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Is Breaking and Entering a Felony?

by Lindsay Chambers

You have probably heard the phrase “breaking and entering” used to describe forced entry in a TV police procedural drama. While media depictions have popularized the term, you might be surprised to learn there is no law in California specifically called “breaking and entering.” However, that doesn’t mean there are no penalties for theft or trespassing. 

Under California law, a person can be charged with either burglary or trespass for unlawfully entering someone else’s residential or commercial property. California Penal Code 459 defines a burglary as entering a home or building with the intent to commit theft or any felony inside. According to California Penal Code 602, it is a misdemeanor for a person to trespass on someone else’s property without permission. 

Breaking and Entering Charges

While you may automatically associate breaking and entering with homes or businesses, California law broadly defines the term “building,” extending it to include structures such as floating homes, barns, outhouses and railway cars. 

In these cases, “entering” refers to infiltrating these buildings with a tool or any part of your body. For instance, breaking a window with a hammer and using it to reach inside a structure is entering because you’ve breached the building’s outer boundary, even if most of your body remains outside. 

Some examples of breaking and entering include:

  • Smashing a car window to take a radio or a wallet left in the passenger seat
  • Walking into your neighbors’ garage to steal their tools or yard equipment
  • Using a crowbar to pry open a storage unit’s door with the intent of committing theft
  • Entering a locked bank to rob it

Penalties for Burglary and Trespassing

A burglary conviction can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. The crime is punishable by up to six years in state prison. Most California trespassing crimes are misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in county jail. 

Crucially, it’s not necessary for a defendant to have successfully carried out a felony theft; if the prosecution can prove that you intended to commit a burglary, a judge can still charge you with a crime. That’s why it is vital to have legal representation from an attorney who has successfully defended many high-profile burglary cases. Typical defenses include no intent to do something illegal or having consent to be on someone else’s property.

Southern California’s Leading Burglary Defense Attorney

Many cases of burglary hinge upon the defendant’s resolve to commit a crime. At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, our team has extensive experience with the ins and outs of California law, and burglary defense is one of our legal specialties. To learn more about how we can help you raise a legal defense to fight a trespassing or burglary charge, please reach out to us today.

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