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A burglary conviction in California can easily result in a lengthy prison sentence and thousands of dollars in fines. Burglary is a crime against property and is typically associated with theft crimes.

Thus, a burglary conviction can make people think you are untrustworthy or dishonest. This can prevent you from securing a good job or holding any position of trust within your community.

Additionally, a burglary conviction can cause irreparable damage to your reputation. Common questions that arise about burglary charges include:

  • What are the charges for burglary?
  • What are the penalties for burglary?
  • Do I need to hire a lawyer for a burglary charge?

Luckily, a qualified San Diego County criminal defense attorney can answer these questions for you.

Remember, the prosecutor is responsible for proving each element of the criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Often, a California attorney with experience getting burglary charges dropped can create a strategy to disprove the District Attorney’s Office’s case. Therefore, it is critical to consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away.

Contact The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.

Types of Burglary Charges in California

California defines burglary as entering a dwelling, building, or vehicle with intent to commit theft or a felony therein. The buildings outlined by the statute include:

  • Houses,
  • Apartments,
  • Bedrooms,
  • Shops,
  • Warehouses,
  • Barns,
  • Stables,
  • Outhouses,
  • Railroad cars,
  • Inhabited campers, and
  • Vehicles with locked doors.

If an individual enters a commercial establishment with intent to steal during business hours and the value of the property does not exceed $950, they commit the crime of shoplifting.

Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to steal is considered burglary. For example, if someone breaks into a department store after-hours intending to steal merchandise, they commit burglary.

The crime of burglary only requires forced entry for locked vehicles. Therefore, someone can face a burglary charge even if they did not forcibly enter a building. Accusations that can warrant a burglary charge include the following:

  • Entering a residential home with the intent to steal something inside,
  • Entering an occupied warehouse with the intent to commit felony assault, or
  • Forcing entry into someone’s vehicle with intent to steal items inside.

The statute for burglary only requires entry into the building with the intent to commit theft or a felony inside. Thus, you can still face a burglary charge if you do not successfully steal anything or commit a felony. 

If you or a loved one are facing burglary charges, contact an attorney at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, to discuss your case.

Potential Penalties for a Burglary Charge

The level of a burglary charge depends on the type of premises you are accused of burglarizing.

Burglary of an inhabited dwelling house, vessel, floating home, trailer coach, or inhabited portion of any other building is considered burglary in the first degree. A place is inhabited if it is currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether it is occupied at the time of the alleged offense or not.

Burglary of any other location is considered burglary in the second degree. Burglary in the first degree carries the potential for a prison sentence of two, four, or six years.

The length of the sentence will vary based on the value of the items stolen or the felony committed inside. Burglary in the second degree carries the potential for up to one year or up to three years in local prison.

Other Crimes Associated with a Burglary Charge

California also defines the crime of possessing “burglarious or larcenous instruments and deadly weapons.”

This statute essentially prohibits anyone from carrying tools commonly used in a burglary with intent to commit burglary. Some examples of burglary tools include:

  • Lockpicks,
  • Crowbars,
  • Screwdrivers,
  • Master keys, or
  • Tension bars.

Violation of this statute is considered a misdemeanor, even when the possessor does not commit a burglary.

Valid Legal Defenses to Burglary Charges

A legal defense can help defeat an element of the crime, forcing the prosecutor to dismiss or reduce your charges.

Our attorneys understand the importance of creating a strategy that will influence the prosecutor to offer a reasonable plea agreement.

 Some legal defenses that may apply in a burglary case include the following:

  • You entered the location to regain possession of something that rightfully belonged to you,
  • The victim mistakenly identified you as the perpetrator,
  • You lacked the intent to commit theft or a felony inside the premises, or
  • There is a lack of sufficient evidence to establish the elements of the crime.

Any of these defenses could help you avoid conviction under a grand larceny charge. Reach out to us today to review your case and see if these or other defenses apply to you. 

How Can a Criminal Attorney Help with Burglary Charges?

Although TV makes the criminal justice system appear efficient and straightforward, the reality is that navigating a criminal charge is often confusing, overwhelming, and time-consuming.

A lawyer can stand by your side to guide you through the process and advise you of your constitutional rights. Specifically, an attorney can help you by:

  • Requesting the police report related to the incident,
  • Negotiating with the prosecutor on your behalf, and
  • Creating a legal strategy that calls the prosecution’s case into question and gets you either a dismissal or reduction of charges.

Reach out to a member of our team today, so we can start working on your case.

Contact a Criminal Lawyer in California to Discuss Burglary Laws and Penalties

A burglary conviction can impact multiple aspects of your everyday life and cause irreversible damage to your reputation. Our team of criminal defense lawyers has represented dozens of clients facing burglary charges in California.

Our founding attorney, Kerry L. Armstrong, is passionate about protecting the rights of individuals facing criminal allegations. Mr. Armstrong has the respect of other attorneys in the area, demonstrated by his recognition as Trial Attorney of the Year in 2013 by the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association.

When your liberties are at stake, you want an attorney who has the necessary knowledge and experience to effectively defend your case.

Contact a member of our team at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, to schedule an appointment. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.