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1st Degree Burglary: What is the law and punishment?

California Penal Code 459 PC "1st Degree Burglary"​ is a "serious" felony charge that carries severe punishment if convicted.  Burglary may also be charged in the 2nd Degree as either a felony or misdemeanor.  The two are differentiated by whether the building was inhabited or not.

What Must Be Proven in a felony 2nd Degree Burglary Case?

PC 459 "1st Degree Burglary" requires the following to be proven:

  1. The defendant entered an inhabited building or dwelling;
  2. The defendant did so with the specific intent to steal and take away property belonging to another, and to deprive the owner permanently of that property; or
  3. The defendant did so with the specific intent to commit the crime of burglary.​

In the United States justice system, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  The prosecutor has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that 1st degree burglary has occurred.

What are the Penalties for a felony 1st Degree Burglary?

PC 459 has a maximum penalty of a fine up to $10,000 and/or up to 6 years in State Prison.
Strike.  1st degree burglary counts as a strike on criminal history.
Third strike trigger.  Two prior strikes will result in a sentence of 25 to life.
Serious Felony.  A serious felony requires the defendant to serve at least 85% of their sentence in State Prison.  

What are the Defenses to felony 1st Degree Burglary?

There was no intent to steal or take away property

The defendant must have specific intent to steal.  The defense does not need to prove why the defendant entered the building, it is up to the prosecution to prove the intent was to steal.  This can be difficult to prove in certain situations such as when no property had been removed at the time the defendant was caught in the building.

There was no intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property

Stealing a neighbors tools from their garage for a quick project before returning them is not a burglary.  The defendant has not intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property if the intent is to return the item in the future.  

The defendant believed erroneously believed the property belonged to them

If the defendant believed the property was theirs but is mistaken than the defendant lacked the specific intent to steal. 

Bottom line, you need an experienced attorney who is willing to walk you through the entire process, evaluate your case effectively for weaknesses and exploit the issues in your case to achieve the best results.  The Law Offices of Steven McNicholl has that experience and will get you through your case in the best shape possible.

See also

PC 459 2nd Degree Burglary (Misdemeanor)

PC 459 2nd Degree Burglary (Felony)

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If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call the Law Offices of Steven McNicholl at (951) 405-0990. We have the skill and experience in San Bernardino County to protect your rights and get the best results in your case.

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