How Are Theft And Burglary Different In California?

  • Post last modified:April 15, 2020

California law defines burglary, theft, and robbery as different and distinct crimes, but if you’re charged with one or more of these crimes in southern California, there is only one practical response. You’ll need to seek the advice and services of a Long Beach criminal defense attorney.

What constitutes a burglary, robbery, or theft in California? If you’re charged with one of these crimes, what potential penalties will you face? You’re about to learn the answers to these questions – and more about your legal rights.

The law in this state defines burglary as “entering a structure with the intent to commit a theft or another felony crime once inside.” To convict someone of burglary, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove that any forcible entry took place or that any actual crime was committed.

The state only has to prove that a defendant entered a structure with the intent to commit a theft or another felony crime, and if a prosecutor can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant will be convicted of burglary.

HOW IS FIRST-DEGREE BURGLARY DEFINED?

California categorizes burglary offenses as first-degree or second-degree burglaries.

First-degree burglary is the burglary of any inhabited dwelling – a house, apartment, vessel, or any residence “inhabited” when the burglary occurs. This means the dwelling was being used as a residence even if no one was on the premises when the burglar entered.

California law also protects properties that were abandoned because of natural disasters or emergencies as “inhabited” residences. Any burglary not constituting first-degree burglary will be prosecuted as second-degree burglary – a burglary at a store or a warehouse, for example.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A BURGLARY CONVICTION?

Every first-degree burglary is a felony in California, punishable upon conviction with up to six years in prison and/or probation in addition to fines.

Second-degree burglary may be charged, at the prosecutor’s discretion, as a felony or as a misdemeanor:

1. A second-degree burglary felony conviction is punishable with up to three years in prison and/or probation, a fine, and the payment of restitution.
2. A second-degree burglary misdemeanor conviction is punishable with up to twelve months in jail and/or probation, a fine, and the payment of restitution.

HOW IS SHOPLIFTING HANDLED IN CALIFORNIA?

Shoplifting happens when someone enters an open business with the intent to steal items valued at or below $950. A conviction for shoplifting is punishable with six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

WHAT IS GRAND LARCENY? WHAT IS PETTY LARCENY?

A burglary may or may not precede a theft. Theft – or “larceny” in California law – is also a different and distinct charge in California – actually, two different and distinct charges:

Grand larceny is the theft of property valued at or above $950 or the theft of a firearm, motor vehicle, an animal, or specified agricultural or food items valued at or above $250. Petty larceny is the theft of any other property valued at under $950 or less.

Grand larceny may be charged, at the prosecutor’s discretion, as a felony or as a misdemeanor:

1. A grand larceny felony conviction is punishable with up to three years in prison.
2. A grand larceny misdemeanor conviction is punishable with up to one year in jail.

Every petty larceny is a misdemeanor in California, punishable upon conviction with up to six years in jail and/or probation and a fine of up to $1,000.

WHAT CONSTITUTES ROBBERY IN CALIFORNIA?

Larceny and burglary are both distinct from the crime of robbery in California. California law defines robbery as “the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

Every robbery in California is a felony, although the law distinguishes between first-degree and second-degree robbery: First-degree robbery occurs when any of these conditions apply:

1. The robbery victim was a passenger or driver of a taxi, bus, streetcar, cable car, subway, or other transportation-for-hire.
2. The robbery occurred at an inhabited house, apartment, boat, or other residence.
3. The robbery occurred during or directly after the victim’s use of an ATM.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A ROBBERY CONVICTION?

A conviction for first-degree robbery may be penalized with up to nine years in prison, probation, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. However, first-degree robbery with a firearm is penalized much more harshly.

Second-degree robbery in California is any robbery that does not meet the definition of first-degree robbery. A conviction for second-degree robbery may be penalized with up to five years in prison, probation, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

HOW ARE AUTO THEFT AND CARJACKING CRIMES HANDLED?

It’s grand larceny when a parked vehicle is stolen from a driveway, street, or garage, but stealing a vehicle directly from the driver or owner through force or intimidation is carjacking. Carjacking is a separate crime, punishable upon conviction with up to nine years in prison.

Possessing stolen property is another crime that may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A conviction for the felony charge is punishable with up to three years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. A misdemeanor conviction may be penalized with a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Can you be wrongly charged with a crime like theft, burglary, robbery, or the possession of stolen property? It happens sometimes in this state. You may have believed that the property was yours. A witness might misidentify you, or you might even be “framed” for one of these crimes.

WHAT KIND OF ATTORNEY WILL A CRIMINAL DEFENDANT NEED?

However – and as you know – before any defendant can be convicted of theft, burglary, or robbery in California, the state must prove that defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you’re charged with one of these crimes in California, you need a defense lawyer who can cast doubt on the state’s case and get to the truth.

You’ll need to reach out at once to a Long Beach criminal defense attorney who has experience – and a record of success – defending those who are accused of robbery, burglary, and theft in California’s criminal courts. A good defense lawyer’s help is your right.