolen, the punishments can be more than 20 years in prison. 

  • Fines. Depending on the state and severity of the crime, fines could be up to $100,000 or more. For misdemeanors the fines are approximately $1,000.
  • Restitution of what was stolen. The stolen property and property damage resulting from the crime must be returned 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 can add probation to the prison sentence after paying the jail sentence or substitute it. 

If the conditions established by the court are not met, the person could return to prison and serve the original sentence. In such a case, the convicted person must periodically report to court and file a report with their parole 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

Burglary in the first degree (residential) in California is always considered a felony. Possible consequences include a sentence in state prison for 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.

The second degree (commercial) burglary is what is known as a “wobbler” in legal terms. That is, it can be punished as a felony or misdemeanor and entails:

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

Note: In either the 1st or 2nd degree, burglary can carry a fine of up to $10,000 and affect probation.

punishments for burglary crimes in los angeles

Examples Of Burglary In California

  • Entering a house through an open window in search of valuables or money. Being surprised by the residents, the thief flees, but is apprehended by the police in the street. Even when the theft crime did not take place, the intention is what counts.
  • Entering an electronic equipment store, taking a cell phone, hiding it in private parts and leaving the store without paying for it.

What are the characteristics of The Crime Of Burglary?

Laws previously associated burglary only with the use of violence. For example, entering the home of another person at night and forcibly seizing a valuable object. 

Nowadays, 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 or not the asset is extracted. Only the intention to steal counts. 

Use Of Force / Threats 

What distinguishes burglary from the crime of robbery is the use of force or threats. Theft (in the sense of robbery) necessarily requires the use of violence to enter the property and once there to seize the property.

Another example is threatening another person with a knife or firearm and taking their wallet on the street. While in burglary, the mere entry into the property is already an invasion and implies the intention to steal or commit another crime.  

robbery in california

To learn more about the crime of robbery in California click on the link. You may also be interested in knowing how to report criminal threats.

Crimes Related To Burglary

  • Grand Theft – Section 487 PC of the California Penal Code. 
  • Petty Theft – Section 484 PC of the California Penal Code.
  • Trespassing – Section 602 PC of the California Penal Code.
  • Possession of Burglary and Theft Tools and Deadly Weapons – Section 466 PC of the California Penal Code.

Possession Of Robbery Tools

A person caught loitering on property with intent to enter carrying skeleton keys, crowbars, picks, screwdrivers, pliers, or any other tool to break into or enter a home, store, or vehicle may be prosecuted for this crime. 

Possession of tools to steal is punishable in California as a misdemeanor. The penalty is up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine, according to California Penal Code Section 466.

Unauthorized Entry And Aggravated Trespass

Trespassing on and remaining on property is also considered a crime in California. For this crime, the law contemplates penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine not exceeding $1,000.

When the person enters without permission, while the owner or resident is present, they incur in an aggravated crime. Example: breaking into a neighbor’s bedroom while they are sleeping in their bed.  

Aggravated trespassing is punishable by one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine. Additionally, the judge may issue a restraining order against the convicted person, pursuant to California Penal Code Section 602.5.

Differences Between Robbery And Burglary

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


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

  • Taking valuables (money, clothing, other property).
  • Directly from someone else.
  • Without authorization or illegally.
  • With the intention of appropriating the property
  • Through the use of force or intimidation.


Many states define it slightly differently than robbery. 

It materializes by:

  • Illegally entering someone else’s property.
  • A building or dwelling (house / business).
  • It does not require the use of force or intimidation.

Differences Between Shoplifting And Burglary

Penal Code 459.5 PC differentiates both crimes. Shoplifting occurs when a person enters an open commercial store with the intent to steal property worth $950 or less .

While robbery occurs when the person tries to steal merchandise worth more than $950. 

  • Shoplifting is no longer a felony in California and is now considered a misdemeanor. If the value of the goods is less than $950.
  • The relaxation of robbery laws seek to decongest state prisons. 
  • The drawback is that this type of crime has increased exponentially in the last year, especially in San Francisco. The city has decriminalized thefts under $950, relying on approved Proposition 47. 
  • If store employees attempt to catch criminals on their own, they are in violation of the law.  

Defense In Burglary Cases

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

The defendant may submit a legal defense to the burglary charge by claiming that they did not intend to commit a crime. Despite the above, the intent to commit a robbery or other crime once inside is something our attorneys can fight for your defense.

basic elements to protect your home from burglary

Los Angeles Burglary Lawyers

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.


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