Police officers in television shows are constantly arresting people for people for “breaking and entering,” which they often shorten to “B&E.” But in most states, including California, breaking and entering isn’t a real crime. It is still illegal to break into homes and businesses, but the actual charge you’ll face will usually be burglary or trespassing.
In California, Breaking and Entering is Usually Burglary
One of the most common charges brought up against those who have broken into a property is burglary. Burglary can be charged against someone who has broken into a residence, car, or business. Even a garage is considered to be part of a home, and in many cases, unoccupied homes can still be considered residential properties when it comes to burglary charges.
Illegal Entry is Unnecessary, but Intent Matters
Under California’s burglary laws though, it’s worth noting that you do not actually have to break into a property to commit the crime. While you do not need to have forced entry into a property to be charged with burglary, the prosecution must prove that you intended to either commit petty theft or any felony. If your criminal defense attorney can show that there is insufficient evidence to prove you meant to steal or commit a felony, you cannot be charged with burglary.
Is Breaking and Entering a Felony?
Burglary may be tried as a misdemeanor or felony at the prosecutor’s discretion. It is punishable by up to 1 year in jail as a misdemeanor. When breaking and entering is charged as felony burglary, the possible sentence is up to 3 years in prison. As a felony, if the property that was broken into was a residence, the crime is more serious, and can be punished by up to 6 years in prison and the addition of a strike to your criminal record. If someone was home during the break-in, the crime is considered a violent felony, even if the victim wasn’t harmed. When crimes are “violent felonies,” offenders must serve 85% of their prison sentences before they qualify for parole.
Illegal Entry is Trespassing
Trespassing is the other charge most commonly brought against people who have broken into a property. The laws defining trespassing in California are somewhat complex. While some forms of trespassing are infractions punishable by little more than a fine, aggravated trespassing is a felony crime that can carry a prison sentence of up to three years. If you have been charged with trespassing, speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not say anything that may hurt your defense.
If you have been charged with any crime related to breaking and entering in San Diego, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with top theft attorney Peter M. Liss.