First-Degree Residential Burglary - Penal Code 460 PC
In California, if you illegally enter somebody's home, apartment, rented room, or recreational vehicle to steal or commit a felony once inside, you could be charged under Penal Code 460 PC, a felony first-degree residential burglary.
The law makes this type of burglary a first-degree felony offense. In contrast, other types of burglary are typically second-degree charges, such as burglary of a commercial structure that is a wobbler which can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Under Penal Code 459 PC, the crime of burglary is an act of entering any commercial or residential structure, or a locked vehicle, with the specific intent to commit grand theft, petty theft, or a felony offense inside. California Criminal Jury Instructions 1701 covers the degrees of burglary.
The intent to commit theft or a felony inside a residence must be formed before the perpetrator enters the location.
Suppose the suspect breaks into someone's home without intent to commit theft but decides to steal after they gain entry. In that case, they should not be charged with the severe PC 460 first-degree residential burglary but could face charges under other statutes.
The moment a perpetrator enters a residence with the intent to commit theft or felony within the home, they have violated Penal Code 460 PC.
Any intrusion by force into a home will be considered entering a residence under the law. Further, if the perpetrator used some object to enter the place, they still violated this statute.
PC 460 is the most severe form of burglary and carries up to six years in prison if convicted. Our California criminal defense lawyers will look at this statute below.
What Is a First-Degree Residential Burglary?
The state of California has several forms of burglary. As noted, PC 459 burglary is described as entering a public or private structure with the intent to commit theft or any felony once inside.
A PC 460 first-degree residential burglary covers unlawfully entering an "inhabited dwelling place" and is always a felony.
All other forms of burglary are considered "second-degree” that can be filed as misdemeanors or felonies.
The perpetrator need not commit a felony once inside to commit first-degree burglary. Instead, the crime was completed the moment they entered the residence with the intent to commit a theft or a felony.
Perhaps someone entered a home intending to commit rape, but the target was not there. In that case, since they entered the residence intending to commit a felony crime of Penal Code 261 PC rape, they violated Penal Code 460 PC first-degree residential burglar law, even though they did not complete the intended crime.
What Is an Inhabited Dwelling Place?
In the context of a structure qualifying as an "inhabited dwelling place" for California burglary laws, somebody must live at the location, even if it's temporary.
In other words, a dwelling place is considered inhabited if another person sleeps or has property there. It DOES NOT mean they have to be physically home when the crime occurred. California laws and the courts consider any of the following an inhabited dwelling place:
- Apartment, townhome, or condominium,
- Guest house or room inside a home,
- Attached structures to a home, such as a garage,
- Home office or shared laundry room,
- Occupied motel room,
- Recreational vehicle,
- Trailer home,
- A vessel if someone lives on it.
As noted, the inhabitant who lives there does not have to be present to be charged with first-degree residential burglary.
Suppose someone breaks into a home with the intent to steal any expensive jewelry he can find, but a barking dog makes him change his mind, and he leaves the scene. While he did not steal anything, he violated the first-degree residential burglary law because he broke into the home intending to steal.
What Are the Legal Penalties for PC 460?
The legal penalties for first-degree residential burglary will always depend on the details of the case, but Penal Code 460 PC is usually:
- charged as a felony crime by prosecutors,
- carries up to six years in state prison,
- a fine of up to $10,000 fine, and
- formal felony probation.
Felony residential burglary is usually a strike under California's three strikes law. If someone was home at the time of the burglary, it's considered a severe and violent crime, meaning you would have to serve 85% of the sentence. You might be facing more severe home invasion charges.
Residential burglary is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, which means it could carry negative immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens.
What Are the Best Defenses?
There are several possible defense strategies for first-degree residential burglary charges, which are reviewed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you had no intention of committing a theft once inside the dwelling, which is a required element of the crime.
Perhaps we can argue that the location did not classify as an inhabited dwelling place. Maybe it was vacant or up for sale, but you could still be charged with a second-degree burglary with lesser penalties.
Perhaps we can argue that you had consent to enter the dwelling from the property owner. Maybe there was no physical entry into the home, but instead, you only opened a window.
However, this is not considered a valid legal defense if you were unaware that the dwelling was inhabited. This means you could still potentially face a Penal Code 460 residential burglary if you believed the home was vacant when you made entry.
Contact our criminal defense law firm to review the details and legal options if you face burglary charges. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, California. You can contact us for an initial case evaluation by phone or fill out the contact form.