California Penal Code 459 PC: Burglary
California’s burglary laws are under California Penal Code Section 459 PC. It defines the term burglary and the legal penalties for such a crime. In this article, we will discuss all the different elements of a 459 PC charge.
What Is 459 PC’s Definition of Burglary?
Burglary is defined as having the intention of committing petty theft, grand theft or any other felony when entering a residential structure, commercial structure, or locked vehicle. 459 PC’s definition is extended to all commercial and residential structures, including vessels, stores, outhouses, rooms, shops, warehouses, tents, apartments, or houses.
The burglary of residential structures is treated differently from burglary of a commercial structure or locked vehicle. The former will be punished with incarceration for up to 6 years. 459 PC labels this type of burglary “first-degree burglary.” The latter will be punished with incarceration for up to 3 years. 459 PC labels this type of burglary “second-degree burglary.” This is because the law sees it as more heinous to enter the place where someone is living, like a hotel room or home in order to commit theft or a felony.
459 PC’s legal definition does not require the theft or felony to be successful. It is only the entering of the structure or locked vehicle that needs to be successful. In the past, 459 PC has been interpreted to include a part of the defendant’s body entering the outer boundary of a building. For example, the defendant’s arm being inside the window of a residential building. Courts have applied 459 PC to many unconventional “buildings” such as telephone booths, fenced-in loading docks, and even a popcorn stand on wheels.
It is important to note that the language of 459 PC makes it clear that someone cannot be charged with burglary for entering an unlocked vehicle. If they steal something from the unlocked car, they may receive theft charges, but they can’t receive burglary charges under 459 PC.
Possible Punishments For a 459 PC Burglary Charge
459 PC provides a range of penalties that judges can apply depending on the severity of the charge and the circumstances. This is why 459 PC separates burglary into first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary in most states. First-degree burglary is automatically a felony, but second-degree burglary could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
If the defendant is convicted of felony burglary, they will face state prison sentences of 2, 4, or 6 years for first-degree burglary and 16 months, 2, or 3 years for second-degree burglary. In addition, felony burglary counts as one strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Under 459 PC, a misdemeanor burglary carries a county jail sentence of up to 1 year.
The judge is also provided discretion under 459 PC to “enhance” the charge in certain circumstances. These things may increase the length of the defendant’s prison sentence if they are convicted:
- Prior felonies on record
- The burglary victim sustaining serious injuries
- The burglary victim being classed as vulnerable in the eyes of the law
In addition to prison or jail sentences, both misdemeanor and felony burglary can also result in fines.
What To Do If You Are Charged With Burglary Under 459 PC?
If you have been charged under 459 PC or law enforcement have arrested you on suspicion of burglary, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer. The attorney will be able to manage all interactions between you and the police to put you in the best position to negotiate deals, plea bargains, or to present a strong case in court. They will guide you through the criminal process and help you to understand the procedure for things like bonds and bail, and even prepare you for trial.
The best legal defense is to attack the elements required for a 459 PC charge. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Providing reasonable doubt that the car was locked
- Showing that you reasonably believed the property you were taking was yours and therefore you were not committing a felony or theft.
Your criminal defense lawyer will help you to determine the best legal defense to your 459 PC charges based on the circumstances of the case.